Nonstop service to cut travel time to San Francisco by eight hours
Vietnam airlines has launched its first direct flight – VN01 to the U.S., paving the way for a new era of economic ties with Vietnam’s biggest export market. The destination of the Boeing 747-10 vessel was the city of San Francisco.
Other two airlines including Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airway are also expecting to start nonstop U.S.-bound flights this year, which will shorten the travel time by about eight hours.
Flights used to take 20.5 hours to fly from Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s commercial centre, to San Francisco via South Korea’s Incheon International Airport. Direct service to San Francisco or other major cities in West Coast areas now takes only about 13 hours.
Obstacles overcome; Promising market penetrated
Economic ties between the two countries have been growing steadily in recent years. The U.S. is the largest market for Vietnamese-made goods and home to 2 million Vietnamese expatriates.
In February, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced opening the door to Vietnamese airlines’ direct services to the U.S as Vietnam complies with international safety standards.
The FAA has granted the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam a Category 1 rating under its International Aviation Safety Assessment program, which means the authority meets standards for personnel licensing, operations and airworthiness.
For years, Vietnam’s efforts to obtain U.S. approval of direct flights were frustrated by its aviation authority’s failure to meet international standards in terms of its air traffic control and incident response capabilities. The authority’s Category 1 rating will allow Vietnamese carriers equipped to secure U.S. authorization to start flying directly to the U.S.
Potentials for further development
Vietnam Airlines is the first airlines to start direct service. Some U.S. airlines will also consider taking advantage of this new business opportunity.
Vietnamese airlines started with a flight to San Francisco and will then expand to other cities with a large Vietnamese community and to other major U.S. cities like Washington and Chicago subsequently.
Bamboo Airways also has its sights set on the U.S. CEO Trinh Van Quyet told that there will be strong demand for direct flights to the U.S. among Vietnamese tourists and overseas Vietnamese. “We will particularly focus on the expansion of services to the U.S. and Europe in the next three years,” he said.
About 690,000 people travelled from the U.S. to Vietnam in 2018, up 12% from the previous year and 60% compared with five years earlier, according to the Vietnam tourism administration. The U.S. ranked as Vietnam’s fourth-largest source of international visitors, following China, South Korea and Japan. The number of visitors from Vietnam to the U.S. topped 100,000.
But direct flights to the U.S. may not become a cash cow immediately for Vietnamese carriers.
Vietnam Airlines CEO Duong Tri Thanh has told local media that the company would lose $30 million on nonstop service to the U.S. in the first year. He also said it will take at least five years for the flights to turn profitable.
The Boeing 747-10 will return to its hanger at Van Don International Airport later this week. This complete the first round ever of Vietnam – America nonstop aviation services. First passengers on this flight are Vietnamese citizens stranded in the USA due to the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic.