Ambitious Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways has hit a milestone in its network additions, flying an E190 jet to a northwestern regional airport for the first time. The airline landed its Embraer jet yesterday morning from Hanoi, and intends to commence three times a week service to the airport. From December, it will add Ho Chi Minh City, giving travelers a new option to connect to the northwest of the country with the quiet comfort of a jet.
Bamboo Airways’ milestone new service
Yesterday, October 14th, Bamboo Airways arrived at a new airport for the first time. The ambitious airline landed its Embraer E190 at Dien Bien Phu Airport at just after 10:00 yesterday morning, flying as QH1692 from Hanoi.
The remote nature of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam’s northwest means it is a long and arduous journey to the major cities by any other means than flight. By road, the trip can take from nine to 12 hours. With Bamboo, that was reduced to just under an hour.
This new service is notable not only because it adds a new option from Dien Bien for residents to travel to Hanoi, but also because it is the first time a commercial jet has landed at the airport. Locals are more familiar with Vietnam Airlines’ ATR 72 turboprops here, so having the quiet comfort of a jet will be a significant upgrade.
Dang Tat Thang, CEO of Bamboo Airways, said,
“We expect this jet route to Dien Bien will meet the travel needs of locals and tourists; thus attracting investment, promoting inter-regional exchanges between Dien Bien and tourist, economic, cultural, and social centers of the country, and gradually transforming Dien Bien into a vital transport hub.”
Bamboo Airways is launching a thrice-weekly service on the route between Dien Bien and Hanoi. As demand increases, it will ramp up this frequency in line with passenger traffic. From December, the airline plans to add a service to Ho Chi Minh City also, to coincide with the high demand driven by the Tet holiday.
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A critical airport gets jet service for the first time
Vietnam’s Dien Bien Phu Airport is critical for the people living in the northwest of the country. Established in 1954 as Muong Thanh Airfield, commercial flights began there in 1958, initially by the Air Force but later by commercial airlines. It is the only commercial airport in the entire northwest region of Vietnam since Na San Airport was closed in 2004.
In the past, the airport has been frequented by turboprops, mainly of the ATR 72 variety. In 2004, the airport upgraded its apron and added four parking stands for the ATR 72. Since then, the sole airline operating to the airport has been Vietnam Airlines, with a regular ATR 72 service to Hanoi.The airport’s runway is just over 6,000 feet (1,830 m) long, enough to accommodate the ATR as well as the increasingly rare Fokker 70. However, the short length precludes the airport from welcoming most jet aircraft, including the A320 and 737. Additional challenges at the airport include its high altitude (1,600 meters/5,250 feet) and the mountainous terrain around it.
Residential roads and buildings around the airport, as well as the nearby mountains, prevent it from extending the runway any further. As such, Dien Bien Phu was resigned to accept turboprop-only services for the foreseeable future, until this week.
Thanks to the E190’s exceptional short field performance, it has brought the jet age to this airport for the first time. Bamboo Airways has already been demonstrating the incredible abilities of the E-Jet at other short runway domestic airports in Vietnam, including Con Dao and Rach Gia. Raul Villaron, Vice President of Embraer Commercial Aviation in Asia-Pacific, commented on the use of the E-Jet at Dien Bien Phu saying,
“We congratulate Bamboo Airways as they continue to launch domestic routes with the added comfort of a jet. Bamboo Airways is utilizing the best of the E190’s short-field performance, economics, and fuel efficiency to their advantage and we are with them on this journey.”
Bamboo Airways fully plans to grow its network out of Dien Bien, with the CEO noting that Phu Quoc is likely to be added in the future. While residents will be glad for another option and more connections out of their local airport, the potential for incoming tourism will be good for the region too. Dien Bien is home to hot springs, beautiful scenery, and historical significance, so could find itself firmly on the tourist map thanks to Bamboo Airways.