South Korean carriers cut Vietnam flights as coronavirus infections spiral

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Largest carriers in the Republic of Korea (RoK) have decreased the frequency of flights to Vietnamese tourist hotspots over rising Covid-19 infections at home.

An aircraft of Korean Air on taxiways of Incheon Airport in the RoK. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran

Korean Air, the largest airline in the RoK, has announced that it will suspend many flights departing from Seoul and Busan to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam’s two largest metropolises, Da Nang and Nha Trang in central region and Phu Quoc Island in the south until the end of March.

Asiana Airlines, the country's second largest carrier, has also canceled many flights from Incheon Airport in Seoul to Hanoi, Da Nang and Nha Trang at least until mid-March. This airline's Incheon-Phu Quoc route will continue operations, but the frequency will be reduced from four flights a week to two.

Korean Air normally operates 20 flights between the two countries a day, while Asiana Airlines has an average 4 flights a day. The two carriers did not reveal specific numbers of suspended flights.

The flight suspensions follow the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the RoK, where more than 4,800 infections and 23 deaths have been recorded.

The RoK is the second largest feeder market of Vietnam's tourism after China, with around 4.2 million visitors in 2019, up 23.1 percent year-on-year. 

Vietnam is a leading destination among South Koreans, ranked third after Japan and mainland China, according to Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI), released by Mastercard last year. 

Nha Trang and Da Nang are among top holiday destinations for South Koreans.

The Covid-19 outbreak, with its epicenter in China, has severely cut the number of South Koreans traveling abroad, and Vietnam’s tourism sector has borne the brunt.

Around 322,000 South Koreans came to Vietnam in February, down 16 percent from a year ago. Worse still, the number is expected to decrease dramatically in the coming months after the South Korean government declared a red alert, its highest level of epidemic alarm.

The Vietnamese government, too, has deployed various measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including canceling many flights to the RoK and suspending visa-free entry for South Koreans starting February 29.

In Vietnam, national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has said it will suspend all flights to the RoK from February 28 while private carrier Bamboo Airways halted services to the RoK from February 26. 

Hanoi's Noi Bai and Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat, Vietnam’s two largest airports, had stated they would stop receiving RoK arrivals.

Passengers scheduled to land in Noi Bai will have to do so at Van Don Airport in northern Quang Ninh Province, around four hours drive away, while those headed for Tan Son Nhat will have to travel a similar distance to Can Tho Airport in the Mekong Delta.

This decision was taken after a large number of Vietnamese returning from the RoK overloaded medical quarantine facilities in both cities.

All 16 people with Covid-19 recorded in Vietnam so far have been discharged from hospitals.

Globally, the death toll has reached 3,069, mostly in mainland China, followed by Iran (66), Italy (52) and the RoK (34). The US and Japan which have reported six deaths each.

Source: Vnexpress