Vietnam Airlines is evaluating the Airbus A220 and Embraer E190/195 regional jets as part of its fleet renewal plans to replace its retiring ATR 72 turboprops.
The flag-carrier is also looking to expand its post-pandemic route network in India. Kolkata (CCU) and Mumbai (BOM) have been identified as potential new destinations.
Speaking at Routes Asia 2022 in Da Nang, Vietnam, CEO Le Hong Ha said the flag-carrier is in discussion with aircraft manufacturers and lessors to find a suitable aircraft to serve short runway airports within Vietnam. The upgrade to regional jets will likely take place in late 2023 when Con Dao (VCS) and Dien Bien (DIN) airports are upgraded and rated to receive A320 or similar aircraft.
“That gives us some time to decide on which aircraft to choose,” the CEO said.
The airline’s geographic focus is also shifting. India is seen as being the largest untapped market that Vietnam Airlines is not currently operating passenger flights to. During the pandemic, it commenced twice-weekly cargo-only flights from Hanoi (HAN) to New Delhi (DEL) and weekly cargo flights from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to New Delhi.
Vietnam Airlines will launch 3X-weekly passenger flights on HAN-DEL and 2X-weekly flights on SGN-DEL from mid-June 2022. If the New Delhi service proves popular, the carrier will look to launch routes to Kolkata and Mumbai.
Similarly, after the launch of SGN-San Francisco (SFO) in November 2021, Vietnam Airlines is now looking to launch a Los Angeles (LAX) service. However, the reach of the airline’s widebody fleet is a concern. Vietnam Airlines is flying on payload penalty to SFO, with only around 200 passengers and no cargo.