Vietnam Airlines could be only a few weeks away from realizing an ambition it has carried for nearly two decades. After leading several repatriation fights to the United States, the airline is preparing to launch direct service from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco, starting in October.
October for US flights?
It’s been a long time, but it looks like Vietnam Airlines is finally ready to continue its flights to the United States. The airline laid out plans to launch flights in October, fulfilling a dream that has preoccupied it for more than two decades.
Even with the COVID hardship still plaguing the carrier’s books, CEO Le Hong Ha told Bloomberg in an interview that October was the target. The airline plans to fly its Airbus A350 or possibly its Boeing 787 on the inaugural route, which will target San Francisco from Ho Chi Minh City.
Although international travel is still likely to be difficult in October, the CEO said the airline would be able to make up for losses due to passenger shortages by carrying cargo on these services. Freight remains at an all time high in terms of tariffs and is proving to be a vital lifeline in the resumption of air traffic services.
Vietnam Airlines has both the 787-9 and the 787-10 in its fleet, with 11 of the smaller and four of the larger planes in the stable. It also has 14 A350-900s. A350s can travel from SGN to SFO fairly easily – GCMaps shows the route to have a direct distance from the Grand Cercle of 6,811 NM.
The published range of the A350 is 8,100 NM, although this may vary depending on its load and passenger configuration. The 787s would have a bit of a hard time, with the -10 released at a distance of 6,345 NM and the -9 at 7,530. The CEO of Vietnam Airlines suggested that there would be a refueling involved, although he did not say where this could indicate that the Dreamliner is the favorite to exploit this route.
Vietnam Airlines has loved flights to the United States for a very long time. In 2003, the Department of Transportation encouraged the airline to start flights to the United States by 2005. However, its low profitability did not allow it to move forward.
Having achieved its FAA Category 1 rating in early 2019, it seemed like the time had come for Vietnamese airlines to start serving the United States. In the fall of 2019, Vietnam Airlines was taking a close look at services in the United States and seemed very positive about a launch, but then, of course, COVID hit.
Vietnam Airlines has been the hardest hit of all Vietnamese carriers. In February, it was losing up to $ 10 million in revenue per week as COVID flight suspensions began to be felt. Even this year, it recorded a loss of seven trillion dong ($ 308 million) for the first half of the year, proving that things aren’t much easier for the airline 18 months later.
Nonetheless, the airline believes the time has come to fly to the United States. She has already had some practice, making repatriation flights with her Dreamliners in 2020. In 2021, she operated a series of 12 repatriation flights with her A350s and 787s, so she had the opportunity to demarcate the routes. Whether the October launch will take place remains to be seen.