Vietnam Airlines trebles passengers in last decade; currently serves just three European destinations but not London

Image: Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam Airlines has hedged its bets by ordering both Boeing 787 Dreamliners (pictured) and Airbus A350 XWBs. However, delivery dates for both aircraft are anyone’s guess at present. Vietnam Airlines’ existing fleet of around 50 aircraft is split around 4:1 in favour of European manufacturers.

In less than 10 years Vietnam Airlines has trebled its passenger numbers from less than 2.5 million in 1998 to 7.5 million in 2007. Average load factor was just over 76% in 2007. Growth was briefly interrupted in 2003 by the SARS outbreak in the region which affected international air travel.

Chart: Vietnam Airlines traffic 1997-2007
Source: ICAO via OAG Max Online

The airline operates two main bases in Vietnam; Hanoi in the north of the country and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in the south. Currently Vietnam Airlines (VN) operates 76 weekly departures between the two major hubs. The key statistics for the two hubs are shown below.

Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) Hanoi (HAN)
VN weekly departures 429 273
Destinations served non-stop 31 27
Share of airport seat capacity 47.1% 53.8%
Leading rivals
(share of airport seat capacity)
Jetstar Pacific (11.8%)
Singapore Airlines (3.7%)
Jetstar Pacific (13.5%)
Thai Airways (3.8%)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 2 March 2009

Jetstar Pacific, formerly known as Pacific Airlines, is part-owned by Qantas hence the re-branding in May 2008. It operates primarily on domestic routes apart from a daily Bangkok service from Ho Chi Minh City.

The last new route started by Vietnam Airlines appears to be a four-times weekly service from Hanoi to Nagoya in Japan which began on 12 August last year using an A321.

Just five long-haul routes; three in Europe and two in Australia

Vietnam Airlines operates just five long-haul routes using some of its fleet of 10 777s. In Europe Frankfurt, Moscow Domodedovo and Paris CDG are all served (less than daily) non-stop from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The lack of readily available slots at Heathrow may be a factor in the airline not currently serving London. Melbourne and Sydney are both served non-stop four times weekly from Ho Chi Minh City.

The airline has a code-share arrangement with American Airlines that allows it to offer flights to the US via Frankfurt or Paris (for east coast destinations), and Taipei or Tokyo (for west coast destinations). A service to Heathrow would provide even better connections given American’s significant presence at the airport.


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