Vietnam Airlines to launch service to San Francisco, its first U.S. destination

Nov 17, 2021

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Vietnam Airlines is about to add a major new pin to its route map: San Francisco (SFO), its first scheduled destination in the United States.

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Service begins on Nov. 28 with a departure from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), and a return flight departing San Francisco on Nov. 29. Flights will be operated using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, and are scheduled to take 13 hours and 50 minutes headed to SFO, with the return flight to Vietnam taking 16 hours and 40 minutes.

The airline plans twice-weekly flights throughout December, with eventual plans to increase to daily frequencies once the COVID-19 pandemic further subsidies.

Not only is this the first scheduled U.S. destination for Vietnam Airlines, but it’s the first scheduled destination in the U.S. for any Vietnamese carrier. In clearing its final regulatory hurdle with the Federal Aviation Administration, Vietnam Airlines beat startup competitor Bamboo Airways in the race to launch U.S. service. Vietnamese and American officials marked the occasion with a ceremony on Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City awarding Vietnam Airlines its FAA foreign air carrier certificate.

Vietnam Airlines is awarded its FAA foreign air carrier certificate at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on Nov. 16. (Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines)

Vietnam Airlines’ 787-9s are configured with 28 lie-flat business class seats featuring direct aisle access, 35 premium economy seats and 211 standard seats, though not all of these seats will be filled, according to the blog Live and Let’s Fly. The blog pointed to a VnExpress story in which Vietnam Airlines CEO Le Hong Ha said that due to the distance of the flights, the airline will have to take about a 100-passenger weight restriction on each flight, both on the 787 and on the Airbus A350 it might use in the future. Neither aircraft has the range to make the 7,838-mile trip fully loaded. Limiting passenger (and cargo) capacity allows for a nonstop journey, by allowing for additional fuel to be carried that increases the range while keeping the aircraft below its maximum takeoff weight.

More: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Vietnam Airlines has not yet made these new flights bookable, but Ha told VnExpress that economy class fares will start at around $1,000 USD one-way.

The announcement comes as Vietnam begins to reopen its borders to foreign tourists for the first time since March of 2020.

Featured photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images

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