Vietnam Airlines has achieved a new milestone using a Boeing 787-10. A repatriation flight departed Luanda, in Angola, for Quang Ninh on June 18th. The over-12-hour trip marked the first time the flag carrier flew in Vietnamese citizens from Africa.
Flying in citizens from Angola
Flight VN08 departed Angola for Van Don Airport in the evening hours (local time) in Luanda, Angola. Onboard the plane were 309 Vietnamese citizens. According to Vietnam Airlines, all the passengers on the flight were Vietnamese citizens needing special assistance. This included minor travelers, pregnant women, elderly citizens, people with underlying conditions, travelers stranded abroad, and workers with expiring contracts, among many others. To fly these people home, Vietnam Airlines met the task.
All the crew and passengers wore full personal protective equipment. This included bodysuits and face masks. Before boarding, all passengers and crew underwent temperature checks. Food onboard the flights was prepackaged, and utensils were disposable.
After landing in Van Don, the aircraft underwent full disinfection. This involved using internationally-recognized disinfectant chemicals to minimize the risk of viral transmission.
Wait…Van Don Airport?
Van Don International Airport is not a very well known airport internationally. It is certainly not a hub for Vietnam Airlines, which has its primary operations out of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Van Don Airport has been a popular destination for repatriation flights on their first arrival into the Southeast Asian country. The government has used Van Don Airport as a staging ground for receiving passengers and entering them into proper quarantine procedures.
The outbound flight was special too
On the outbound flight to Angola from Vietnam, the airline transported over half a ton of medical goods. This included gauze masks, hand sanitizers, and personal protective equipment bound for the Vietnamese Embassy in Angola. These were donations with Vietnam Airlines taking on the taxes and fees.
Vietnam Airlines dispatched its large Boeing 787-10 for this journey. According to Boeing, the aircraft has a range of 6,345 nautical miles or 11,750 kilometers. The route the plane flew, per Flightradar24, was about 10,800 kilometers. Vietnam Airlines could fly the route safely by limiting the amount of cargo onboard. As a repatriation flight, there likely was not much being transported in the hold outside of passenger luggage.
The 787-10 has made some impressive feats for Vietnam Airlines amid the current crisis. In May, the airline made its first-ever US flights using the aircraft type. These were also repatriation flights, the first of which was out of San Francisco, California.
Both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-9 are also other long-range aircraft that could have completed this journey.
Will Vietnam Airlines fly to Africa?
In the last few years, tourism to and from Vietnam has boomed. The country has seen an explosion in carriers serving the market, and, locally, airlines have done quite well before the current crisis hit. Even now, Vietnam Airlines was able to restore its full domestic schedule quickly– and more– after the government was able to manage the situation.
In terms of permanent nonstop flights between Vietnam and Africa, it is unlikely for now. The current crisis has set back international travel by a few years. Even then, before this crisis, Vietnam Airlines did not have its eyes set on Africa. Instead, the carrier was strongly considering services to the United States.
Although, in this industry, never say never is a good motto to follow. While it will take some time to get there, it would not be surprising to see Vietnam Airlines launch flights to Africa. As a SkyTeam carrier, it could partner with another SkyTeam airline, Kenya Airways, to offer connections across the continent. This could be particularly viable as Kenya is also another vibrant tourist destination.