Just shy of 100 aircraft, the fleet of Vietnam Airlines is fairly modern and has an overall average age of just under eight years. The Vietnamese flag carrier operates both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 and has further plans to expand and modernize its narrowbody fleet, which currently consist of Airbus A321s and a single ATR72. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the mainline fleet of Vietnam Airlines.
The Vietnam Airlines fleet at a glance
Listed here are the various types and variants operating with Vietnam Airline’s mainline fleet, as well as their quantities and average ages:
- One ATR72-500 (13 years old)
- 45x Airbus A321-200s (Average age of 11 years)
- 20x Airbus A321neos (Average age of three and a half years)
- 14x Airbus A350-900s (Average five and a half years old)
- Four Boeing 787-10s (Average three years old)
- And 11 Boeing 787-9s (Average of nearly seven years old)
Interestingly the airline’s collection of aircraft shrank over the past year. In fact, a few things have changed since we last looked at this carrier’s fleet in 2021, although not by much. Indeed, in the past 14 months or so, Vietnam Airlines had decided to remove one of its ATR72s while shedding a few A321-200s. More detail regarding these particular fleets will be covered further in this article.
The single ATR72
It’s a bit odd to see the airline operate just one ATR72. Yet, this truly appears to be the case, as the turboprop registered VN-B220 is actively serving the carrier. Delivered to the airline in 2009, this 13-year-old aircraft operates regular services out of Hanoi, to the Vietnamese cities of Dien Bien Phu (DIN) and Vinh (VII).
However, this is slightly deceiving as the Vietnam Air Service Company (VASCO), another member of the Vietnam Airlines Group, operates five ATR72s. Thus, in reality, the airline operates a total of six but, for unknown reasons, technically has one registered as part of the mainline fleet.
Plans for new regional aircraft
With the other ATR72s in mind, Vietnam Airlines is hoping to replace the turboprops with something more efficient. The carrier wants to acquire new planes for its regional routes and thus has plans to retire its existing turboprop fleet. At the moment, the airline group has not decided on a specific type of aircraft, although we know that it intends to introduce the new planes by 2023.
In fact, at the 2022 Routes Asia event held in Da Nang, Vietnam, airline CEO Le Hong Ha said that the upgrade will likely take place in late 2023 when Con Dao (VCS) and Dien Bien (DIN) airports are upgraded and rated to receive A320 or similar aircraft. The airline is reportedly in discussions with aircraft manufacturers and lessors to find a suitable aircraft type to serve short-runway airports within Vietnam, with the Airbus A220 and Embraer E190/195 jets being considered.
Considering Vietnam Airlines’ strong existing relationship with Airbus, the carrier might be able to secure a good deal for the A220s, despite being a completely different type from the A321s operated by the mainline fleet. Of course, service and support may be tougher since no other airlines in the region operate this type. On the other hand, fellow Vietnamese carrier Bamboo Airways operates a small fleet of Embraer ERJ190s. What do you think would be the best aircraft to replace the ATR72s?
The Airbus narrowbody fleet
From high-volume short-haul domestic services to medium-haul routes across the Asia Pacific region, the airline’s fleet of Airbus A321s is tasked with a diverse range of missions. Indeed, flying out of both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the aircraft operates as far west as Delhi, and as far east as Tokyo – flights that can take over five hours.
As was noted earlier, the airline’s A321 fleet divides into the older A321-200s and the newer A321neos. The A321neo aircraft arrived between 2018 and early 2020. While being an older generation, the A321-200s aren’t that old – with the oldest sitting at about 16 years. The youngest of these older-generation jets is around seven years of age. It would appear that the airline had some intention to phase out or replace its A321ceos at some point, and had been considering an order prior to the pandemic.
Indeed, in July 2019, we reported that the airline was eyeing the purchase of narrowbody aircraft for delivery between 2021 and 2025. The future order would have not only modernized its fleet but would also have allowed the airline to secure a greater share of the domestic transportation market. Reports indicated that the deal would have been for 90 aircraft. At the time, it was reported that the carrier was deciding between aircraft from the A320 family and the Boeing 737 MAX.
