Vietnam’s aviation sector is undergoing a prolonged boom that is opening up the country to new tourism markets, while putting a strain on the airlines and airports of Vietnam.
According to Airports Council International, their annual World Airport Traffic Report 2018 [PDF] lists Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the top 10 fastest growing airports between 2007-2017. The report also predicts that Vietnam will be the fastest growing country for passengers in the 2017-2040 time frame.
The Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City route has also grown to rank in the top 10 busiest routes in the world.
A portion of this percentage growth can be attributed to the fact that Vietnam started from further behind than other countries in Southeast Asia. There are other factors though that are contributing to this growth, beyond catch-up economics.
This report covers some of the reasons why Vietnam’s aviation sector is booming, current and prospective airlines, potential challenges the country faces, and the outlook into the 2020’s.
This report is a snapshot of the Vietnam aviation market as it stands in 2019, so it will be left as an archive for future reference rather than being an ongoing updated resource.
Current Airlines in Vietnam
Before we begin, lets introduce the current and prospective airlines of Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines is the national flag carrier and is wholly owned by the government. Vietnam Airlines is a full service airline and is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. They were the second airline in the world to fly the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
Aircraft In Service: 92
Aircraft On Order: 21
Jetstar Pacific is a low-cost airline that is 70% owned by Vietnam Airlines and 30% by Qantas. The airline was formerly known as Pacific Airlines when it was partly sold to Qantas, when it then became part of the Qantas-owned Jetstar brand in 2008.
Aircraft In Service: 20
VietJet Air is a low-cost airline that began operations in December 2011. It was the first privately owned airline in Vietnam, and in 2017 it was publicly listed on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange.
VietJet Air was also the first Vietnamese airline to set up a subsidiary airline outside of Vietnam. Thai Vietjet Air began operations in December 2014, operating domestic flights as well as international flights originating from Thailand. It’s also expressed an interest in setting up affiliate airlines in Myanmar and China.
[Thai VietJet Air at Bangkok (BKK).]
Aircraft In Service: 67
Aircraft On Order: 312
Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO)
Vietnam Air Services Company (VASCO) operates a fleet of ATR-72-500 “puddle jumpers” from its base at Tan Son Nhat International Airport to destinations in Southern Vietnam. It also has some flights from Hanoi. VASCO is a fully owned subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines. In 2016 it was announced that VASCO would be renamed SkyViet and operate on a low-cost model, but it still remains as VASCO
Aircraft In Service: 6
Bamboo Airways is owned by FLC Group, which has interests in hotels and property development. The inaugural flight was on 16 January 2019 from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. The airline is registered in Quy Nhon, where FLC has resorts.
[Bamboo Airways at Noi Bai International Airport.]
Having only been in operation for less than a year and with so many aircraft on order, their expansion plans are not publicly known.
One of the more interesting early announcements was a MOU to establish a route between Hanoi and Prague. The Vietnamese diaspora is usually associated with Southern Vietnamese, but in this case there was a large Vietnamese community that to went Prague to study or work in what was then Czechoslovakia.
Aircraft In Service: 10
Aircraft On Order: 77
Proposed Airlines in Vietnam
2019 is turning out to be the year of the new airline announcement.
Vietstar Airlines is a proposed airline that was granted a licence in July 2019 with the aim of beginning flights in January, 2020. This military-run company will initially operate domestic flights with leased Embraer Legacy 600 and Beechcraft King Air B300 aircraft. The Embraer seats 13 passengers, while the Beechcraft has a seating capacity of 12 to 16 passengers.
Spend a few days in Vietnam and you’ll soon realise that you’ve seen the Vin name practically everywhere. Vingroup is majority-owned by Vietnam’s First Billionaire, Pham Nhat Vuong. The group operates hotels, theme parks, and resorts (among many other things). Given that they are resort giants it’s no surprise that they – like FLC – would also start their own airline. The airline company was registered in May 2019 and there are few details so far.
Thien Minh Aviation
Thien Minh Aviation Joint Stock Company was issued a business registration in June 2019 to establish an airline. Thien Minh Group (TMG) is a privately-owned travel and hospitality group in Vietnam, operating hotels, resorts, cruises, and an online travel agency. They also established Hai Au Aviation in 2014, which became the first seaplane operator in Vietnam.
Vietravel Airlines is a proposed airline by Vietnamese travel agency Vietravel. The tour operator is seeking to raise funds to operate chartered flights from Phu Bai International Airport in Hue using 20 Airbus 321 aircraft.
