Beyond the Beaten Road: The Rising Airline Network of Vietnam

Airports & Airlines
Ahmed El Dahan
min read
April 12, 2023

As Vietnam continues to prosper with its economic performance and increasing GDP figures; aside from its improving corporate endeavors and expanding cities, the southeast Asian country has also presented some of the highest regarded, award-winning airports in the region, repeatedly topping annual traffic numbers and performance evaluations. But what does Vietnam bring to the table in terms of airlines?

Vietnam Airlines

Vietnam Airlines is a significant flyer in southeast Asia covering over 90 routes

The flag carrier airline of Vietnam has its hubs at both Noi Bai International and Tan Son Nhat International Airports. It is a major flyer in the South East Asian region conducting around 400 flights per day; covering around 94 routes with 22 domestic and 29 international destinations served, in countries that include Cambodia, Australia, China, United Kingdom, and Japan. 

The origins of Vietnam Airlines trace back to 1956, when the airline was founded alongside the Vietnam Civil Aviation Department with a fleet of five aircraft that included such planes as the Il-14, AN-2 and Aero-45. It operated as a limited domestic and regional carrier until the 90s, when both corporate expansions and improved relations with the US allowed Vietnam Airlines to improve its fleet and mobilize more operations. 

Today the airline’s fleet is at around 100 aircraft with an impressive average age of seven years. This includes 49 A321ceo and 20 A321neo planes along with 14 A350-900s and 11 787-9s. Cities that the airline frequents include Melbourne, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and London.

Unfortunately given the toll of the covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam Airlines is on the verge of bankruptcy. Having lost 61% of its revenues in 2020, a figure that continued to worsen, reaching 80% in 2021 as the country was hit with its third wave amongst a faltering global aviation economy.

Although the government had approved a bail out and rescue plan with a budget of $519 million, the airline is believed to have lost $435 million in the first half of 2021. Furthermore the Vietnam Airlines have accumulated a total debt of $272 million dollars. As a result it is on the cusp of seeing lawsuits, whilst banks are no longer willing to give the company credit. To date the future of the airline remains uncertain although the Vietnamese government is yet to announce the closure of Vietnam Airlines.

Bamboo Airways

Bamboo Airways airplane

Founded in 2017, Bamboo Airlines commenced operations in 2019 with an Airbus A320 covering a domestic flight between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Like the Vietnamese flag carrier, Bamboo Airlines also has hubs at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat International airports.

The airline offers primarily scheduled regional flights along with a few charters. With its current fleet of 28 Boeing, Airbus and Embraer aircraft, it touches down at over 30 destinations that include Seoul, Los Angeles, Osaka, Macau, Da Nang and Taipei. 

Pacific Airlines

Pacific Airlines offers domestic and regional flights

The first Vietnamese budget flyer, Pacific Airlines Joint Stock Aviation Company was first known as Jetstar Pacific Airlines from its founding in 2008 until 2020. From its hub at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the airline primarily offers domestic passenger and cargo services, along with some flights to regional destinations. Prior to this, the airline had operated as a cargo transporter since 1990 before becoming a notable passenger carrier upon its purchase by Qantas (Jetstar Network) in 2007. 

Today, Vietnam Airlines owns a 98% stake in Pacific Airlines having purchased the airline from the Jetstar Network in 2012. With 18 A320 airplanes, the airline conducts around 40 daily flights mostly within Vietnam, but also going to such destinations as Wuhan, Taipei and Singapore.  

VietJet Air

VietJet Air launched operations in 2011

VietJet Aviation Joint Stock Company, also known as VietJet Air or simply VietJet was given the green light to fly by the Vietnamese government in 2007, although it did not commence operations until 4 years later in 2011. This delay was due to several inconveniences that included increased fuel prices and other financial complications. The company also attributed the global financial crisis of the early 2000s for playing a role in the delay of its operations. 

At one moment the Malaysian carrier AirAsia planned to buy a significant stake in VietJet, although the plan did not see fruition due to being denied by the Vietnamese government. 

Since commencing operations, the airline has continued to expand its fleet which includes a total of 76 aircraft - 18 A320-200s, 39 A321-200s and 19 Airbus A321neos. Its destinations span 10 countries with cities served including Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Tokyo, Nagoya, Beijing and Phom Penh.

Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO)

A VASCO turboprop aircraft

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, VASCO is a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines that has been in operation since 1987. The airline uses ATR turboprop aircraft and conducts domestic schedules along with charter services.

Aside from passenger transportation, VASCO also offers services synonymous with charter airlines that include emergency services, medical and rescue flights

Soaring High

Putting the significant toll of the covid-19 pandemic aside, it is rare to find an emerging economy that performs well in both airport infrastructure as well as having a powerful airline network, but it seems that this is not the case for Vietnam. Its aviation industry has grown to be highly congruent with its status as one of the most rapidly evolving economies in the world.

Equipped with some of the most active airports and airlines in the region, our curiosity is ever fueled to see what role Vietnam will play in the future of Asian aviation after recovering from the pandemic.

Ahmed El Dahan
Aviation Journalist
A seasoned writer, Ahmed El Dahan was trained in Journalism and Mass Communication in the American University in Cairo. He then moved on to refine his writing skills working in various publications covering such topics as tourism, art exhibitions, music along with being a food critic. Relocating to Paris in 2015, he has an ever growing curiosity for the aviation industry. Away from the page, Dahan is an active professional saxophonist.

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