Vietnam Airlines is looking closely at operating regularly scheduled flights to the United States. After operating several repatriation flights from cities in the US last year, the airline sees demand for additional repatriation flights. Still, it now wants to look at running regularly scheduled commercial services.
Vietnam Airlines looks at US flights
According to a report in VnExpress, Vietnam Airlines is looking at launching scheduled commercial operations from the United States. Primarily interested in serving Vietnamese citizens’ repatriation needs in the US, the airline is hoping the US government will allow the carrier to operate regularly scheduled flights.
The Board of Directors of Vietnam Airlines approved a plan to launch Boeing 787-operated flights to the United States. The goal is to maximize revenue by targeting repatriation passengers at a time when regularly scheduled international air services to Vietnam are at one of their lowest periods in recent history.
Repatriation flights brought Vietnam Airlines to the US
Last year, as Vietnam shut down for international air travel, Vietnam Airlines got busy operating a host of repatriation flights. In fact, the airline’s repatriation missions brought it to US soil for the first time carrying passengers back to Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines flew from San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Houston. Using primarily Boeing 787-10 aircraft, the airline was focused on carrying as many people home as possible within the constraints of the number of repatriations it could run.
Today is a historic day at #SFO as we welcomed the very first @VietnamAirlines passenger flight to the United States! This repatriation flight is being operated on one of Vietnam Airlines new Boeing 787-10 aircraft. SFO is proud to welcome this special flight! pic.twitter.com/eTd2xJTUU9
— San Francisco International Airport (SFO) ✈️😷 (@flySFO) May 7, 2020
The issue with those Boeing 787-10-operated flights was that the carrier needed to stop en route to Vietnam due to the long distance between the US and Vietnam and the heavier load on the jets. The airline chose to make a stop in Anchorage on the way back to Vietnam.
What could commercial flights look like?
In 2019, Vietnam Airlines excitedly announced that it had received permission from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate flights to the US. The airline had the authorization to fly from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh to US destinations, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Dallas.
It also had the option to run onward travel to Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. The airline could also serve the US via intermediate points like Taipei, Osaka, or Nagoya. The DOT gave the airline a fair bit of flexibility to routing its US flights.
From those points, Vietnam Airlines could codeshare onwards with its SkyTeam partner, Delta Air Lines, providing some additional feed to make some US routes work.
In addition to the Boeing 787-10, Vietnam Airlines also flies Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Those planes have the range to make nonstop flights to the US possible and are configured for long-haul international travel. In the past, the airline has flown those planes on routes from cities like Sydney.
Possible early commercial flights could include operations from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco, Seattle, or Los Angeles. The West Coast is more likely to get flights to Asia nonstop. From these cities, Vietnam Airlines can target some connecting onward passengers and tap into the base of Vietnamese citizens who would fly nonstop to Vietnam.
If Vietnam Airlines were to run these flights nonstop, it would have a monopoly on them. No carrier currently flies nonstop between the mainland US and Vietnam, but there has been plenty of interest from other carriers, including Bamboo Airways.
For now, Vietnam Airlines is looking to gain approval from governments to run more nonstop flights from the US to Vietnam. A move that could have lasting positive impacts on air connectivity between the two countries, time will tell how Vietnam Airlines makes these flights work.
Do you think Vietnam Airlines should fly nonstop between the US and Vietnam? Should such routes continue even after repatriation needs are fulfilled? Let us know in the comments!