Vietnam’s newest airline, Bamboo Airways, are set to be the first in the nation to operate direct flights to the Czech Republic. The carrier signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Prague’s Vaclav Havel International Airport to begin flights there in the future.
To make things easier for Bamboo Airways, Prague Airport have agreed to apply a number of incentives. These include assistance with market research, promotions, passenger service fees and policies on takeoff and landing. The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Transport have also said they want to help Bamboo Airways to complete procedures for flight permission with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, is quoted as saying:
“We support the Vietnamese airline to establish a direct air route from Vietnam to Prague. This direct air route can promote trade and tourism between the two countries,”
According to the carrier, the Czech Republic is home to a large Vietnamese community numbering almost 70,000 in total. Currently, returning to Vietnam means transiting through at least one European city such as London, Zurich or Amsterdam, or through Dubai, with a journey time of 14 – 19 hours. The direct route will cut travelling time for passengers down to just 12 hours.
What plane will they use?
The burning question on everyone’s lips is always what can we expect from this route in terms of equipment? Although Bamboo is a very new airline, it’s also growing rapidly. Back in December when it launched, the airline started out with just one A319. Days later they received their first A321neo from Airbus; clearly neither of these would be capable of the service to Prague.
However, as well as their order for no less than 50 A321neos, the new carrier has also ordered a number of 787 Dreamliners for their fleet. 20 were ordered last July, and they signed a deal for a further 10 during Trump’s visit in February. These would be ideal for the Prague route, with widebody comfort and sufficient range to make the trip.
The airline has indicated in press releases that they plan to use the 787-9 Dreamliner on this route. We agree it’s a great choice for Hanoi to Prague direct.
What can we expect from Bamboo Airways 787?
Bamboo Airways are marketing themselves somewhere in between low cost and full service. Despite their fares being dirt cheap (from $24 including taxes and fees for a domestic, one way fare), they provide all the frills that you wouldn’t expect from a truly low cost carrier. Passengers get fed, seats can be chosen and checked bags are free apart from on the very basic Bamboo Eco fare.
They call themselves a ‘hybrid’ airline, offering all the best bits of air travel at a price that’s competitive with low cost rivals. As such, you might expect the 787 to be a bit like Norwegian’s, with a large economy cabin and a premium economy tier up front. However, indications from the airline are that they’re hoping for something a bit better than that.
Early indications are that there will be around 274 economy seats, 78 of which will be very slightly extra legroom. Up front, there will be a business class cabin, as per their existing aircraft, which will cater for 24 passengers. These will be in a reverse herringbone configuration, allowing for that all important direct aisle access. But that’s not the best bit.
Whereas most airlines are falling out of love with First Class, Bamboo are actually planning to install it on their 787s. Their seat plan shows plans for four first class suites up front, laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. If these go ahead, it will be the airline’s first foray into the word of first, and an interesting product to see.
When will the route launch?
Bamboo Airways have been tight lipped about the precise launch date for the route. However, a Vietnamese representative on the Czech Government Council for National Minorities has been quoted as saying that “All parties are very interested in launching the line, wanting to open it as soon as possible”.
Previously, the Czech Prime Minister has been quoted as saying he would be ‘very happy’ if the route launched before Christmas.
However, with the 787 not expected for delivery until the middle of 2020, a launch this year looks highly unlikely.
The carrier’s website states:
“By 2021, Bamboo Airways is expected to expand direct flights to the US and Europe. This will help our passengers reduce transit flights, saving time and money.”
While starting the route as soon as this year is unlikely, a date of 2020 sounds like a more reasonable proposition. We’ll keep readers informed as and when we hear more.