Bamboo Airways is setting its sights on flying to San Francisco from September. The Hanoi-based airline is initially flagging three flights a week. Bamboo Airways would deploy one of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on the 11,750-kilometer route. San Francisco is one of several long-haul routes the aggressive Vietnamese long-haul airline wants to launch.
Bamboo Airways plans September touchdown in San Francisco
In an interview with Reuters last week, Bambo Airways Chairman Trinh Van Quyet confirmed the airline wanted to start flights to Australia, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States in 2020.
However, plans to fly to the United States seem more advanced than Bamboo’s plans for its other long-haul destinations. Trinh Van Quyet said his airline would operate chartered flights to the United States this summer. Bamboo Airways has a target date of September for regular passenger flights to San Francisco.
A bilateral air services agreement between the United States and Vietnam came into force before Bamboo Airways began flying. The airline’s first flights were in January 2019. The bilateral air services agreement dates from 2004. The signing of the agreement opened the way for the first regular commercial flights between the two countries since the Vietnam War ended.
However, safety-related issues put the brakes on any Vietnamese airlines flying to the United States. In 2019, the FAA relaxed the restriction. The safety regulator gave Vietnam a “Category 1” safety rating, clearing the way for Bamboo Airways to apply for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit from the United States Government.
Still no nonstop flights between Vietnam and the United States
Despite the long-standing air services agreement, no airline flies direct between Vietnam and the United States. However, both Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways expressed interest in doing so.
Notwithstanding the lack of direct flights, the United States was Vietnam’s fifth biggest inbound market before the travel downturn. More than 700,000 US citizens landed in Vietnam in 2019. Heading in the opposite direction, US citizens of Vietnamese origin number over 2.2 million and comprise the fourth-largest Asian American ethnic group.
In late 2020, the US Department of Transport gave permission for Bamboo Airways to begin nonstop flights between Vietnam and the United States. In line with the established air services agreement, Bamboo Airways was approved to fly from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to any international airport in the United States.
Most of Bamboo Airwways’ long-haul ambitions in haitus
While the global travel downturn has curbed the more practical aspects of Bamboo’s long-haul aspirations, such as the flights actually taking place, it hasn’t curbed the announcements. Last year, the airline said it was planning to fly to Munich and Prague. But the collapse in international travel demand combined with border closures saw those flights indefinitely delayed.
In March, Bamboo Airways snagged some highly prized Heathrow slots. The slots become available in May, allowing six return flights a week. However, there is no sign of those flights happening anytime soon.
Last week’s San Francisco announcement coincided with an announcement Bamboo Airways wants to raise US$200 million via an initial public offering in the United States. About 5-7% of the airline would be sold off in the process. According to Bamboo’s Chairman, the funds would facilitate further expansion of Bamboo’s international network. That would include expanding the fleet of Dreamliners.
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