Vietjet will launch a three times weekly service from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City in April.
The route is the Vietnamese budget airline’s first from the Victorian capital and will take capacity to the Southeast Asian country to 150 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Vietjet will join Bamboo Airways and Jetstar in flying from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City and plans to upgrade to a daily service by December 2024.
“Services will offer an evening departure from Melbourne, allowing travellers to land in Ho Chi Minh in the morning, providing seamless connections to domestic destinations or facilitating a day of business in Vietnam,” said Melbourne Airport’s CEO Lorie Argus
“With its extensive international network, Vietjet can also offer low-cost onward flight options to destinations including India, Japan and South Korea via Ho Chi Minh City.
“Vietnam is the largest source market for education in Southeast Asia, with more than 41 per cent of Vietnamese international students in Australia choosing Victoria as their study destination, so this is yet another option for them to travel Down Under to study at our world-class higher learning institutions.”
It comes after the chief executive of Sydney Airport recently called on international airlines to operate more flights to boost Australia’s struggling tourism sector.
Geoff Culbert said that while international travel is “ticking up”, numbers are still “lagging behind pre-COVID levels” due to a lack of capacity.
Australian Aviation has been reporting for months on the discrepancy between the two recoveries.
The latest set of data released by the Department of Transport for instance shows how the number of international seats for sale — or capacity — is down 45 per cent on pre-pandemic numbers, industry-wide.
It has meant that international flights are now jam-packed, with 90 per cent of seats full, in what is likely to be one of the highest occupancy rates in history.
The knock-on effect has been that tourists are failing to return to Australia in great numbers, despite months without COVID-19 restrictions.
Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there were 370,000 “short-term overseas arrivals” in September 2022, compared to 695,000 in September 2019.
However, across the 2021-2022 financial year, just 18 per cent of those listed their reason for coming to the country as being to holiday, compared to 56 per cent who cited visiting friends or relatives.
The data appears to corroborate the observation made by Adelaide Airport’s MD, Brenton Cox, on the Australian Aviation Podcast.
“Right now, probably most of the people coming from overseas are doing so to visit friends and relatives, or for essential business,” he said. “The big free, independent travellers haven’t quite made their way here yet.”
Cox said he believed Australia’s COVID-19 response — which saw state borders open and close and a high-profile incident involving Novak Djokovic — deter casual visitors.
“I just remember looking at the scenes when Djokovic was being booted out of the Australian Open. And at that moment, you went, ‘Wow, it’s a lot of eyeballs on this.’
“And there are a lot of people who — similar to the state border risk — thought, ‘Well, if I come to this country, am I going to be trapped? Or am I going to be stuck in a detention centre?’”
By comparison, domestic aviation is now on the brink of returning to full pre-pandemic levels, with the next few days likely to be the busiest in years.