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Expansion of long-haul connections

Bamboo Airways has its eyes on Star Alliance

The young Vietnamese airline has ambitious plans. After Munich and Prague, it wants to approach further destinations in Europe. Bamboo Airways is also aiming to enter the alliance.

Bamboo Airways celebrated the one year anniversary of its first flight in January. And the Vietnamese airline already serves domestic and regional destinations with 25 aircraft. Soon it will start its first long-haul connections.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is causing difficulties for the aviation industry around the world, Bamboo Airways does not see its expansion in any danger. «It’s obvious that the Covid-19 outbreak has a significant impact on the tourism industry. However, we also see opportunities in the challenges,» explains Deputy Director General Bui Quang Dung in an interview with aeroTELEGRAPH.

Prague postponed due to coronavirus
«It is the right time for us to restructure the organisation,» says the manager. Despite the crisis, the airline wants to introduce «innovations» and improve service quality, according to Dung. For 2020, Bamboo Airways is looking to expand primarily on long-haul routes – on almost all continents.

In early March, the airline announced its first intercontinental destination with Prague. Due to the Corona crisis, it is postponing its debut flight Hanoi – Prague from 29 March to 26 April for the time being. The flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and Munich announced for next summer will continue to take off in July, according to Dung.

Third destination planned in Europe
But with Germany and the Czech Republic, Bamboo does not want to stop at Europe. If the results in Munich and Prague are positive, Bamboo wants to expand on the old continent: «We have already investigated other destinations in Europe,» says Dung.

The airline is currently negotiating slots with Singapore and Malaysia. Flights to Indonesia and the Philippines are also being examined, the manager says. «Bamboo Airways already serves routes between Vietnam and countries in North East Asia. In the future, we will continue to expand our network in Southeast Asia,» says Dung.

777X for the US
Bamboo is looking very specifically towards the USA. This also applies to fleet planning. So far, the airline has received three of a total of ten Boeing 787 Dreamliners ordered. Last February it was announced that Bamboo also plans to order twelve Boeing 777X.

«We are considering the Boeing 777X for direct flights to the United States,» says the Deputy Director General. Last June, the airline even thought aloud about using Airbus A380 for flights to North America. According to Dung, this plan has not been definitively rejected, but is off the table for the time being.

No flights to America so far
Although the Boeing 777X is smaller than the A380, it is still the largest twin-engine passenger aircraft in the world. Bamboo is not afraid of not being able to fill the enormous capacity. «Our forecasts for the US market predict a load factor of 89 to 95 percent for the 777X,» says Dung.

One reason for the confidence: direct flights between the USA and Vietnam do not yet exist. Meanwhile, tourism is booming in Vietnam: the number of travelers has tripled in the last three years alone. It was only last autumn that the United States granted Vietnam Airlines a license for direct flights for the first time.

No worries about domestic competition
Although the national airline is already an established provider of long-haul flights and also has plans to fly to the USA, Bamboo sees no danger. They are mainly planning to offer other long-haul routes than their national competitor, according to Dung. «We have our own strategy to use different routes in other continents.»

Domestically, Bamboo also sees itself well-prepared. There, the airline is also competing against the two Vietnamese budget airlines Vietjet and Jetstar Pacific. «After more than a year of operation, we have achieved a domestic market share of almost 20 percent,» says Dung. The airline wants to increase this share to 30 percent by 2021. Bamboo currently operates 22 Airbus A320 aircraft on domestic and regional routes.

Alliance membership by 2021
Bamboo Airways intends to seek support from other airlines as it expands and to enter into cooperation agreements to this end. The deputy head of commerce Thach Pierre Hoang told aeroTELEGRAPH that the airline is negotiating codeshare agreements with several airlines. As a second step, it also wants to join an alliance next year.

Bamboo has Oneworld and Star Alliance in mind, Hoang says. Vietnam Airlines is a member of Skyteam. Star Alliance is particularly interesting for Bamboo for the upcoming destination in Munich, as it would have the top dog there as an alliance partner with Lufthansa. One thing is clear: The Vietnamese are serious about their expansion. By 2024, Bamboo intends to operate a fleet of 100 aircraft.

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