The most notable absence on the list of current airlines is AirAsia, but it’s not for want of trying. The Malaysian low-cost airline has been looking to set up a Vietnamese subsidiary since 2005, when it proposed to be an investor in Pacific Airlines.
AirAsia are the largest low-cost airline in Asia and they operate eight other subsidiary airlines (AirAsia X, Indonesia AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia X, Philippines AirAsia, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, AirAsia India, AirAsia Japan).
With Tony Fernandes’ track record of starting subsidiaries I would expect that AirAsia Vietnam will eventuate.
Vietnam is very much in the plan. I am still optimistic of airasia being in Vietnam by end of the year. Watch this space. Picking the right one
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) April 18, 2019
Airports in Vietnam
Map of airports in Vietnam
Here are the operating airports in Vietnam as of August 2019. Many of the airports are former US air bases, which explains why there are so many airports in smaller locations.
[Map of airports of Vietnam.]
Long Thanh International Airport
[The proposed design of Long Thanh International Airport.]
The biggest airport project in Vietnam is the proposed second airport for Ho Chi Minh City. The Long Thanh International Airport site is situated approximately 40 km east of the city centre, and it will have 4 runways and be able to handle over 100 million passengers annually.
The current airport at Tan Son Nhat (SGN) is completely surrounded by urban sprawl with little room for future expansion.
[Tan Son Nhat engulfed in the urban sprawl of Ho Chi Minh City.]
The new airport was meant to be ready before Tan Son Nhat reached capacity, but there has been continuous delays in starting construction. At the time of this report the land had still not been cleared.
The most recent update announced that the project will start construction in 2020 and be serving flights by 2025. Read my full guide to Long Thanh International Airport.
Other new airports
Other planned airports include Phan Thiet Airport servicing the Southeast coastal resort of Mui Ne, and an airport near Sa Pa in the mountainous northwest.
The newest airport to go into operation is Van Don International Airport, built by Sun Group. Van Don received its inaugural flight on December 30th, 2018. The airport is the new gateway for Halong Bay, and it already services international flights.
[Van Don International Airport.]
Some domestic airports will soon service international flights or be upgraded in preparation for future flights. Quy Nhon currently only has domestic flights, but Bamboo Airways is planning international expansion and will include Quy Nhon.
[New terminal at Quy Nhon Phu Cat Airport.]
An airport to watch in the future is Chu Lai International Airport. Located 77 km south of Hoi An and 42 km north of Quang Ngai, Chu Lai currently only serves domestic flights. The airport will serve the rapidly-developing coast to the south of Hoi An, effectively making it a bookend of what is becoming a tourism mega-region between Danang and Quang Ngai. The airport will also be an air cargo transport hub and be home to a pilot training school.
A proposed new airport in An Giang province in the Mekong Delta was shelved in 2018.
Major growth factors of air traffic in Vietnam
There are numerous reasons why Vietnam is experiencing such rapid growth. Here are some of the contributing factors.
Case Study 1: Danang as the tropical playground of East Asia
To get a better sense of why Vietnam’s aviation sector is booming you only need to look at the map. Vietnam is neighbouring China, and is within range of low-cost airlines to South Korea and Japan.
Vietnam is an entirely tropical country, with a mainland coastline of 3,260 km. It’s the closest tropical destination to much of East Asia, and in the last decade this potential is now being realised. It’s also one of the cheapest holiday destinations in Asia.
A beach destination that is booming is Danang. This city on the central coast is surrounded by natural beauty, being located between the mountains and the sea. The airport is in the city centre, and it takes about 10 minutes by taxi to get to the beach. My Khe Beach is a regular feature on “best beaches in the world” lists, and this beach stretches for around 40 km to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Hoi An.
To illustrate how Danang compares to other beach destinations in Southeast Asia I’ve mapped Danang, Boracay, and Phuket.
Thailand is the tourism powerhouse of Southeast Asia, and Phuket International Airport (HKT) is the busiest beach destination airport.
The Philippines is about the same distance from East Asian destinations as Vietnam (depending on where you measure from) so it makes a good comparison. The most popular beach destination in the Philippines is Boracay, which is served by Kalibo International Airport (KLO).
I had considered adding Sihanoukville in Cambodia as a comparison, but that is a special case as it’s being set up as the Macau of Southeast Asia. With over 50 Chinese casinos and counting it’s not comparable to these sea and sand destinations. I will have a “Future Sihanoukville” post coming out eventually, so subscribe in the right hand column to get my updates.
