According to a January 31 report from Reuters, Vietnamese airlines could soon be able to launch new flights to the United States as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to award the country a Category 1 rating.
The reported aviation status upgrade for Vietnam is not official, but according to anonymous US officials the announcement could be made within the next few weeks. Should the announcement be made, it would allow for new routes between the two countries to be opened and codeshare opportunities with US-based carriers.
Based on an assessment by the US FAA for countries with air links to the US, the ratings evaluate a country such as Vietnam for its adherence to international aviation safety regulations and ICAO standards. A Category 1 rating is the top rating, which opens up business opportunities such as new flights. If a country is deemed to not meet the standards, it is given a Category 2 rating that will allow for existing flights between the countries to operate. However, no new routes can be added. Because Vietnam doesn’t have direct air links to the US, the country has not been issued a rating by the FAA.
Travelers looking to visit the country need to connect at other Asian hubs such as Hong Kong, Seoul, or Tokyo. Without direct air routes, airlines from both countries such as Vietnam Airlines and newcomer Bamboo Airways have openly expressed interest in launching flights from Vietnam to the United States.
Though any new flight between the countries would be the first to be done, Vietnam is no stranger to welcoming flights from US carriers in recent years. United Airlines was the first airline to start services to the country after the Vietnam War in 2004. The Chicago-based airline eventually ended its presence in the country after ceasing its Hong Kong-Ho Chi Minh flights in October 2016.