Vietnam Gets Category 1 FAA Rating

Filed Under: Other Airlines

For the past couple of years, Vietnam Airlines has repeatedly expressed interest in launching flights to the US. The route that I’ve heard floated most often is a nonstop flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles, which should easily be within range for both their A350-900s and 787-9s.

Vietnam Airlines 787-9 business class

Unlike some other government owned airlines interested in starting service to the US, Vietnam Airlines seems to acknowledge they won’t make money on the route, and they’re fine with that.

As Vietnam Airlines’ CEO explained about a year ago:

“The philosophy of the company is to help the economy and try to be viable and profitable. But growing the economy is more of a mandate. You can see on most of the intercontinental routes we are not making money. But we are helping to get people in and out.”

Vietnam Airlines 787-9

Anyway, for a long time the single biggest thing standing in the way of Vietnam Airlines launching service to the US was that Vietnam didn’t have a rating with the US Federal Aviation Administration. In order to be able to fly to the US, Vietnam needs to have a Category 1 rating with the FAA.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Vietnam was apparently close to finalizing a Category 1 rating with the FAA, and that’s now official.

Vietnam now has a Category 1 rating with the US Federal Aviation Administration. As the FAA describes it yesterday:

A Category 1 rating means Vietnam’s civil aviation authority meets International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for personnel licensing, operations, and airworthiness. With the Category 1 rating, Vietnamese air carriers that are able to secure the requisite FAA and DOT authority can establish service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers.

The FAA had not previously assessed Vietnam’s civil aviation authority for compliance with ICAO standards. The Category 1 status announced today is based on an August 2018 FAA assessment of the safety oversight provided by the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.

Vietnam Airlines previously said they wanted to launch flights to the US in late 2019, so that timeline should be possible now that they have this permission.

A nonstop flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles would cover a distance of 8,169 miles.

This should be within range for the airline, as the route is shorter than:

  • The world’s current longest A350-900 route (for the non-ULR version), which is from San Francisco to Singapore, at a distance of 8,446 miles
  • The world’s former longest 787-9 route, which was from Los Angeles to Singapore, at a distance of 8,770 miles

So unless Vietnam Airlines has especially heavy planes (which I don’t believe they do), I feel like they should be able to operate this route nonstop without issue.

Bottom line

Vietnam now officially has a Category 1 rating with the US FAA, which means Vietnamese airlines can start flying to the US.

We’ll see if a flight actually becomes a reality, though. Vietnam Airlines management acknowledges that it’s unlikely they’d turn a profit on the route, but that seems to be the case for most of their longhaul routes.

  1. If they can solve the issue of corrupt officials who make extra money by charging an extra $20 USD fees (cash only) for taking a digital image for the VOA – then they may be able to expand their connecting traffic.

    Vietnamese immigration officials are some of the most unfriendly and corrupt I have ever seen.

  2. I don’t believe we will see nonstop to Vietnam until 2020. Vietnam’s economy is growing rapidly and I think eventually nonstop flights will make sense for business travelers. However nonstop will not be economically viable and most leisure travelers will search for cheaper tickets. This will definitely be a pride route for Vietnam if they decide to open it.

  3. There is a huge expat community in California and a direct flight will knock of 2-3 hours on the route. Often fly them to Paris.

  4. I think this should be a slam-dunk. Massive demand and the value proposition of saving several hours and hassle of transfer. If only a small fraction of the people traveling this route are willing to pay a 10% premium for it, it can’t but be successful.

  5. Not everyone prefers a non stop, specially in economy. When it comes to ultra long haul flights, I much rather divide it in 2 legs even if it takes me 3 ou 4 hours more or even better, if possible, spend the night somewhere in between.

    Of course, for people travel in business, it’s a different story.

  6. They are actually a great airline. Good Business class seats, at accessible prices, with acceptable service. Flew them from Sydney via HCMC to London. Long layover was the only downside, oh, and the return to HCMC for a medical emergency. The lounge in HCMC was pretty dire, but I think they have upgraded since our visit. There are a few reviews, but here is the return London to HCMC route on 787

  7. Vietnam has some of the worst immigration officials I’ve encountered in my flying career. Unfriendly, rude, hostile even. I’m not one to pick fights but after seeing how they treated us and others in the line I came close. Shall never return – who cares about their routes if they treat you like a second class citizen.

  8. Why did you use the UA LAX-SIN flight as an example for the 787-9 capabilities? Qantas’ PER-LHR flight is still operating and lis onger anyway.

  9. If they offer good fares, then this could be a very good choice. Because let’s be sincere, most people flying in Economy they look at the price, then they decide depending on how many stops and then, perhaps, airline.

  10. Never had a problem with the immigration officers in Vietnam. Maybe they just don’t like Americans? Might have something to do with historical events?

  11. I’m Vietnamese, and I have to accept the truth that there are many problems with the immigration officers, even with VNmese citizens. If you don’t have any problems with them, you must be lucky that day. @TSL they just don’t like human beings, not only Americans lol

  12. Vietnamese American will definitely not choose Vietnam Airlines as their first choice, given the widespread corruption rude services they provide to their own people, even to foreigners at the airport and on board. Only people who are after award seats would be so eager to fly with Vietnam Airlines as a last option. Other Asian carriers are still my top choice!

  13. Rude nasty corrupt immigration officials who charge bribes??? What do you expect from a utopian socialist country

  14. I am an American married to a Viet Kieu. We may fly this in the future. Never had a problem with VN immigration.

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