Vietnam Airlines Approved To Fly US Repatriation Flights

Vietnam Airlines has received approval to fly 12 repatriation flights to the US in the coming year. The carrier’s first flights of this series will be on June 22nd, flying from Hanoi to Washington DC with a stop in Alaska. The airline will fly the routes using its fleet of Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s.

Vietnam Airlines A350
Vietnam Airlines has also considered flying commercially to the US following its repatriation flights last year. Photo: Airbus

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According to VnExpress, Vietnam Airlines has confirmed that it received permission from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to operate repatriation flights last week. The carrier plans to fly 12 flights in total, beginning from 22nd June. Notably, receiving permission from the TSA is a tough ask, with permissions for the dozen flights taking a full month.

Considering the distance between Vietnam and the US, along with the high demand, the flag carrier will fly its A350-900s and 787s. While the exact variant of the Dreamliner has not been confirmed, the stop in Alaska could make room for the larger 787-10, too, as it did last year as well.

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Vietnam Airlines could be deploying its 367-seat 787-10s to maximize capacity. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the A350-900 can make the ultra-long-haul journey to the US without requiring a stop on the way. However, the aircraft only seats 305 passengers in total, reducing capacity on a route where the maximum is in need.

The first repatriation flight will kick off on 22nd June, with a service to Washington DC with a stop in Alaska. The aircraft will return to Vietnam will its full payload on June 24th, giving the plane a few hours on the ground first. Expect the detailed schedule for the remaining 11 flights in the coming months.

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Commercial flights soon?

One hot topic of discussion has been Vietnam Airlines’ plans to begin flying commercially to the US. The idea has been in talks for years now and became closer to reality in early 2019 when Vietnam received Category 1 FAA status. While the pandemic temporarily disrupted planes in early 2020, it also got the airline one step closer.

Last year, Vietnam Airlines flew 20 repatriation flights from the US, from destinations such as San Francisco, Houston, and Washington DC. Having flown the length and breadth of the US, the airline has been drawing up plans to kick off US services. The route will be flown by the Boeing 787-9, which can fly to nearly the entire US nonstop.

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Vietnam Airlines has been eying US flights with a 787-9 recently. Photo: Tom Boon | Simple Flying

This latest set of repatriation flights could lay the groundwork for commercial services later this year, or in early 2022. However, Vietnam Airlines could soon become the second airline to launch services.

Bamboo Airways in tow

While Vietnam Airlines ponders its US operations, competitor and new entrant Bamboo Airways has already announced plans to fly to Los Angeles and San Francisco. With permission secured last year, the airline plans to start flying on September 1st.

Bamboo Airways
While both airlines are closing in on US flights, the path could be challenging. Photo: Bamboo Airways

However, both airlines are entering dangerous territory. Even with major passenger capacity, Vietnam-US routes are extremely long but low-yielding. This means profits will be slim to nonexistent for years, a fact Vietnam Airlines has pointed out in the past. However, both airlines are now getting closer to launching routes and challenging the norm.

What do you think about the future of Vietnam-US direct flights? Let us know in the comments!

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