Bamboo Airways plans to lease a superjumbo Airbus A380 for its direct flights to the U.S. starting next year.
Trinh Van Quyet, chairman and CEO of real estate group FLC, which owns the airline, said Bamboo Airways has applied to U.S. aviation authorities for permission to fly there and is now finalizing details of the service.
“We will start in the first quarter of 2020 if we get permission by the end of this year,” he told the Financial Times.
An airline representative told VnExpress that the Airbus A380 is among a number of options, and the airline is also considering other wide-body jets.
Leasing an A380 could be a temporary solution while the airline waits for its 10 wide-body Boeing 787-9s to be delivered, the representative added.
The A380 is the world’s largest commercial airliner in use with a capacity of 853 passengers. But Airbus announced in February it would end production of the jet after failing to secure enough orders.
Bamboo Airways’s announcement came after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a Category 1 rating to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) last February, which means the latter meets safety standards to operate flights to the U.S.
Other Vietnamese airlines have also expressed interest in the direct service. Vietnam Airlines has said it is considering buying at least two new long-range Boeing jets for flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Los Angeles or San Francisco from 2020.
Initially the flights would transit through Japan, Taiwan or South Korea before nonstop services begin in 2022, it added.
Budget airline Vietjet has also expressed interest in the direct route, but has yet to place orders for wide-body jets. It currently has no aircraft capable of flying directly to the U.S.
The CEO of Vietnam Airlines, Duong Tri Thanh, has said annual losses on the U.S. sector could be $30 million in the early years, and the route is likely to be unprofitable for 5-10 years.
But Quyet said the direct U.S. flights would break even soon thanks to a large population of 2.1 million Vietnamese in that country.
Industry insiders said the growing number of tourists coming to Vietnam from the U.S. would be another major source of demand. This number rose by 11.9 percent last year to 687,000, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Currently there are no direct flights, and passengers now have to transfer at places like China, Hong Kong and Japan, and flights take 18-21 hours. A direct flight would bring the travel time down to 14-16 hours.