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
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,
LAX also has an MoU with Bamboo Airways. However, during the LAWA meeting Erbacci said, "VietJet's been the one that has been most active of late. They're waiting on long-haul aircraft before they make a determination." https://t.co/7FgjQNrXRO
— Ishrion Aviation (@IshrionA) August 9, 2022
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.