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.
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.