Vietravel’s Maiden Flight Means Vietnam Will Get Its 5th Carrier

Vietnam is all set to get its fifth airline with the maiden flight of Vietravel Airlines. The carrier, owned by the travel company of the same name, will commence operations in mid-January and is based out of Phu Bai Airport. Vietravel currently has one A321-200 in its fleet, with two more planes on order.

Vietravel Airlines A321-200
The airline will first connect Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh from its base near Huế. Photo: Huy Bùi via Wikimedia Commons

First flight

Vietravel Airlines received government permissions to begin operations in the last days of 2020, setting the stage for a January 2021 launch. Ticket sales began on January 1st and the maiden flight is expected in the coming weeks, according to TTG Asia.

Due to ongoing restrictions, flights will likely remain limited to domestic destinations for at least the next few months. The first routes planned from Phu Bai Airport, near the city of Hue, will be to the key cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The carrier will later expand to leisure cities like Da Nang, Dalat, and Nha Trang.

Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam’s borders are largely closed, shifting the focus to domestic flights. Photo: Getty Images

While this may not seem to be the best time to launch an airline, Vietravel does have some advantages. Vietnam is one of the few countries globally to have controlled the spread of COVID-19, barring a few recent outbreaks. This has allowed restrictions to be eased significantly in the country and domestic travel to rise again. However, international flights remain close to zero for the foreseeable future.

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Fleet plans

Owned by one of Asia’s leading tour operators, Vietravel Airlines has interesting plans for its fleet. It is currently flying one A321-200 and has one more painted and ready to go, both being leased from Avolon. These planes previously flew for Thomas Cook and Condor but were returned following the former’s collapse in 2019.

Vietravel’s third aircraft will be a 1.6-year-old A321LR, which previously flew for Arkia, the launch operator of the aircraft type. The A321LR has the range to open up international destinations like Australia and the Middle East. 

In a statement to Reuters in September 2019, CEO Vu Duc Bien said the airline is considering an order for the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320neo family in the future. Three to four aircraft are expected to be flown by Vietravel in the first year of operation, with that number rising to eight to ten within five years. Eventually, the airline hopes to have a fleet of 20-30 planes.

He added that the target markets would be international mainly, with Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and neighboring ASEAN countries being on the top of the list. While the market has shifted since, and Airbus now looks to be the favorite to win an order, the destinations will likely remain the same.

Fifth airline

Vietravel is the fifth major carrier to begin operations in Vietnam, a country of just 96 million. The reason for this popularity of the aviation market in the country, which has seen double-digit growth for the five years before 2020. More business activity and tourism have pushed airlines to throw their hat in the ring.

A321neo Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam has quickly added new airlines as traffic grows. Photo: Airbus

However, Vietravel could be one of the last startup airlines for the next year. Last July, Vietnam banned the creation of new airlines until 2022 due to the current situation of the airline industry. While there may not be new entrants this year, expect fierce competition in the aviation market.

What do you think about Vietravel’s plans? Let us know in the comments!