How Bamboo Airways is learning from Vietnam Airlines' British misadventure

Vietnamese carrier, Bamboo Airways, has announced that it will be launching services to Munich and Brisbane effective later this year. This comes amid troubled times for the aviation industry as it battles against the coronavirus crisis which has brought passenger demand to record low levels. However, there is still no sign of London on the horizon for the carrier's route map, which might actually be a good thing.

Bamboo Airways Boeing 787-9 featuring the carrier's stunning livery. Photo by Duy Khang Tran | AeroNewsX

Bamboo Airways began operations in January 2019, mainly targetting leisure travellers. The airline has grown significantly since its launch and now has a fleet of over 20 aircraft including state-of-the-art Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A321neos. Bamboo Airways intends to become a global airline, with plans including flights to the United States and further expansion to Europe.

In early March, Bamboo Airways signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Munich Airport to begin flights from Hanoi with its Boeing 787-9 fleet. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the airline is pushing ahead with these plans, today announcing the official launch date. From October 25, Bamboo Airways will be operating from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Munich as well as to Brisbane.

The carrier will also be operating to Prague and Beijing from its Hanoi base, as well as to Osaka Kansai from its Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City hubs. Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Seoul and Tokyo will also be available.

Bamboo Airways is proving to be a stiff competitor to Vietnam Airlines, which, like most national carriers, has taken its growth slowly. In fact, its most recently launched flight to Europe was to London nearly 10 years ago.

Vietnam Airlines has struggled a lot in terms of European growth, notably on flights to London. In December 2011, the airline launched a four weekly services to London Gatwick. London isn't always that profitable however and, as was the case for Vietnam Airlines initially, it can be difficult to obtain high load factors.

The carrier later added a stop in Frankfurt, in an attempt to continue flying to London in a more profitable manner. That didn't seem to work, so in March 2015, the carrier reverted back to non-stop services - but this time with a number of changes. Firstly, it switched to London Heathrow and upped frequencies to five weekly. It also deployed its brand new Boeing 787 fleet on the long-haul service and in October that year, increased frequencies to six times a week.

Vietnam Airlines began deploying its Boeing 787 fleet on the London route in 2015 to try improve results. Photo by Duy Khang Tran | AeroNewsX

Previously, speculation suggested that Vietnam Airlines would use its Boeing 787-10 fleet to further expand its European network. However, with the coronavirus and new competition, Vietnam Airlines has other things to worry about. Furthermore, the carrier seems to be looking towards the United States instead.

Bamboo Airways hasn't revealed much interest in operating to London. This is quite different in comparison to Indian airlines for example, many of which are looking to London as their first long-haul destination. However, there's a large Indian diaspora spread across the United Kingdom and this therefore, comes as no surprise.

Bamboo Airways' situation is different. The airline has instead widely revealed interest in services to the Czech Republic. Its Hanoi to Prague services will begin on October 25 with a Boeing 787.

The airline has carefully selected its European destinations, making sure it limits Vietnam Airlines' expansion possibilities while also not competing with the flag carrier directly. Its flights to Munich might impact Vietnam Airlines' existing flights to Frankfurt, while the service to Prague simply opens up new possibilities for Vietnamese and Czech travellers.


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