Not long after the transport ministry announced its tentative plan to sell operating rights for Vietnamese airports, national carrier Vietnam Airlines has expressed its interest in Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport.
In a recent proposal to the ministry, the state-owned airline’s chairman Pham Viet Thanh offered to purchase rights to operate at the airport’s domestic terminal, local media reported on Monday.
The offer came about three weeks after a similar one made by VietJet Air.
One of the country’s two low-cost carriers, VietJet Air wanted to operate the whole terminal for 20 years, but the ministry reportedly restricted the area down to only the terminal’s third and latest building only.
Vietnam Airlines is believed to be seeking rights to the other two buildings, news website VnExpress reported.
The terminal was built in 2001 with two buildings which together served 12 million passengers a year as of 2013, even though their combined capacity was designed for just six million.
The terminal was upgraded with a new building opened in 2013.
VnExpress quoted sources from Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air as saying that they expected the deals, if successful, will allow them to operate more flexibly, increase services, and reduce costs.
Many aviation experts said the prompt offers from the carriers, which together account for over 85 percent of the domestic market, proved the attractiveness of the transport ministry’s plan.
However, Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Ngoc Dong told VnExpress that there is still a long way to go before the plan can be finalized.
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam, which currently manages 22 international and domestic airports across Vietnam, was ordered to draft the plan, including clarifying investors’ rights and obligations, and listing which airports should be privatized and to what extent, he said.
Under the plan announced late last month, targeted airports included Noi Bai, and Cam Ranh in the central province of Khanh Hoa, and Da Nang.
The sole airport on the southern resort island of Phu Quoc was also considered to be put up for sale as a whole.
Economists have since debated which investors to be allowed to get the rights -- local or foreign.
Some insist that local businesses are the better choice since aviation is closely related to national security.
Others claim that Vietnamese investors do not have enough expertise and experience to do the job.
Meanwhile, many agreed that the government needs to retain its control even after privatization, which is believed to help attract more funds into Vietnam’s aviation sector.