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​Trade balance played role in Vietnam Airlines 787, A350 buys

Political considerations were an element in Vietnam Airlines' decision to obtain both the Boeing 787-9 and A350-900.

Vietnam Airlines executive vice president Le Hong Ha says that from an airline perspective, it is useful to have exposure to aircraft technology from both Europe and North America.

He adds, however, that there was a political dimension behind the acquisition of two similar types, given the trade balance between Vietnam and the west. Vietnam is a major exporter of apparel, electronics, and other goods.

"The government still owns 80% of Vietnam Airlines and this has a strong influence on our decisions," says Le. "We are a national flag carrier."

The A350 deal originated from an October 2007 memorandum of understanding, the 787s from a commitment with Boeing one month later.

The carrier inducted both new types in the middle of 2015. "From the beginning it was quite hard for us because we had to set up big teams to take delivery of both types," says Le.

Flight Fleets Analyzer indicates that the carrier's first A350-900 entered service on 29 June 2015, while the first General Electric GENx powered 787-9 entered service on 30 July 2017.

Le says there were a few early teething issues with the A350, but these were ironed out with some help from Airbus.

"This is normal because the A350 is a new aircraft," says Le. Both aircraft are operating well, and help the carrier's branding and yields.

Apart from serving international destinations, both aircraft serve on Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi trunk route. So popular are the two types, says Le, that Vietnamese domestic passengers will make an extra effort to book a service that operates them.

Vietnam Airlines has 12 in-service A350-900s with five on order. The additional five will arrive from this month through to July 2019.

It has 11 787-9s in service. It also has firm orders for eight 787-10s – these were originally orders for -9s. These additional aircraft will be delivered from May 2019 through August 2020.

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