HANOI: Vietnam airlines bought 40 airplanes worth US$6.5 billion from France’s Airbus Tuesday, as President Francois Hollande visited the communist nation to drum up business ties with one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies.
The deal is the latest move by Vietnamese aviation giants to boost fleets and feed demand from a mushrooming middle class with money to burn on air travel both at home and abroad.
Hollande, the third French president to visit Vietnam since independence, said the “very important deals” deepened ties with its former colony where France’s legacy is ubiquitous, from the country’s colonial-era buildings to French-influenced cuisine.
“We agreed to encourage both countries to establish economic partnerships on the basis of technology transfer,” Hollande said after Airbus signed three separate deals.
Low-cost private airline VietJet, known for its bikini-clad hostesses, bought 20 planes while national carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget airline Jetstar Pacific bought 10 each in “deals worth 6.5 billion”, Airbus Asia spokesman Sean Lee told AFP.
He did not provide a breakdown of each deal’s value, but VietJet said later in a statement it was spending US$2.39 billion on its new planes.
The VietJet purchase comes after it bought 100 passenger jets from US aircraft maker Boeing for US$11.3 billion in May, during a visit by President Barack Obama.
It called the deal the largest single commercial air plane purchase in Vietnam aviation history.
Founded in 2007, VietJet has gained notoriety with bikini-wearing air stewardesses and along with Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar is making a major move into the lucrative Southeast Asian aviation sector.
From The Old Days
The history of Vietnam Airlines dates back to January 1956, when the Vietnam Civil Aviation Department was established by the Government, marking the birth of the civil aviation industry in Vietnam. At that time, the fleet was small with only five aircraft of IL-14, AN-2, Aero-45… which started to serve domestic flights in September 1956.
April 1993, Vietnam Airlines was officially established as the country’s national flag carrier. On the 27th May 1995, Vietnam Airlines Corporation was born with the gathering of 20 aviation enterprises and the airline itself as the core business.
On 20th October 2002, Vietnam Airlines introduced the new logo of the Golden Lotus and corporate identity that symbolized its dramatic progress towards becoming a world-class airline. The launch represented a complete repositioning and brand strategy of Vietnam Airlines, coupled with significant improvements in its infrastructure, operations and fleet.
The delivery of its first own “state-of-the-art” B777 in 2003 also marked a true revolution in the airline’s fleet modernization. Nowadays, Vietnam Airlines operates one of the most modern fleets in the region with the average age of the fleet is 5.4 years.
For 20 years of development at an average annual growth rate consistently in double-digit number, the national flag carrier has marked an obvious advance to become a major competitor in the Asian aviation market, owning a modern fleet of Airbus and Boeing planes flown by well trained professionals.
Beginning with non-regular domestic services, today Vietnam Airlines operates to 21 cities throughout the country and 28 international destinations in Asia, Europe, and Australia. Its network extends to 26 countries and territories.
In 2006, after being awarded the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate, a strict safety standard set by Aviation Quality Services (AQS), Vietnam Airlines joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as an official member, affirming its international standard.
In June 2010, Vietnam Airlines joined SkyTeam, the world’s second largest global airline alliance, affirming the carrier’s new position on the global aviation map as the strategic partner of the alliance in Southeast Asia region as well as its international standard services.
Positioning its internationally recognized brand as a young and modern carrier, Vietnam Airlines excelled further when signing large purchase orders of world’s most modern, environment-friendly aircraft, such as Boeing B787 and Airbus A350-900. The airline is expected to reach 101 and 150 modern aircraft in 2015 and 2020, respectively, making solid steps integrating into the global aviation industry as one of leading regional carrier, which is fully ingrained with Vietnamese traditional culture.