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|Vaibhav Saxena and Nguyen Hoang Anh Linh from Vietnam International Law Firm|
The Ministry of Transport (MoT) has been analysing the existing airport system, demand for air transport, and international experience to propose additional airports and prepare a master plan for development of the national airport system in the period of by 2030, with a vision to 2050.
The new airports will be put into consideration based on 22 criteria on the necessity and feasibility of the airports which include but are not limited to production demand, socio-economic factors; national security and defence, natural conditions, and locations.
According to the current draft of the MoT, based on the analysis and scoring of the 22 criteria, in 2021-2030, new airports which were not mentioned in the airport system approved by the prime minister are not proposed to be supplemented into the master plan. In addition, the airport in the northern province of Cao Bang will be considered for the second stage, which is envisioned for 2050.
Based on the final draft report, the MoT is currently consulting ministries, agencies, localities, and relevant agencies on the planning. In addition, the MoT is also directing specialised agencies, who are consulted to synthesise suggestions from localities, as well as study and review reports for the MoT.
Currently, there are 22 airports in operation in Vietnam, including seven international and 15 domestic ones. According to the previous master plan from 2018 (Master Plan 236), Vietnam was set to have a total of 28 airports by 2030, which would be allocated in the following areas:
- Ten airports in the northern region – five international (Noi Bai, Van Don, Cat Bi, Tho Xuan, and Vinh) and five domestic (Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Sapa, Na San, Dong Hoi);
- Eight airports in the central region – four international (Phu Bai, Danang, Cam Ranh, and Chu Lai) and four domestic (Quang Tri, Pleiku, Phu Cat, and Tuy Hoa); and
- Ten airports in the southern region – four international (Tan Son Nhat, Can Tho, Phu Quoc, and Long Thanh) and six domestic (Buon Ma Thuot, Lien Khuong, Phan Thiet, Con Dao, Rach Gia, and Ca Mau).
According to Le Tuan Anh, Deputy Minister of Transport, Master Plan 236 set out an important basis for the development of the aviation industry and in Vietnam and has been invested and upgraded in accordance with the defined scale to meet the demands of air transport and economic, social, and national security development.
With the 28 airports approved in Master Plan 236, nearly 96 per cent of the population could reach an airport within 100km, which is higher than the world’s average of 75 per cent. With the new draft master plan up to 2030, with a vision to 2050, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) proposed that by 2030, Vietnam will develop 26 airports only. Accordingly, in this phase only four out of the six originally planned airports would be implemented, while the construction of Na San and Lai Chau airports would be temporarily delayed. By 2050, Vietnam would then have 30 airports – 15 international and 15 domestic ones.
The total area of the 26 airports by 2030 would amount to just under 20,000 hectares, and the 30 airports by 2050 would cover around 24,000ha. The estimated investment costs in the 2020-2030 period sits at about VND365.1 trillion ($15.87 billion), and for the period until 2050, the estimated costs would be around VND866.36 trillion ($37.66 billion).
According to the mid-term report on the development plan of Vietnam’s airports system in 2021-2030 by the CAAV, the trend of developing the world’s airports looks as follows.
The interconnectivity of larger airports will increase while smaller ones will be increasingly less connected. This shows the key role of large airports and the need for investment and development. Moreover, the growth rate of short-distance flights is higher than of long-distance ones, which means that the allocation of airports should take this into account.
There is also a fast growing trend of direct flights compared to transit routes, and a rapid growth of international routes. Travel now contributes about 10 per cent of GDP and 50 per cent of the market share of air passengers. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on developing airports to meet the needs of tourists.
Despite the massive impact of global events like the health crisis, the airline industry is expected to continue to grow steadily after reopening international routes around the globe. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that the impact of COVID-19 on global aviation will last until 2024.
According to the IATA, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets globally. In 2015, the ASEAN Open Skies policy was implemented, allowing airlines to fly freely throughout the ASEAN member states in a unified market. The continued strong market growth presents opportunities, especially as Vietnam contributes large investments in airport construction and upgrades of aircraft and traffic services.