For the past several months there has been talk of Bamboo Airways’ plans to launch flights between Vietnam and the United States. There are a lot of foreign airlines that talk about launching flights to the United States, but often it doesn’t materialize.
Well, Bamboo Airways is very much moving forward with its plans, and we could see regularly scheduled flights between the two countries within a few months. First I wanted to provide the latest update on Bamboo Airways flying to the USA, and then recap what we’ve known for a while.
Bamboo Airways will operate 12 flights to the USA
Bamboo Airways has plans to operate a dozen flights to the United States between September and November of 2021:
- These will be “proving” flights, ahead of the airline launching regularly scheduled service
- The airline will operate flights to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Seattle (SEA), with the first flight scheduled to operate on September 23, 2021
- Coinciding with these test flights, the airline is working on setting up an office in the United States, signing a memorandum of understanding with the airports it intends to fly to, and meeting with Boeing representatives in Seattle
Bamboo Airways’ planned LAX & SFO service
While Bamboo Airways will operate a dozen flights to the United States over the coming weeks, when should we expect regularly scheduled flights? It’s stated that Bamboo Airways intends to launch regularly scheduled nonstop flights between Vietnam and the United States as of the end of 2021 or early 2022.
The plan is for the airline to operate nonstop from Ho Chi Minh City to both Los Angeles and San Francisco using Boeing 787-9 aircraft. While we haven’t heard any updates on this front, some previous reports suggested the following specific flight times for this service:
- The 8,169 mile flight between Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Los Angeles (LAX) would land at LAX at 9:30AM and depart again at 12:30PM
- The 7,838 mile flight between Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and San Francisco (SFO) would land at SFO at 10AM and depart again at 1PM
Even with Bamboo Airways making progress towards launching these flights, I wouldn’t take regularly scheduled service as a sure bet until it actually happens. We’ve heard talk about airlines in Vietnam wanting to fly nonstop to the USA for a very long time:
- It’s something that Vietnam Airlines has been considering for years, even though executives admitted that the airline would lose money operating the routes
- Bamboo Airways is privately owned, growing fast, and is a newcomer, but the airline has also been somewhat erratic; for example, Bamboo Airways at one point revealed plans to start flying to the USA with leased Airbus A380s
- Prior to 2019, nonstop flights between Vietnam and the USA weren’t even possible, given that Vietnam didn’t have a Category 1 rating with the FAA
Bamboo Airways’ DOT approval for USA flights
While Bamboo Airways has made it clear that it plans to fly to LAX and SFO, it’s worth looking at the carrier’s filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), back when it requested permission to fly to the United States. The airline sought permission to:
- Operate service between Hanoi and/or Ho Chi Minh City and the United States via intermediate points of Nagoya, Osaka, and/or Taipei (it’s noted that the airline wouldn’t be able to carry passengers between Japan and the United States, but that wasn’t stated for Taiwan)
- Operate flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Dallas
- Operate even further connecting service between the United States and Canada, to Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto
It seems like the airline just requested more permission than it would need, because as filed, these plans seem bizarre. A Boeing 787-9 can fly nonstop from Ho Hi Minh City to both Los Angeles and San Francisco, which are the planned routes.
A stop would be needed for Dallas and New York service, for example, but I have a hard time imagining those routes will become a reality (since in that case the airline doesn’t have a competitive advantage over other airlines offering one-stop service).
Then the concept of offering connecting service to Canada is even stranger. What kind of a routing are we talking about here — Ho Chi Minh City to Osaka to New York to Montreal, for example?
Like I said, the Ho Chi Minh City to Los Angeles and San Francisco flights seem to be in the cards for now, while I wouldn’t expect any of the other routes that permission was requested for.
What is Bamboo Airways, anyway?
For those of you not familiar with Bamboo Airways, it’s a privately owned and ridiculously fast growing Vietnamese airline that was founded in 2017. The airline already has dozens of planes, including brand new Airbus A321neos and Boeing 787-9s.
The airline initially operated regionally, and then in early 2020 announced plans to launch its first long haul route to Prague. As you’d expect, that didn’t happen quite as planned due to the pandemic.
Frankly I can’t fully wrap my head around the economics of this airline. Admittedly many costs (including labor) are lower in Vietnam, and the country is also growing fast and very pro-business. But still, the carrier’s growth is… unconventional.
What are Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787-9s like?
Bamboo Airways will use Boeing 787-9s for flights to the USA. The airline already has three of these in its fleet, with a further 11 on order. Bamboo Airways has reverse herringbone seats in business class, which are competitive.
On top of that, the airline has premium economy and economy seats on Boeing 787-9s.
Perhaps most intriguing is that some of Bamboo Airways’ future 787 deliveries will allegedly feature first class suites, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see those eventually offered on flights to the United States. We don’t know exactly what kind of a product the airline would offer, though.
In the coming weeks, Bamboo Airways will operate a dozen “test” flights between Vietnam and the United States. The airline then hopes to launch regularly scheduled service to Los Angeles and San Francisco either at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.
It’s anyone’s guess if these flights actually end up launching on a regularly scheduled basis. There has been talk of nonstop flights between Vietnam and the United States for such a long time. I will say, I get the sense that this is the closest we’ve ever gotten to service like this becoming a reality.
One thing is for sure — as an airline and passenger experience geek, I’d love to give Bamboo Airways a try. I sure wish Bamboo Airways would have useful airline partnerships for earning & redeeming miles… here’s to hoping we see some of those soon!
Do you think Bamboo Airways will follow through with offering USA service?