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A Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner on approach into London’s Heathrow Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Vietnam Airlines Debuts Regular US Direct Flight

Vietnam Airlines has launched its first nonstop flight to the U.S. On Nov. 28th, the flight from Ho Chi Minh City arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 6:42 p.m. The inaugural trip from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco, designated flight VN98, took off at 8:40 p.m. local time on Nov. 28. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, registered VN-A861, crossed the international dateline and landed at SFO after a journey of slightly over 13 hours and a 15-hour time change.

Vietnam Airlines is emphasizing the fact that travel from the Southeast Asian country to the U.S. has traditionally required a connection until now, saying in a statement, “The flight between Vietnam and the U.S. is usually quite long, so when buying a plane ticket to the US, you often have to transit in a 3rd country before you officially set foot in the U.S. This partly has passengers feel tired, anxious and overwhelmed in the middle of a crowded airport, encountering language barriers, or even missing their flight.”

Rather than changing aircraft in a city in China, Taiwan, South Korea or Japan, travelers can now fly directly from Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines.

The flight will be exceptionally long for passengers, with the eastbound leg taking 13 hours and 50 minutes and the westbound journey taking 16 hours and 40 minutes. Round-trip economy flights are estimated to start at around $1,000, relatively competitive with other fares in the market. Vietnam Airlines CEO Le Hong Ha also stated that the route will not be profitable for the next five to ten years.

The airline and Vietnam’s aviation industry have been working for 20 years to establish a regular air connection to the U.S. The arrangement was completed on Nov. 4, when the national flag carrier got approval from the U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate nonstop commercial flights between the two countries. 

Vietnam’s planned service means the country has beaten Bamboo Airways, another Vietnamese carrier hoping to be the first to offer regularly scheduled nonstop service between the two countries.

A Successful Inaugural Service

Vietnam Airlines hailed its first direct, nonstop flight to the U.S. as a triumph and an “important development milestone.” Vietnam Airlines chose the American-made Boeing 787-9 and equipped it with 28 business class seats, 35 premium economy seats, and 211 basic economy seats. The airline is also emphasizing that the flight will have “U.S.-produced cuisine” matched with California wine.

“The success of the inaugural commercial direct flight to the U.S. marked a new milestone for Vietnam Airlines in particular and Vietnam’s aviation in general,” Ha said in a statement.

This service is expected to boost economic activity and deepen ties between the two countries.

In a statement issued by Vietnam Airlines, Ivar C. Satero, Director of San Francisco Airport, stated, “We are honored to be the first airport in the United States to provide nonstop frequent flights to Vietnam. We are thrilled to provide a world-class experience with seamless access throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and we are grateful to Vietnam Airlines for selecting San Francisco as their first U.S. destination.”

Service to gradually ramp-up

Initially, Vietnam Airlines will operate two flights each week from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco, using its longer-range widebodies — a choice between the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 XWB, the two newest wide-body aircraft. After the Covid-19 outbreak is contained and the government agrees to restart regular commercial flights, the airline plans to raise the frequency to seven trips per week. Last Monday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh stated that Vietnam intends to resume regular foreign flights beginning next month.

Vietnam Airlines is also considering new routes to the U.S., possibly including service to Los Angeles from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s two largest cities. According to official figures, there are roughly 24,000 Vietnamese students and approximately 2.2 million abroad Vietnamese living in the United States, indicating a demand.

Vietnamese travelers are now permitted to enter the U.S. after changes instituted Nov. 8, but they must produce a certificate proving they have been completely vaccinated as well as a negative test result received within 72 hours. Although it is not required, the American government advises people to isolate themselves for 7-10 days upon arrival.


  • Kalai Raajan

    Kalai has always wanted to work in the aviation industry, having been fascinated by its inner workings since he was a child. In pursuit of his dream, he obtained a diploma in aviation management and is currently interning with a low-cost airline, under in-flight policies. In his free time, he loves to engage in recreational activities, and watch sports. In the upcoming years, Kalai intends to pursue his degree at a business school before working as an executive for a global airline around the world.

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