The Skyteam carrier is assessing both the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350-1000 for the 7,098nm Ho Chi Minh City-Los Angeles route, says Vietnam Airlines executive vice president Le Hong Ha.

"The flight time is quite long, more than 16 hours," he says. "The sellable payload is very important to us, so we are studying what aircraft, based on performance, allows us to launch the route by the end of 2019."

The possible acquisition would entail four aircraft. Should the 777X be selected, the aircraft is only likely to be available for Vietnam Airlines in 2021.

Le made the remarks during a meeting with reporters at the company's headquarters in Hanoi.

Though Le did not specify the variant of 777X under consideration, the 777-8's range is 8,700nm while the larger 777-9's is 7,600nm. The A350-1000's range is listed at 8,000nm.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Vietnam Airlines, which operates 10 A355-900s, will see three additional examples delivered in 2018, and a final aircraft delivered in 2019. It also has a letter of intent for 12 A350-900s beyond this. Some of these could be converted to A350-1000s.

Should the airline not have the aircraft to launch direct services in late 2019, it has plans to launch the service with an A350-900, which will make a technical stop in Osaka, Japan.

Le also understands from the Vietnamese government that Vietnam will receive FAA Category 1 status by May 2018. At present, the country has no FAA category rating, precluding Vietnamese airlines from launching US services.

He adds that the passenger flow between the USA and Vietnam is one of the largest in the world without direct links. The market is now served through hubs in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China.

Despite challenges for Vietnamese citizens getting US visas, he expects the demand on the US side is sufficient to drive the route.

FlightGlobal - December 12, 2017

Vietnam market 'over stimulated' : Jetstar Pacific

Vietnamese low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific says domestic passenger growth has slowed in 2017, to a rate of 14-15% compared with 30% per annum previously.

"The market has probably been over stimulated in the last five years, so I don't think you'll see a lot of additional market simulation as we go forward," says Jetstar Pacific chief operating officer Leslie Stephens.

"We think it's going to be more natural growth. From whatever everyone is predicting it will be double GDP growth, so about 14-15% growth a year, about half the growth we've seen the last five years. We've certainly seen this in 2017."

The stimulation Stephens alludes to is due to the rise of low-cost rival VietJet, which has grown rapidly since its launch in late 2011. The carrier operates 44 Airbus A320 family aircraft, many of them deployed in Vietnam's domestic market, where it holds about 40% market share.

Despite being much older, with its origins in the 1990s, Jetstar Pacific operates 17 A320s and commands 15% of the domestic market. Vietnam Airlines, which owns 70% of Jetstar Pacific, accounts for around half the.

Speaking with journalists at the company's headquarters recently, Stephens says that longer-term prospects are good given Vietnam's rundown railroads and poor road infrastructure. These issues, in addition to the country's nearly 100 million inhabitants, make air travel particularly attractive. He says the country has 22 "good commercial airports," of which 18 can support jets.

Heavy capacity growth has hurt yields however, and Stephens says the domestic origin and destination market is especially challenging. Still, the carrier's load factors are a respectable 84%, although it fluctuates throughout the year.

It also helps that Jetstar Pacific is tightly integrated with Vietnam Airlines and Qantas, which owns 30%.

"Being part of the Jetstar group we have connections from Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Asia, and that helps bring traffic in. One of our best performing routes is Bangkok-Ho Chi Minh City, which has the most intense competition of probably any route in Asia."

In addition, Jetstar Pacific has derived passenger feed from Jetstar's March launch of Boeing 787 services from Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City.

Of the five million passengers Jetstar Pacific will carry in 2017, Stephens estimates about 15% are connecting passengers.

In addition, all of Jetstar Pacific's routes are codeshared on by Vietnam Airlines. For route planning, a committee comprised of Jetstar Pacific and representative of shareholders hold regular meetings to discuss schedules and routes.

Stephens is also optimistic about the government's efforts to increase ramp space at Tan Son Nhat, where aircraft parking has emerged as a major issue given the rapid increase in the Vietnam's airliner fleet, and increased international flying to the country. Still, slots are an issue, with no slots available between 7am and 7pm.

FlightGlobal - December 11, 2017