To compare the distances I’ve made maps from Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo. The maps are made with Great Circle Mapper to generate routes and distances.
Beijing to Southeast Asia
The first map shows flights from Beijing to Danang, Boracay, and Phuket.
As you can see, Danang is the closest destination to Beijing compared to Boracay or Phuket.
Thailand is the number 1 outbound destination for Chinese tourists, with Vietnam coming in 4th. In the previous year there has been a slump in Chinese tourists to Thailand, which began when a tourist boat capsized in Phuket. 49 passengers from China died in the accident. In the first five months of 2019 there was a 4.3% year-on-year contraction in the number of visitors from China.
Some of this contraction has been attributed to this accident. Others though are acknowledging that Vietnam is emerging as an alternative destination. When being interviewed about the recent slowdown in tourism, Pattaya business and tourism leader Ekkasit Ngamphichet described Vietnam as “naa glua” (scary).
Seoul to Southeast Asia
The next map is from Seoul to the three Southeast Asian destinations.
The flight from Seoul to Boracay is slightly closer than Danang, and South Koreans are the second biggest tourist group visiting Boracay behind China. It would probably be even more popular if the airport wasn’t so far from the island. Kalibo International Airport is 75 km away from Boracay, and it takes about two hours by bus and ferry to get from the airport to your hotel in Boracay.
Phuket has three airlines that fly from Seoul, with only one of those being a low-cost airline.
Out of the three destinations, Danang has become a South Korean hot-spot. In 2018 the Seoul-Danang city pair was the fastest growing major passenger route in Asia-Pacific.
Looking at the table of busiest international flights from Da Nang Airport by frequency in 2018, it’s South Korea first, and daylight second.
Vietnam has become a favoured destination for South Koreans, and the largest South Korean expat community in Southeast Asia is in Vietnam.
As a regular visitor to Danang I’ve seen a noticeable uptick of signage in Korean, and Korean BBQ and hotpot emporiums catering for massive tour groups.
South Korean businesses have also become interested in Danang. The Seoul Metro Corporation has proposed to build a tram and metro system that would connect the airport with the beaches.
Tokyo to Southeast Asia
The third map is Tokyo Narita to the three beach destinations of ASEAN.
There are no direct flights from Japan to Phuket, and no flights from Japan to Boracay. Japan has its own beach playground in Okinawa so there is no need to do a 6-hour flight to Phuket.
Japan though is the third largest tourism group in Thailand (after China and Russia), so it remains an important market for Thailand.
Danang is still an emerging destination that is developing its infrastructure and services. If you saw the beach road ten years ago you wouldn’t believe its the same place. Starbucks only arrived in 2018, and at this point it still doesn’t have a McDonalds. To go from empty lots on the beach front to serious proposals for a metro system in the space of a decade, it’s no wonder that Danang is now considered as an alternative to beaches in Thaiand.
[The Times Square Da Nang project, under construction in 2019.]
In the last year Danang is starting to establish routes between Japan. Vietnam Airlines began flights from Danang to Osaka–Kansai in 2018 in addition to its Tokyo–Narita flight, and in October 2019 VietJet will begin flights to Tokyo. Meanwhile in Japan, low-cost airline Peach has expressed interest in flying to Vietnam in 2020. Will Danang be part of this plan?
Case Study 2: Nha Trang and the China effect
Chinese outbound traffic has underpinned tourism growth across Southeast Asia, and in Vietnam the China effect is most pronounced in Nha Trang.
[International departure board at Cam Ranh.]
Cam Ranh International Airport is the airport that serves Nha Trang. The original Nha Trang airport was in the city, and in 2004 flights were moved to Cam Ranh, 30km to the south of Nha Trang. The old airport closed when Cam Ranh opened for international traffic in 2009.
Nha Trang has long been a favourite destination for Russians. There are direct flights from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok, and there are streets in Nha Trang that are lined with businesses catering for Russians.
At some point during the last decade Chinese inbound tourism overtook that of Russia. Also over the last decade the city has transformed into something that looks more like Miami Beach or the Gold Coast in Australia . This list of future developments in Nha Trang gives an overview of what the city will look like.
[Beau Rivage Nha Trang development.]
As of August 2019 there are 30 cities in mainland China that have flights to Nha Trang (in addition to Hong Kong and Macau). The cities are:
Beijing–Capital, Changchun, Changsha, Changzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Haikou, Hangzhou, Hohhot, Kunming, Lanzhou, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Quanzhou/Jinjiang, Shanghai–Pudong, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Wenzhou, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xi’an, Xining, Zhengzhou.
