Vietnam connectivity is back, puts focus on network strategy

Country by Country, connectivity is coming back on the international side. While airlines work towards adding more international connectivity and countries work towards dropping entry requirements, especially for vaccinated travellers, passengers are looking to travel again! 

With this backdrop, the India – Vietnam connectivity is coming back and back with a bang! 

Flashback 

After two years of announcements, VietJet launched flights to Delhi in December 2019. It aimed to be the first and only airline to connect the two countries, when it first announced its flights. But IndiGo had taken that title! IndiGo launched flights to Vietnam in October 2019, two months ahead of VietJet. The largest private player in VIetnam, VietJet was expanding horizons and so was IndiGo! The two airlines came with two opposite strategies. VietJet – targeted the largest market – New Delhi, with flights to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City while IndiGo offered services from Kolkata – making it the shortest flight between India and Vietnam. 

In early 2020, IndiGo decided to re-jig its hub at Kolkata – offering connections between the Middle east and Vietnam apart from most domestic markets. At the same time, VietJet pumped up its India route with announcements to start flights to Delhi from Da Nang and launch flights to Mumbai.

Before all of this could get operational, a pandemic struck and it struck hard! International services stopped then restarted only on March 27, 2022. As airline after airline started making a beeline with the likes of Emirates announcing a full resumption of services, Vietnam becomes the next country with which ties are being built again.

Read: Global narrowbody ambitions of Indian LCCs

Planned connectivity

VietJet is starting flights to India starting April 29, 2022. It will operate thrice a week service to Delhi from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, each. Services from Hanoi start on April 30, 2022.

VJ895 SGN1930 – 2220DEL 

VJ896 DEL2320 – 0610SGN

Flights operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday

VJ971 HAN1800 – 2220DEL 

VJ972 DEL2320 – 0445HAN

Flights operate on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

This will be upped with flights to Delhi from Da Nang – thrice a week and four weekly flights to Mumbai from Ho Chi Minh City and thrice weekly service to Mumbai from Hanoi. The airline also intends to operate to Phu Quoc from Mumbai – four times a week and from New Delhi – thrice a week. That will take the weekly services to 23 per week. The India – Vietnam bilateral caps the frequencies to 28 weekly flights per country with unlimited flights to 18 destinations apart from the major airports in India. 

6E1378 CCU0020 – 0440HAN

6E1379 HAN0540 – 0705CCU

Flights are operating on Mondays and Fridays

6E1363 CCU2330 – 0450SGN

6E1364 SGN0550 – 0755CCU

Flights are operating on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday

Phu Quoc and Da Nang

Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam and located in the Gulf of Thailand. Over the last five years, the island has been developed as a tourism hotspot with large resorts being set up with access to pristine beaches. The Phu Quoc airport was built in 2012 replacing the older airport. The new facility has a 9,843 feet runway and all modern facilities.

Da Nang, on the other hand, is an important commercial centre and port along with being a gateway to the ancient city of Ha Noi and the imperial capital of Hue. Da Nang is the third busiest airport in Vietnam, has two runways and shares the airport with the Vietnamese Air Force.

Network Thoughts – IndiGo

One would believe that IndiGo is following the right approach. A functional hub at Kolkata to help connect from all major cities in India. A shorter flight, which if it doesn’t do well, won’t lead to a lot of losses. 

But what are the cons? A one stop on IndiGo v/s a one stop on any other carrier will boil down to price amongst other things. Presence of Vietjet as non-stop from two large markets in India will also be a competition, provided VietJet has good distribution in India.

The timing of the flights is another concern. For a leisure or business traveller with interests in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, landing at dead of the night is not a pleasant experience. It entails a long wait to get a hotel room or you end up spending for a day’s cost without occupying the room full time. There is a reason why Indians love red eye flights to tourist destinations. The passengers reach in the morning and wait in the lobby for rooms – managing breakfast and other sundry items in the morning and on the day of departure, they can check-out, do some final sightseeing or shopping and head to the airport for late night flights.

Here is where I see IndiGo headed from here. The airline will evaluate how the hub from Kolkata works. If it works well, it will look for which city contributed the most and could look at adding a nonstop flight to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi from Delhi later, which will build on to its presence in Vietnam, free up seats to Vietnam from Kolkata to develop new markets.

Network Thoughts – VietJet

The strategy to start flights to the biggest markets was a great one, but I am sceptical on how it would proceed for Da Nang and Phu Quoc. Both these cities are pure tourism areas and will need a lot of might to attract tourism from India. 

VietJet is betting on cheaper deals from hotels at Phu Quoc and Da Nang to fill up flights from Delhi and Mumbai. The airline will have to ramp up distribution channels in India. The number of flights seem far too many right now, but unlike IndiGo which is almost sure that competition won’t reach Vietnam, VietJet could see Bamboo Air take away some frequencies to india. 

Tail Note

These are difficult times to start new flights. VietJet and IndiGo have some real low costs but that does not mean they have the liberty to splurge. Time will tell how things pan out for both the airlines. I would expect VietJet to focus their operations to Delhi and Mumbai from Hanoir and Ho Chi Minh City with limited flights to Da Nang in future and for IndiGo to sustain the Kolkata hub but with a need to play around with the timings – one more time!

If you happen to fly to Vietnam, don’t forget to eat Pho

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