Vietnam Airlines integration into Skyteam – dominated by Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air – will reinforce the alliance’s position in southeast Asia. The official inception of Vietnam’s national carrier will happen this coming June. It has been a long process with Vietnam Airlines mulling out the option of entering an alliance as far as 2000 with negotiations starting seriously around 2006/2007.
“We are ready as we feel now ‘equal’ with our future partners in terms of product, network, and mutual benefits. That was not necessarily the case before,” explained Mathieu Ripka, marketing and sales director of Vietnam Airlines in France.
Vietnam Airlines is already preparing its entry by boosting its frequencies and services. Skyteam will use both hubs of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to reach most of Asia. “Ho Chi Minh City gives us an excellent positioning to Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Australia, while Hanoi acts as an ideal gateway to China or Laos,” added Ripka. Indochina is seen as a major market for European travelers.
Vietnam Airlines has a very dense domestic network within Vietnam with multi-daily flights not only between Hanoi and Saigon but also from both cities to Danang, Hue, Dalat, Haiphong, or Nha Trang. “We also complement those routes with regional flights to smaller cities with our fleet of ATR,” said Vietnam Airlines marketing manager. The airline has also developed over the years its Trans-Indochina routes linking all capital cities or all World Heritage Sites of the region, every time with fifth freedom traffic rights. A pass has even been created, giving flexibility to travelers to fly from Hanoi to Siem Reap or from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang. The latest addition to this Trans-Indochina route is the opening in March of four weekly flights from Hanoi to Yangon in Myanmar.
In parallel to the Yangon opening, Vietnam Airlines is also launching a new route to Shanghai out of Hanoi and will boost its frequencies to Paris from seven to nine flights a week. “We can then offer also in Europe combined circuits Hanoi + Shanghai,” told Ripka.
Vientam Airlines is also building up its facilities at both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. The airline benefits already from a brand new terminal in Saigon opened two years ago. The airline offers a large lounge among others. In Hanoi, construction is going on for the expansion of the current terminal with Vietnam Airlines and its Skyteam partners most likely to move into one roof once the second terminal completed.