Vietnam's troubled private airline looks to fly again

Thanh Nien News

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After over a year's hiatus and in a bid to hold onto its threatened operating license, Air Mekong plans to resume operations next year, VnExpress reported Friday.
Vo Huy Cuong, deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), was quoted as saying that the carrier filed its restructuring plan and relevant reports with his agency last month.
CAAV has asked the Ministry of Transport to disregard an earlier proposal to scrap Air Mekong’s license, Cuong said.
In March, the agency asked the ministry to consider revoking the license, after the carrier failed to inform CAAV of its plans on March 1--the one year anniversary of its suspension of operations.
Vietnamese law stipulates that aviation businesses should lose their operating licenses after 12 months of inactivity.
“To be honest, we [CAAV] always want Vietnam’s aviation industry to have as many airlines as possible,” Cuong said about the licensing extension.
A market is healthy only when many companies participate in it, he said. Competition improves products and ensures cheaper prices.
“We still want to fly,” Air Mekong Chairman Doan Quoc Viet told VnExpress.
He said the airline will start selling tickets at the end of the year and resume flights at the beginning of next year.
VnExpress quoted unnamed sources as saying that the carrier will probably not continue to fly Bombardier CRJ 900s anymore.
The aircraft's high operation and maintenance costs were partially blamed for Air Mekong's significant losses.
Soon after its suspension of services, the airline returned its four Bombardier CRJ-900 airplanes to a leasing company as part of its restructuring efforts.
The airline had been in business for less than two and a half years.
The carrier, established with VND280 billion ($13.3 million), used to be one of three private airlines in the country.
Another, Indochina Airlines,  ran up huge losses and lost its license in 2011.
VietJet Air is now the sole private carrier operating in the country.

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