The wide-ranging ambitions of Vietnam Airlines are set to receive a boost in the near future with an expected government decision to clear the way for partial privatisation, including a measure of foreign investment.

At presstime, airline officials were awaiting details of a planning package which is expected to feature an early move to raise funds from local and foreign investors for new aircraft purchases and transform the carrier into a 'national conglomerate'.

VNA currently operates as a subsidiary of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam and its growth in recent times has been impressive. Passenger traffic rose 54.5 per cent last year to 1.67 million and company officials predict this will exceed 2 million in 1995. The airline made a profit of $21 million last year despite losing its monopoly on domestic routes.

Now flying to 14 domestic ports and 19 overseas destinations, VNA's success has been underpinned by a rapid modernisation programme. Almost half the 27-strong fleet is now made up of western aircraft, including three B767s, seven A320s and two ATR72s. There are plans to shed the remaining Russian-built aircraft, which include 12 Tu-134s, two Yak-40s and an Il-18, over the next two years.

Deputy general director Nguyen Ngoc Minh says VNA aims to become a major regional carrier in the next decade. And the airline recently revised its fleet plan upwards to between 60 and 80 aircraft of various types over the next 10 years at a cost of $3-$5 billion. It is understood the airline's management wants up to 15 A320s, six B767s and 10 ATR72s by the year 2000.

Source: Airline Business