If your geographic knowledge of China is a bit rusty here is a map with all the represented mainland airports.
[Map of destinations in China with flights to Cam Ranh/Nha Trang.]
Who would have predicted 10 years ago that Cam Ranh would receive so much passenger traffic from China.
Just scribbling some figures on the back of an envelope, these are the sort of numbers that airport executives salivate over. If we round the population of China to 1.4 billion people, a catchment area of 50 million people equates to 28 flights. Cam Ranh Airport has 30 destinations so they have managed to get a flight for about every 47 million people. If you were to get it down to 28 million people that would make it the magical 50 destinations.
[Cam Ranh international departure hall.]
By comparison, Singapore Changi (SIN) serves 34 mainland cities:
Beijing–Capital, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hangzhou, Harbin, Jieyang, Jinan, Kunming, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Quanzhou, Qingdao, Quanzhou, Sanya, Shanghai–Pudong, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Urumqi, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xiamen, Xi’an, Xuzhou, Yantai, Yinchuan, Zhengzhou.
And Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) has 51 mainland cities:
Beihai, Beijing–Capital, Changchun, Changsha, Changzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Guilin, Guiyang, Haikou, Hangzhou, Harbin, Hefei, Hohhot, Jieyang, Jinan, Kunming, Lanzhou, Lianyungang, Luoyang, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai–Pudong, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, Taiyuan, Urumqi, Wenzhou, Wuhan, Wuxi, Wuyishan, Xiamen, Xi’an, Xining, Xinzhou, Xuzhou, Yangzhou, Yinchuan, Yuncheng, Zhangjiajie, Zhanjiang, Zhengzhou.
Of course destinations served and frequencies are two different things. China Southern Airlines flies from Guangzhou to Ho Chi Minh City three times a day, while many of these flights to Cam Ranh are twice a week charter flights. Even considering this, it’s a remarkable feat by Cam Ranh.
Lack of railway alternatives
[Train at Nha Trang.]
There are many domestic air routes that would be ideal railway routes. Unfortunately Vietnam’s antiquated railway network doesn’t provide a competitive alternative. Take for example the city pair of Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, which currently has 84 flights per week each way. The current train trip takes 7.5 hours for the 411 km journey, averaging about 55km an hour. A railway operating on a regular European Intercity speed of 160KM/H would make the trip in under 3 hours. A high-speed train at at 350KM/H would take about an hour and a half.
There are plans to convert the national railway into high-speed railway, but like Long Thanh Airport these plans have been stuck in the planning stage for years. Read more about the expansion of railways in Southeast Asia.
Rising average income and a large population base
As mentioned before, Vietnam’s impressive percentage growth is partly attributable to making up lost ground. The U.S. embargo on Vietnam was lifted in February 1994, but even into the 2000’s the regional airports were undeveloped.
With the “rising tides of prosperity”, more Vietnamese can afford to fly back to their home town instead of taking a long train journey, or take weekend trips to Phu Quoc instead of getting an overnight bus and ferry.
Another factor to consider is how many people live in the country. Vietnam is the 66th largest country in the world, yet at 96.2 million people it’s the 15th most populated country.
Over-reliance on China
As has been shown with the boating tragedy in Phuket, Chinese tourism can turn on a dime. A slowdown in Chinese visitor numbers could be economic-related, like a Chinese banking collapse or recession. Or it could be a geopolitical issue, like an East Sea/South China Sea incident that could instigate a consumer boycott. Either way, relying on one country exposes the tourism industry to risk if there is a downtown.
Environmental degradation and over-development
With such explosive tourism growth there is the danger of uncontrolled development destroying what tourists come to visit in the first place. Danang and Quy Nhon have seen hotels illegally built too close to the beach, and in Hoi An the beach at Cua Dai has all but washed away from erosion.
The weak Vietnamese passport
A factor that constrains outbound growth is the weakness of the Vietnamese passport. The latest passport ranking by Passport Index listed the Vietnamese passport at 157 out of the list of 199 nations. Vietnamese can travel with ease within ASEAN, but getting a visa to the US, Europe, or Australia is a bureaucratic nightmare that involves pages of supporting documents and tedious interviews. Even a last minute getaway to Hong Kong or Taiwan is out of the question because a visa is needed in advance.
The Boeing 737 Max crisis
There are no airlines in Vietnam that operate the Boeing 737 Max, which has been grounded by most countries. Vietnam is one of the countries that has banned the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its airspace.
