The timing of LOT Polish Airlines’ new Hanoi service, which launched this week, is not a coincidence. Air France, which has been operating flights between Europe and Vietnam for decades, rearranged its services to the former French colony at the end of the summer season. Since the early 1990s, the airline had served both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as stopping services via Bangkok, with only a few non-stop exceptions.
However, as of this winter season, Air France has dropped its route to the country capital Hanoi altogether, while it has ‘upgraded’ its Ho Chi Minh City route to non-stop from Paris CDG. Meanwhile, its SkyTeam partner Vietnam Airlines has increased frequencies on its Hanoi-Paris route from four to five weekly flights, but the combined seat capacity is still down 36% on the city pair, which affects the Europe-Hanoi market as a whole.
European destinations served from Hanoi
|Aeroflot||Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO)||4|
|LOT Polish||Warsaw (WAW)||3|
|Vietnam Airlines||Frankfurt (FRA)||4|
|Moscow Domodedovo (DME)||2|
|Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)||5|
|*WF: Weekly Frequency for w/c 15 November 2010 (Source: OAG Schedules iNET)|
All European services at Hanoi are now non-stop operations. Aeroflot has also acted on SkyTeam partner Air France’s withdrawal and increased weekly frequencies from three to four at the beginning of the winter season. The airline further increased capacity by replacing its 218-seat 767-300ERs with 241-seat A330-200s on the route.
Several Asian carriers also provide connections to Hanoi from a number of European cities, but key Vietnamese communities across Europe remain unserved by such airlines. While the Vietnamese community in Poland is large enough to make it one of the country’s largest immigrant groups, it can be presumed that the local demand – from immigrants as well as tourists and business travellers – is insufficient to warrant the new service without a considerable amount of transfer traffic.
Unlike Air France’s suspended route, the eastwardly location in Europe of LOT’s Warsaw base makes for connections without the need to backtrack from a number of European destinations, including those with considerable Vietnamese communities, such as Berlin. LOT’s spokesman Jacek Balcer commented: “The direct service to Vietnam will be convenient not only for the Vietnamese living in Poland, but also those who live in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.” Through a press statement from Warsaw Airport, the airline also reported that almost all seats already are filled on its Hanoi services until February 2011.