A Vietnam Airlines plane touched down in the U.S. on Sunday evening (local time) after a non-stop flight from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, marking the first regular direct commercial flight between the two countries.
A flight coded VN98 from the national airline carrying 150 passengers from Tan Son Nhat International Airport landed at San Francisco International Airport at 7:42 pm on November 28 local time, or 10:42 am on November 29 Vietnam time.
The plane, a wide-body Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, completed its 13,000 km journey non-stop after 13 hours 45 minutes, Vietnam Airlines (VNA) reported.
The inaugural flight has made VNA the first Vietnamese airline to operate a regular direct route to the U.S., after 20 years of preparation, said VNA president and CEO Le Hong Ha.
More than a year ago, VNA became the first Vietnamese carrier to fly directly to the U.S., specifically San Francisco airport, to welcome repatriated citizens, Ha said.
“Today, we are very pleased to announce the success of the inaugural direct commercial flight to the U.S., marking a new milestone for Vietnam Airlines in particular and Vietnam’s aviation in general,” he added.
VNA said it secured a license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on November 4 to conduct direct flights for both passengers and cargo.
“We are honored to be the first airport in the U.S. to offer non-stop regular flights to Vietnam,” Ivar C. Satero, director of San Francisco Airport, said in a statement released by VNA.
“We are proud to offer a world-class experience with seamless access throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and grateful to Vietnam Airlines for making San Francisco their first U.S. destination."
Following the inaugural flight, VNA will conduct two flights per week from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco by Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, the two most modern wide-body aircraft in its fleet.
The airline expects to increase the frequency to seven flights per week after the COVID-19 pandemic is put under control and the government agrees to resume all regular international commercial flights.
The carrier also plans to open a new route connecting Los Angeles to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Last week, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said Vietnam plans to resume regular international flights next month.
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the Vietnam - US aviation market was one of Vietnam’s largest potential air markets, recording 1.4 million visitors in 2019 and achieving an average growth rate of eight percent per year in 2017-19, according to VNA.
There are now 24,000 Vietnamese students in the U.S., the sixth-largest group among the total number of international students in the country, said CEO Ha.
The U.S. is also home to approximately 2.2 million Vietnamese, the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam, he added.
VNA therefore believes that travel demand between the two countries will quickly recover after the epidemic is brought under control and entry policies are eased.