VietJet Air placed an order of 200 Boeing 737 Max, but they hadn’t received any of the aircraft before the grounding. No announcement has been made on the fate of this order. This may slow down the trajectory of growth for VietJet Air, or even allow new airlines to catch up if new planes aren’t arriving.
Infrastructure not keeping up with demand
With passenger traffic increasing faster than expected it has put pressure on already overloaded airports. The three biggest airports (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Danang) are all operating over their designed capacity.
Tan Son Nhat has long since been operated over its intended capacity, and boarding flights via a bus to the parked aircraft is a common occurrence.
[Tarmac boarding at SGN.]
It hasn’t helped that the city was expecting the new airport to be open already. It was decided that the current airport should be expanded while waiting for the new airport to open. The military control land on the north side of the airport (including a golf course), and they will release some land to allow for the expansion.
[The golf course next to Tan Son Nhat.]
Noi Bai airport in Hanoi was built for 21 million passengers, but it received nearly 24 million passengers in 2017 so it will also need to be expanded. It has been proposed to raise its capacity to 50 million passengers per year by 2030.
Danang Terminal 2 opened in 2017 and it was built to handle 6 million international passengers per year. It has also reached capacity, and a year later a third terminal that could handle 10-15 million passengers annually was requested.
It’s not just the terminals that are under strain. Runways only have a certain lifespan before they need to be upgraded. Repairing one runway at a two-runway airport will cause more delays in a system already filled with delayed flights.
[2 runways at Tan Son Nhat.]
Aircraft and pilot shortages
[FlyOne of Moldova being operated by VietJet Air at Tan Son Nhat.]
Even before the potential aircraft shortage from the 737 Max debacle, there are not enough new planes to meet demand. I flew on a Bamboo Airways aircraft leased from a Turkish airline, and VietJet Air have leased aircraft from FlyOne of Moldova.
Pilots are also in hot demand, with flights being cancelled due to pilot shortages.
Vietnam Airlines opened Vietnam’s first flight simulator complex in 2018, and Bamboo Airways are now building an aviation academy in Quy Nhon.
Direct flights to the United States
At the time of this article there were no direct flights between Vietnam and the US. Passengers between the two countries are routed though major hubs in East Asia such as Taipei, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Incheon, and Haneda/Narita. The last airline that ran a direct flight was United, operating a service from Newark via Hong Kong.
[UA117 from Newark to Ho Chi Minh City via Hong Kong.]
Up until recently airlines of Vietnam didn’t have the certification to fly to the US. That changed early in 2019 when the required Category 1 rating from the FAA for airlines from Vietnam was passed.
Vietnam Airlines is the most probable airline to start operations, likely to be between Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles or another Californian city. Despite the passenger demand they have admitted that it’s going to be a difficult route to establish, maybe taking years to turn a profit.
VietJet Air and Bamboo Airways have also expressed an interest in flying to America. VietJet Air may order 787s or A350s for flights to the US and Australia. Bamboo Airways announced that they wanted to fly to the US with A380 aircraft, which seems like an improbable choice of aircraft. There are currently no airlines operating A380 aircraft to or from Vietnam, so we wait to see what Bamboo are up to with this plan.
At this point no US airline has expressed an interest in restarting direct flights.
The outlook beyond East/Southeast Asia
[A lack of regional diversity on the SGN international arrival board.]
The East and Southeast Asia regions are by far the largest contributors to Vietnam’s foreign arrivals. As mentioned previously, an over-reliance on traffic from China could cause problems if that traffic source drops significantly.
If the future Long Thanh International Airport aspires to be a regional hub, the country will need a more diverse range of inbound traffic. Suvarnabhumi is a good example of an airport with a diversity of airlines. Here are some airlines flying to Bangkok serving destinations that aren’t covered at Tan Son Nhat: Air Astana, Air Austral, EgyptAir, El Al, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Maldivian, Nepal Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Turkmenistan Airlines, Ural Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways.
What is the outlook for flights beyond Vietnam’s backyard?
There are currently no scheduled flights to India, the world’s second most populous country. In fact there are no flights anywhere in South Asia, apart from a lone charter flight that flies buddhist pilgrims to Bodhgaya Airport. This is set to change this year when IndiGo launch daily flights from Kolkata to Hanoi. VietJet Air also plan a Hanoi-Delhi route. I would personally like to see a direct flight to Mumbai.
Here is further reading on the Vietnam-India market.
[Mariamman Hindu Temple in Saigon.]
