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Vietnam Airlines, Air France sign cooperation agreement

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's flag carrier and Air France signed an agreement Tuesday to deepen their cooperation to tap the growing travel market between Vietnam and Europe. Vietnam Airlines and Air France have been cooperating for 20 years on aircraft maintenance and crew training and began code sharing in 2010, but they said the partnership agreement signed by their leaders in Hanoi will further their cooperation.

Under the agreement, which begins in November, Vietnam Airlines passengers will be able to connect to 70 European destinations, up from 14, and Air France passengers will be able to reach 20 Vietnamese destinations, up from three.

"We are the only ones who directly connect Europe to Vietnam, and as you know with this world of speed, time is obviously the essence," Franck Terner, CEO of Air France, told reporters after signing the agreement with Duong Tri Thanh, president and CEO of Vietnam Airlines. "I truly think that what we build today is the utmost service, a seamless travel experience and frequent connections."

Thanh said the agreement would help the airlines strengthen their positions in a fiercely competitive environment. "The two airlines will cooperate comprehensively, and our ultimate goal is to offer seamless and perfect service that would bring about a competitive edge to our airlines in the aviation market, which is increasingly expanding with a lot of potential, but is also very competitive," Thanh said.

Terner noted that Air France began flying to Vietnam nearly 90 years ago with Air Orient, Air France's predecessor, offering flights in 1930 departing from Marseille to Saigon in three days, making 18 stops. Since then technology has made enormous progress and new markets have opened, he added.

Currently, Vietnam Airlines offers daily flights between Hanoi and Paris and three flights a week between the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City and Paris, while Air France operates three flights a week between Ho Chi Minh City and Paris.

Vietnam received 10 million foreign tourists in 2016, up 26 percent from the previous year, with China, South Korea, Japan and the United States the top sources of visitors.

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