LAX CEO Says A Surprising Airline Could Launch Non-Stop Service To Vietnam

Vietnam Airlines launched new service from San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) during the pandemic. They’ve been eyeing non-stop service to Los Angeles as well – but they’re not alone. In fact a surprising carrier may be first to launch the service, and receive two years of subsidies from the Los Angeles airports authority.

There are two airlines reportedly with Memorandums of Understanding in place to launch non-stop LA – Vietnam service:

  • Bamboo Airways
  • VietJet

Bamboo Airways only launched service in 2019, but operates both narrowbody and long haul aircraft and uses Boeing 787-9 aircraft to serve destinations including Sydney and Melbourne. They’ve also had talks about service to San Francisco.

But according to LAX they’re not even the front-runner for new service. That’s actually VietJet,

The problem is that VietJet doesn’t have aircraft with enough range to operate the flight. They’re a large operator of Airbus narrowbody aircraft, and they have a couple of A330-300 widebodies but those lack the range to fly non-stop to the U.S. They have Boeing 737 MAXs on order dating from a visit by former President Obama to Vietnam. They would presumably need Boeing 787 or Airbus A350s to operate the route, as doing it with an A330 on a one-stop basis wouldn’t give them any advantage over the numerous airlines flying one-stop between the U.S. and Vietnam now.

VietJet is the project of Asia’s first self-made female billionaire, and known as the ‘bikini airline’ so branded beginning with an incident 9 years ago where they were fined 20 million Dong by the Vietnamese governmentover unapproved inflight entertainment.

  • It wasn’t a problem with the installation of a seatback video system.

  • Instead, 5 bikini-clad candidates in a local beauty contest performed a dance onboard the airline’s inaugural flight to Nha Trang.

  • The 3-minute show had not been approved in advance, it was deemed a violation of aviation and security regulations. And the airline was fined — the equivalent of $959.

They’ve very much embraced the branding, hosting bikini-clad staff on other inaugural routes and regularly publishing a calendar.


Inflight Food and Beverage are at the Core of VietJet Hospitality


Here They’re Highlighting Lost Luggage


Ground Staff Meet Each Flight Promptly

What VietJet would bring to the U.S. though isn’t sex appeal or sexism but low fares. But the low cost carrier model hasn’t worked well flying long haul where the cost advantage isn’t as great, where passenger experience matters more, and these carriers haven’t had places to send their planes in the off-season.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. In Orange County they’re still flying flags of the Republic of South Vietnam along the streets. Vietnam Airlines is going to have some marketing problems in Southern California. Bamboo and VietJet have a lot less Government/Party baggage in that regard. Seems like an especially good route for the later as there is probably deep demand at a reasonable price.

  2. Disgusting Gary, you used this post as an excuse to plaster these risque pics, exposing yourself as a creepy white man with a fetish for south Asian women.

  3. @Olaf – what is the problem with enjoying photos of attractive women (regardless of the race). No one held a gun to their head and I’m sure they benefited greatly from being in the calendar.

    You are either gay or a woke white man trying to stand up for people that don’t want you to represent them in the first place. SMH

  4. Perhaps it’s the readers who have the fetish. I’d let any one of them handle my baggage.

  5. I flew VietJet on domestic flights in Vietnam a couple of weeks ago. It’s a typical Asian ULCC – dirt cheap prices with lots of add-ons. The flight attendants, since everyone seems to care, were in shorts a bit above the knee. I’ve wondered why we haven’t had direct service between Vietnam and the West Coast, since there are so many Californians with family in Vietnam, apart from business interests and tourism. Vietnam is a Communist country, but the economy is mixed and traveling around the country I found the spirit is much more one of wanting economic growth than ideological purity. Taiwan is a big investment and trade partner.

  6. @DaveS “Vietnam is a Communist country,”

    While perhaps nominally true, traveling through Vietnam now demonstrates how completely meaningless this term has become today. The local gang of politicians can call itself whatever it wants but markets and free enterprise are overwhelming features of modern Vietnam . . . just so long as nobody challenges the CPV for political control.

  7. @DaveS Vietnam may be a one-party state that calls itself socialist, but they’re certainly not communist. If they were a “communist” country, they wouldn’t have two privately owned airlines, one of which is headed by a self-made female billionaire, vying for service to Los Angeles. That is literally the antithesis of communism.

  8. @Mak, @Jerry, I don’t disagree with you. The private sector is big and they look to people like the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for investment. I asked one man in Saigon why people still call it “Saigon” instead of “Ho Chi Minh City.” His answer: “Only some northerners call it that. It’s a Communist name and we don’t like the Communists.” At one city operated facility I saw a sign which stated the current goal for Saigon: “To develop industry with a scientific and technological content ion the basis of high-tech industry and digital economy, promote the development of supporting industries and continue to develop a key industrial segment as well as strongly exploit the potential of domestic and foreign resources to invest in the development of the City with the view to becoming Southeast Asia’s economic, financial, commercial, scientific-technological and cultural center by 2030” Not a lot of Communist rhetoric there.

  9. @olaf, Vietnamese people are not considered South Asians. Take your fake wokeness and lack of humor somewhere else if you can’t even categorize Vietnam correctly.

  10. If VietJet opts for their Torquemada slimline seats in long haul coach, it would be really rough to sit through a dozen hours or more in them. Even sitting through a flight from HKG to SGN a few years ago for the Cathay fare mistake was painful and that was only around 2.5 hours.

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