A new San Francisco connection could cut travel time by 8 hours
Three Vietnamese airlines have announced their plans to launch direct flights to the United States this year. The first two will most likely be Vietnam Airlines and the country’s budget carrier Vietjet. Later, a new carrier launched in January — Bamboo Airways — will join the competition.
The announcement follows the decision of the US Federal Aviation Administration that Vietnam finally complies with international safety standards. This move has opened the door for the country to establish direct routes.
Currently, flights from Ho Chi Minh City — the nation’s commercial centre — to San Francisco take around 20.5 hours. They require a stopover in South Korea’s Incheon International Airport. The direct connection will take only about 13 hours making the US West Coast way more accessible.
Bamboo Airways CEO Trinh Van Quyet said that he expects strong demand for direct flights to the US among Vietnamese tourists and overseas Vietnamese.
“We will particularly focus on expansion of services to the US and Europe in the next three years,” he said.
“We plan to differentiate ourselves from domestic competitors by raising the quality of our services with the goal of becoming a five-star airline.”
However, it will take some time before the service is profitable. Duong Tri Thanh, Vietnam Airlines CEO, has told local media that the company estimates a loss of $30 million in the first year. He added that it will take at least five years for the operation costs to rise into green numbers.
Vietnam in the age of tourist boom
During recent years, the Southeast Asian country has experienced an unprecedented interest from foreign visitors.
According to the Vietnam tourism administration, in 2018, around 690,000 people travelled from the US to Vietnam, which is an increase of 12 per cent from the previous year and 60 per cent compared with 2013.
The US ranked as Vietnam’s fourth-largest source of international visitors while the number one position belongs to China.
Chinese tourists even started to prefer Vietnam to Thailand. The numbers of Chinese visitors in 2018 were 27 per cent higher than in 2017.
Currently, there are 30 Chinese cities with services to Vietnam, compared to 26 two years ago. The number of routes has grown from 53 to 64 over a period of 12 months since January 2017.
Furthermore, Chinese passport holders no longer need to apply for a visa prior to leaving for the country. They can simply get a visa-on-arrival in Vietnam.