Following approval from the governments of Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam plans to launch a new direct air route through the three countries.

During a recent visit to Cambodia, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An agreed in principle to creating favourable conditions for a direct air route linking Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City flying through Cambodia airspace.

Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that with the approval of high-ranking officials from the two countries, related agencies from Cambodia and Vietnam would work together on technical issues for the planned route.

Vietnamese agencies would also work with Lao agencies to research a route to shorten the time between Hanoi and HCM City, said Thanh.

In March 2009, the CAAV received a proposal for the Hanoi-HCM City "golden route", made by former pilot Mai Trong Tuan.

The proposed new air route would mean planes flying between the capital and HCM City over Laos and Cambodia, rather than over the ocean, following Vietnam's "S" shaped coastline.

Tuan said a direct air route along the 106th meridian east would cut the distance between Hanoi and HCM City from 1,200 km to 1,000 km.

Flight times would be reduced from 105 minutes to 80 minutes, saving 5,000 litres of fuel per trip.

However, research has been suspended after several seminars on the planned new air route.

In February 2012, Dr. Tran Dinh Ba, a member of the Vietnam Association of Economic Sciences, presented a business project that is profitable for Vietnam Airlines, saying the new Hanoi-HCM City air route would be more efficient.

According to Ba, the current Hanoi-HCM City route is twisty and longer than the direct route flying through Laos and Cambodia, wasting 26 minute on a Boeing 777 or 25 percent of the production costs.

The Hanoi-Can Tho air route also wastes 28 percent, and the Hanoi-Phu Quoc route loses 38 percent.

Ba said the current routes were wasting 300 million USD per year of Vietnam Airlines’ budgets on domestic routes.

This explains why the international routes are profitable while the domestic routes incur heavy losses, said Ba.

The transport ministry and the CAAV said their proposals were good ideas but had not been realised due to various reasons.

Thanh said the new research project on the direct Hanoi-HCM City air route was similar to proposals made by Tuan and Ba.

A shortened air route between Hanoi and HCM City could be established with the cooperation of the three ASEAN countries.

At a recent meeting with the CAAV, Transport Minister Thang also said he would work with the General Staff and the Air Defence-Air Force on the plan to shorten the current route, ensuring economic effectiveness and national defence.-VNA