Blossoming Economy Brings New Middle Class To The Skies
Vietnam is proving to be one of the fastest-growing commercial
air travel markets in the world... and the plane-making
heavyweights are vying for a piece of what could be a very
Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier have begun courting state-owned
Vietnam Airlines and its modernization plans for its fleet of 45
Boeing, Airbus, ATR and Fokker aircraft. The carrier is on the
brink of partial privatization and a new fleet is deemed necessary
to help it successfully compete, according to Agence
There is also talk of the carrier transitioning its subsidiary,
Vietnam Air Service Co., into a low-cost carrier.
"We want to be one of the leading regional carriers," said Bach
Quoc Thang, Vietnam Airlines general manager for corporate affairs.
"Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are the examples we want to
The communist-ruled country's economy is growing at more than
eight percent a year, creating a new middle class able to afford
such luxuries as air travel.
A major deal with Boeing was actually expected a year ago, when
US President George W. Bush made his visit to Hanoi... as well as
during Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet's trip to the US in
June, but nothing materialized either time.
Last month, former US ambassador Michael Marine encouraged the
country to buy more Dreamliners, saying the 787s would fill the
carrier's requirements for direct US flights. Four Dreamliners are
due to be delivered in 2009 as well as five A321s next year.
Airbus executive vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Edouard Ullmo,
said during an A380 demonstration visit to Hanoi on September 2
that Vietnam Airlines was growing so quickly, that by 2012 or 2013
it might very well be in a position to operate such a large
Adam Sitkoff, Hanoi's American Chamber of Commerce executive
director, told the AFP it would be in the country's best interest
to quickly make a deal with Boeing.
"The future growth of Vietnam's important tourism sector depends
on having enough passenger aircraft," he said. "The longer Vietnam
Airlines waits to purchase the Dreamliner, the longer it will be
until the planes are delivered."
Not to be outdone, Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace took its
90-seat CRJ900 NextGen jet to Vietnam last week, saying its
aircraft would have the lowest per-seat fuel costs per seat on
domestic and Asian routes.
"This would be an ideal feeder aircraft for Vietnam's domestic
and regional air transport needs," said Trung Ngo, vice president
of Bombardier. Vietnam Airlines executive vice president Nguyen Van
Hung wouldn't give an indication as to when a formal decision would
"I think it will be soon since the government of Vietnam is now
considering and studying the fleet development project of Vietnam
Airlines," he said.
"It means that Vietnam Airlines has the right to select the
appropriate aircraft for its fleet," Trung said. "But it's not
Vietnam Airlines which makes the decision, it is Vietnam's
government which makes the decision."
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to make his decision
soon. Aviation officials are expected to join him on a trip later
this month to New York and Paris.
Financing for the new fleet will come from Vietnam's first
aircraft leasing company recently established by the carrier,
Vietindebank, Petrovietnam and telecom group VNPT, with initial
capital of 200 million dollars.