State-run Vietnam Airlines is revising plans to expand its passenger fleet in the wake of slower-than-expected traffic growth.

In 1996, Vietnam Airlines carried 2.5 million passengers, an 18% increase over 1995. Senior airline officials, however, had been projecting growth of between 25% and 28%. As the result of slower growth in business and tourist traffic, the carrier is now forecasting an increase of only 15% for 1997.

According to industry sources, the airline is carrying out a short-term review of its pending fleet development plan. It had wanted to expand the existing fleet of 20 Western-built jet and turboprop-powered airliners to between 35 and 40 aircraft by 2000 and 70 to 80 by 2005.

The fleet of Boeing 767-300s has remained static at four aircraft, rather than being increased to the six or seven talked about a year ago. The Vietnamese carrier recently took delivery of a new 767-300ER on a one-year wet lease from Ansett Worldwide (AWAS), but, since October, has returned two leased 767-300ERs to AWAS and a single -200 to Royal Brunei Airlines.

At the same time, ten new A320s have been delivered on a ten-year operating lease from Aerostar of Singapore. There are no immediate plans to acquire any more A320s, with airline sources now suggesting it has two more than it actually needs.

Plans to add longer-range widebody aircraft to serve the USA and Europe , with the Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 being considered are still unclear. These require leasing support and, in the absence of any traffic rights to the US West Coast, there is no sign of making a decision before the end of the year at the earliest.

Source: Flight International