First U.S. commercial plane to land in former Saigon since Vietnam War : LUSENET : Vietnamese American Society : One Thread

Đă hơn 30 năm rồi các bạn, Ngày thứ sáu này 1 Boeing 747 sẽ hạc cánh tại phi cảng Tân Sân Nhứt, Sai G̣n Nam Việt Nam tôi c̣n nhớ chuyến 747 chót của Flying Tiger rời TSN đi Hà Nội hôm 25-4-1975 và ngày hôm nay chiếc 747 khác lại trở về đây

First U.S. commercial plane to land in former Saigon since Vietnam War

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam: United Airlines was making history Friday by sending the first U.S. commercial plane to former Saigon since the Vietnam War ended nearly 30 years ago.

United Flight 869 was expected to arrive about 10:25 p.m. (1530 GMT) after taking off from San Francisco and stopping in Hong Kong. It was to be the first U.S. passenger jet to hit the runway at Tan Son Nhat International Airport since the wartime capital of South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975.

The airport remains the same, but Saigon is now called Ho Chi Minh City and much progress has been made in U.S.-Vietnam relations since American soldiers once longed for Pan American "freedom birds'' to carry them home after finishing their tours of duty.

United decided on the daily flight to Vietnam to capture new passengers from the more than 1 million Vietnamese who live in the United States, the largest population outside Vietnam. The carrier, which filed for bankruptcy two years ago, has cited estimates by the International Air Transport Association that air travel to Vietnam will grow 10.5 percent per year in the next decade.

Vietnam and the United States signed a landmark aviation agreement in October 2003, allowing the countries to exchange direct flights and to add code-shared flights, which enables other airlines already operating in each country to complete part of the journey.

American Airlines has set up a code-share agreement with Vietnam Airlines Corp., while the state-owned carrier has expressed interest in opening its own route to San Francisco by the end of next year or early 2006.

"The United Airlines link between the two countries will not only serve Vietnamese nationals living in America, but I was told that 45 million Americans wanted to travel to Vietnam and that is a very big market,'' said Nguyen Xuan Hien, Vietnam Airlines president and CEO.

United will fly a 347-seat Boeing 747-400 on the Vietnam route. It also plans to launch at least three additional routes to Asia next year.

Vietnam and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1995. Last year, they celebrated a milestone when the first U.S. Navy ship since the war docked on the Saigon River.

"The new United Airlines route is a new indicator of the strong relations between the United States and Vietnam,'' U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine said.

Many U.S. veterans have vivid memories of Tan Son Nhat airport, where Pan American flights linked Vietnam and America during the war and also took soldiers to Asian rest stops such as Hong Kong and Japan. Now-defunct Pan American was the last commercial U.S. carrier to fly out of Vietnam prior to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

Today, many American veterans are returning as tourists and the overseas Vietnamese, or Viet kieu, who served as America's allies are also now welcomed back after fleeing by the thousands in boats to escape persecution following the war.

An estimated 200,000 Viet kieu return home every year for Lunar New Year festivities, most of them from America.

Before embarking on the inaugural flight in San Francisco, Van Trinh, 48, said she left Vietnam on a wooden boat just before Saigon fell. She went to the Philippines and Guam before ending up in Pennsylvania.

"It was a long, long trip. That was three steps, now one,'' she said. "I'm excited to see Vietnam now because 30 years is too long.''--AP

-- (Anh_Tám@Công_Nhân.Com), December 10, 2004

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