VietJet Air, Vietnam's first private carrier, to start operations in 2009

Hanoi: Vietnam's first fully private airlines, VietJet Air said Thursday it would start domestic and international short-haul, low-fare flights in 2009 to meet growing demand from the country's middle class travellers.

"With more competitive fares, a convenient flight schedule and a high level of customer service, we believe that we can capture market share for both leisure and business travellers," Robert Hughes, VietJet's managing director, said.

Hanoi-based VietJet is owned by a group of Vietnamese companies including investment firm Sovico Group and the partly private Ho Chi Minh City Housing Development Bank. The airline is capitalised at $37.5 million.

The carrier plans to serve regional hubs including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and southeast Asian cities in its initial phase, Hughes said at a ceremony to receive the carrier's business licence in Hanoi.

Vietnam's air travel sector now is dominated by state-run flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, but the aviation sector is set to look up as the economy grows at more than 8 per cent a year along with a boost in tourism and trade.

The government has said that air travel demand is expected to grow 20 per cent annually.