Long advocated by Vietnam Airlines management as the closing gap in the airline’s network, Vietnam national carrier now is more reluctant to move to the USA and is delaying the opening of a new route to an undetermined date.
For now a decade, they have been talks about Vietnam Airlines’ arrival to the United States. The airline management was talking of launching flights to either Los Angeles or San Francisco.
However, the perspective to see one day the blue and gold aircraft of the Vietnamese national carrier on American soil is getting less and less possible. Talking recently in a TV interview with the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), Vietnam Airlines CEO Duong Tri Thanh damped any hopes for VN flying any time soon to the USA.
The route to the USA was originally planned to be served with a short stop-over in North Asia. According to CAPA, intense competition would make the new route challenging, and Mr Thanh pointed out the recent rise in oil prices which makes the launching of such a route “even tougher”.
Instead, Vietnam Airlines wants to serve the US market thanks to its partnership with other air carriers.
All Nippon Airways became a strategic partner in 2016, acquiring a small stake in Vietnam Airlines and forging a codeshare. Air France became a joint venture partner in 2017 and is now cooperating with Vietnam Airlines on the Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Paris routes.
New long haul aircraft such as the Boeing 787-10s are due to delivery from 2019 to 2022. However, they will mostly link Vietnam to existing routes – with the possible addition of new frequencies to regional mid-haul markets such as cities in China or Japan. The new long haul aircraft will be then become a welcome alternative to add seats in Northeast Asian markets where congestion of airports is becoming a serious problem.
The airline is also facing difficulties to get its command of new aircraft Airbus A321neos for its regional and domestic markets. According to CAPA, growth in capacity this summer for Vietnam Airlines is less than 10%. 20 Airbus A321neos have been ordered with delivery now expected by the end of the year, a delay of 12 months over the initial planning.