There are no flights to Central Asia either. There was an Air Astana service from Almaty in Kazakhstan to Ho Chi Minh City, but that has since been cancelled. Vietnam has done well to establish itself as a beach destination for Russians, so it’s a bit surprising that a leisure market from landlocked former Soviet states hasn’t been established.
There is a not a single service to the continent of Africa. The last service was by Air Kenya from Nairobi to Hong Kong via Hanoi.
Europe is represented, though only the major hubs. This might be an opportunity for the likes of VietJet Air to copy the model of Scoot or Norwegian, who operate long-haul low-cost flights.
North America has already been covered in this report, but what about Latin America? I’ve actually thought about this, and it would be next to zero chance.
When Vietnam and Cuba signed trade agreements including the development of bidirectional tourism, this got me thinking about direct Hanoi to Havana flights. TL;DR: It’s not going to happen.
[Vietnam Airlines A350 at Hanoi has the range but not the demand for a flight to Havana.]
Another time when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat I saw a LATAM aircraft on the tarmac. I briefly dreamed of direct flights from Saigon to Santiago until I discovered that the aircraft was being leased by Qatar Airways.
[LATAM spotted at Tan Son Nhat.]
It did get me wondering if an airline could operate a service from Saigon to South America. Here is what the route map for a Saigon to Santiago service would look like.
A non-stop flight would surpass the world’s longest flight by 2000km, via Antarctica. Definitely not going to happen. I added a service via Madrid and Sydney, both of which LATAM fly to.
If LATAM wanted to extend a service to Asia this would be how they would need to do it. They would most likely fly to Singapore or Bangkok though, so this leased aircraft will be the only way you’ll see a South American aircraft at any Ho Chi Minh City airport.
Future airline and route predictions (and wish list)
With Danang continuing to grow as a beach and business destination it would make sense that a future new airline would be based in Danang. They may not have a choice as there is barely any room left at SGN or HAN.
This could be another resort-backed airline, or a new startup. They could be like Bangkok Airways and be named after its city base: Danang Airways.
During my visit visit to Danang in 2017 I predicted that one of the ME3 (Middle East Three: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar) would start a service to Danang. Qatar started a service in 2018. My next prediction is for a ME3 service to Nha Trang.
These airlines are expanding so fast that you don’t need to be Nostradamus to make those predictions. So what are some other predictions/potential routes?
In the future I think there will be direct flights from Australia to Danang. It would be suitable for an airline like Jetstar (Australia), where more Australians are looking beyond Bali for a beach holiday.
VietJet Air are still planning to fly to Australia as well, and they had proposed to fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Darwin. I have written previously about how Darwin could be positioned as Asia’s gateway to Australia, so it might suit Jetstar to hub flights from Darwin.
Some missing routes that I would consider include:
– Ho Chi Minh City to Amsterdam is an unserved route according to anna.aero.
– Ho Chi Minh City to Macau.
– Ho Chi Minh City to Kota Kinabalu or Kuching (perhaps a good option for AirAsia Vietnam).
– Ho Chi Minh City to Luang Prabang.
– Ho Chi Minh City to Cebu would also be a welcome addition. Manila is the only airport that connects the Philippines to Vietnam. Cebu Pacific would be ideal for this route.
Yes my list is heavily biased towards Saigon. here are some beyond SGN:
– Hanoi to Warsaw is another recommendation by anna.aero.
– Danang to Penang. This Flight-of-the-Nangs would connect the UNESCO World Heritage cities of Hoi An and Georgetown.
– Hue to major hubs in Southeast Asia. Hue is served by Phu Bai International Airport, though it currently only has domestic flights. Hue is the ancient Nguyen dynasty heartland and should be promoted as a cultural destination, because not everyone wants to go to the beach for a holiday.
There are plenty of things to see in and around Hue, and it provides an alternative to the beach offerings of Danang, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc. Its encouraging that a new airline wants to set up base here, and it would be good to see flights from the likes of AirAsia from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
This report is awesome, I would like to see more posts like this.
James Clark says
Thanks Aaron, I hope to post more like this 🙂
That is really interesting, especially the amounts of flights from China to Nha Trang :-O
James Clark says
I had no idea until I went there. They have been silently accumulating flights.
Very useful statistics in this post. Thanks for sharing!
Kenneth Nguyen says
been back and forth to Vietnam in the last 4 years. It’s been growing fast. Looking to get back once I’m done with my license. I love the report you did Mr. Clark!
James Clark says