Vietnam has started operating a new $900 million airport terminal that will nearly double the capital's flight capacity, the latest move in expanding what is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets.
Passenger planes took off on Thursday from Noi Bai terminal two, Hanoi airport's new wing that will handle 10 million passengers per year and up to 15 million in future as demand rises for air travel at home and abroad.
Noi Bai has been overstretched for years with only one terminal and capacity of 12 million annual passengers. The new terminal formally opens on Dec. 31.
Foreign arrivals in Vietnam rose more than 10 percent last year to 7.6 million, government data showed, while domestic demand is climbing amid rapid middle class growth and competition between airlines in a country with underdeveloped rail and road infrastructure.
Vietnam is poised to be the world's seventh-fastest growing market for international passengers during 2013-2017, as a regional open skies initiative takes off and Southeast Asia moves towards an integrated economic community, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Vietnam's passenger traffic almost doubled between 2008 and 2013, IATA said.
The Southeast Asian nation has plans for a $18.7 billion international airport in the southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City as the existing Tan Son Nhat airport will be at full capacity of 25 million passengers a year in 2016.