Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways is ambitiously eyeing regular flights to Melbourne from 2021. The Hanoi-based airline thinks the large Vietnamese diaspora in Melbourne is a ready market for them and will make the run between the two cities a perfect fit for the airline.
The news comes after a successful Bamboo Airways repatriation flight from Australia on the weekend. A Bamboo Airways 787-9 Dreamliner flew down to Melbourne to pick up approximately 300 Vietnamese citizens on Sunday morning. It was Bamboo Airways’ first flight to Australia, and it seems they’d like to come back.
Bamboo Airways targets a neglected route
Before the travel downturn, the Melbourne – Hanoi – Melbourne route was the largest unserved route in and out of Australia. No airlines fly the route nonstop, but OAG data reveals 68,092 passengers made the trip in either direction in 2018.
All up, the market between Australia and Vietnam is relatively poorly served, even before the downturn. There were almost 1,000,000 passenger movements between the two countries in 2018, and nearly 60% of those passengers had to transit en route.
Local carrier Qantas has long been skittish about Vietnam, preferring to connect its passengers onto other carriers at nearby hub airports such as Singapore. Vietnam Airlines owns the market, linking Sydney to both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City. But the hole in the network was Melbourne – Hanoi and upstart Bamboo Airways reckons they are just the airline to fill it.
The Dreamliners have the range to go the distance
The 787-9 Dreamliners have the range to make the ten-hour 7,000 kilometer plus trip. Bamboo Airways has three of the planes. They are ex-Hainan Airlines aircraft and all on lease. Bamboo Airways has only been flying since early 2019. The airline has 22 planes all up, of which nine are parked. It flies to 29 destinations, mostly around Vietnam and North Asia.
The airline is reportedly keen to expand elsewhere around Asia and to places like Australia. But right now, Australia, and Melbourne in particular, is an unfriendly place for international airlines. Melbourne Airport is closed to inbound international flights, and there are stringent quotas on inbound passenger numbers elsewhere around Australia. There is no timeline in place for when this might end.
Both Bamboo Airways and Melbourne Airport are hoping things change
Most people assume things will be returning to normal by the middle of next year when Bamboo Airways would like to start its Melbourne flights. But there’s no guarantee this will be the case. Like Bamboo Airways, Melbourne Airport is hoping things will change by then.
“We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the airline and enhancing our nonstop service to Vietnam on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in 2021, including to Hanoi for the first time, which opens up critical trade, leisure, and business opportunities for Victoria,” said the airport’s chief of aviation, Shane O’Hare, in a statement
In the meantime, Bamboo Airways is continuing to operate ad-hoc charter flights to international destinations. The airline will also be buoyed by the news that Vietnam is preparing to allow limited flights from South Korea and Japan later this month. Both are markets Bamboo Airways previously served and is keen to get back to. If all goes to plan, Melbourne will join Japan and South Korea as regular Bamboo Airways destinations.