Ultimately, however, the plans for narrowbody modernization and expansion were crafted prior to the pandemic and we’re not quite sure where the airline is at in its recovery process. It’s quite likely that the impact of COVID-19 has set the airline back two or three years, but with recovery accelerating for most markets around the world, perhaps we will see a major narrowbody order from Vietnam Airlines in the next year or two.
Entering the dedicated freighter market
More recently, we reported on Vietnam Airlines’ plans to capitalize on cargo and enter the dedicated freighter market. In fact, the airline plans to take two passenger-to-freighter (P2F) Airbus A321 aircraft through a sale and leaseback transaction.
As reported by ch-aviation in August, US-based Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) will buy two of Vietnam Airlines’ A321-200s in order to convert them to freighters. The American firm will then lease the aircraft back to Vietnam Airlines for the carrier to use as freighters.
The A321P2F is a relatively new concept, with the first of its kind only coming out in 2020. As shown in the video below, this first example emerged from a partnership between Airbus and ST Engineering and their join venture, Elbe Flugzeugwerke.
The Boeing 787 fleet
At the moment, Vietnam Airlines has near equal quantities of Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s. This won’t be the case for long as the carrier will eventually take delivery of four 787-10s. These aircraft would probably have arrived at the airline sooner, had they not been caught up in Boeing’s lengthy Dreamliner delivery stoppage as a result of issues arising from FAA scrutiny.
The undelivered 787-10s built for Vietnam Airlines are now between one and two-and-a-half years of age and have been sitting in storage. Of course, now that Boeing is once again able to deliver the 787, customers around the world, including Vietnam Airlines, are receiving their new jets as the planemaker clears its backlog.
When it comes to long-haul 787 operations, Vietnam Airlines deploys the 787-9 from its Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi hubs to European cities like London and Frankfurt. However, closer to home, the airline is deploying the Dreamliner to cities like Tokyo and Seoul.
Perhaps the shortest Dreamliner flight operated by the airline is the highly popular, incredibly high-volume route between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh – the two largest cities in Vietnam. The two cities see over 20 services per day operated by Vietnam Airlines alone. It’s not just the 787-9 and -10 flying this route, but also the carrier’s other jets – the A321 and A350.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the airline had originally planned to deploy the 787-9 for its newest long-haul service between Ho Chi Minh and San Francisco. However, it appears that it has swapped the Dreamliner for the A350-900 instead.
Photo: Vietnam Airlines
The Airbus A350-900
In addition to operating the less than two hour flight between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Airlines’ A350s operate all over the Asia Pacific region. Indeed, the type is tasked with serving the major Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney, as well as flying north to cities like Seoul, Busan, Osaka, and Nagoya.
As just mentioned, the A350-900 is now deployed on the airline’s longest service: VN98/99 from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco. This service covers some 12,600 km (7,830 miles) and has a duration of up to nearly 16 hours when flying east. Launched in November of 2021, the service is the result of 20 years of Vietnam Airlines’ hard work in meeting regulatory requirements and acquiring aircraft efficient enough to make the route viable.
Exciting plans ahead
While Vietnam Airlines’ widebody fleet has been modernized, it will be exciting to see the carrier continue to change and update the remainder of its fleet. Will the Vietnam Airlines Group go with the A220? Or will it take a chance on Embraer? And when it comes to narrowbody modernization and expansion, will the airline consider giving the 737 MAX a try? Indeed, it appears that some important decisions are on the horizon for the carrier.
Which aircraft do you think Vietnam Airlines should pick to replace and modernize its regional fleets? And what is your own experience of flying with this airline? Let us know your thoughts, opinions, and experiences by leaving a comment!
Sources: Planespotters.net, FlightRadar24.com
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)
- Year Founded:
- Lê Hồng Hà