The Airbus relationship with Vietnam began more than 30 years ago in 1986, when the first Puma helicopter entered into service in the country. In 1991, the A310 widebody aircraft became the first Airbus commercial airliner to begin operations in the country. Since then, in tandem with its economic development, Vietnam has become an important customer base for the Airbus commercial aircraft, defence, space and helicopter product lines.
The European manufacturer is also developing its industrial presence in Vietnam, where a growing number of local aerospace companies supply parts for all in-production Airbus commercial aircraft (the A320 Family, the A330, the A350 XWB and the A380). Airbus also provides flight and maintenance training services in the country, works with Vietnamese government agencies to increase the efficiency of their air traffic control system, and provides financial and technical support to develop university programmes in Vietnam.
As of late 2018, Airbus sold over 200 civil passenger aircraft to airlines and leasing companies in Vietnam. Customers – which include Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, VietJet Air and Vietnam Aviation Leasing Company – have placed orders for aircraft that include the best-selling single-aisle A320 Family, the popular and versatile A330 widebody jetliner and the long-haul widebody A350 XWB.
Airbus aircraft have been present in Vietnam since 1991, when Singapore-based Regionair began operating the A310 widebody aircraft on behalf of Vietnam Airlines. This was followed by the arrival of the first of seven 150-seat A320s at the end of 1993, operated under a wet lease agreement with Air France.
The initial A320 operation provided Vietnam Airlines with the opportunity to experience first-hand the in-service reliability, passenger appeal and economic benefits offered by the world's most modern single-aisle aircraft. This played an important role during the subsequent aircraft acquisition evaluation process at the airline and eventually led to the selection of the A320 as the new flagship for the carrier's regional services.
The first of the new A320 Family aircraft for Vietnam Airlines was delivered in July 1996 under an operating lease agreement. Vietnam Airlines placed its first direct order for five Airbus A321 aircraft in October 2002 and followed up with an order for 10 A321s in December 2004.
December 2007 saw yet another landmark for Airbus in Vietnam, with the sale of 10 widebody A350 XWBs and 10 A321s to Vietnam Airlines. At the same time, Vietnam Aviation Leasing Company announced an order for 10 A321s for lease to Vietnam Airlines. In 2009, Vietnam Airlines confirmed its vote of confidence in Airbus by placing a firm order for 16 additional A321s and an MOU for two more A350 XWB aircraft.
In June 2015, Vietnam Airlines became the first Asian airline and the second operator in the world to fly the A350 XWB. From its hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the airline flies its 12 A350-900s on its premier long-haul services to points including Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo-Haneda.
In September 2016, Vietnam Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Airbus for the purchase of 10 more A350-900 aircraft for non-stop flights to the US, beginning with services between Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles. In 2018, under its fleet renewal programme, Vietnam Airlines took delivery of its first A321neo for services across Asia.
Low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific, a joint venture between Vietnam Airlines and Australia’s Qantas Group, became a new Airbus operator in Vietnam in 2008. In September 2016, the airline finalised its first direct order with Airbus for 10 A320ceo aircraft and in June 2017, took delivery of its first direct-order A320ceo, which joined the airline’s fleet of leased A320s.
In December 2011, low-cost carrier VietJet started operations with a fleet of A320 aircraft. In February 2014, the carrier finalised an order with Airbus for the purchase of 63 A320 Family aircraft. It placed an order for six additional A321ceo during the 2015 Paris Air Show, and another 30 A321s (nine A321ceo and 21 A321neo) at the 2015 Dubai Airshow.
Expanding its fleet of single-aisle A320 Family aircraft, VietJet placed its first order for 20 of the longer-fuselage A321 variant in September 2016, comprising 10 A321ceo and 10 A321neo jetliners. In November 2018, the airline firmed up another order for an additional 50 A321neo airliners to grow its capacity and expand the network, especially on international routes. This increased the number of A320 Family members ordered overall by VietJet to 171, with the carrier operating 62 Airbus A320 Family aircraft as of late 2018.
The first Airbus rotorcraft to be sold in the country was a Puma for VNH South, which deployed the helicopter in the oil and gas sector. VNH South has since become one of the leading helicopter service providers in Southeast Asia, and currently operates a fleet that includes models such as the AS332 L2, H155 and H225.
In late 2018, there were more than 13 Airbus helicopters in service in Vietnam, primarily operating in the oil and gas industry and on search and rescue missions.
In June 2018, the Airbus Defence and Space division completed the delivery of three NC212i turboprop aircraft to Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defence, for The Vietnam People’s Air Force’s transport and medical evacuation missions.
The entry into service of the NC212i is part of an ongoing renewal of the air force’s transport fleet. They complement three larger Airbus C295 aircraft that were delivered to the service between 2014 and 2015.
Vietnam’s coast guard also operates C212-400 aircraft on coastal surveillance, monitoring of fisheries and other law enforcement missions.
Airbus developed, manufactured and launched VNREDSat-1, Vietnam’s first earth observation satellite. VNREDSat-1, which was launched into orbit in May 2013, provides the country with high-resolution imagery to serve social and economic development purposes, as well as environmental protection and natural disaster monitoring.
In June 2018, Airbus and Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) signed a letter of intent that paves the way for collaboration on several areas of mutual interest in support of the development of the country’s space sector. This includes the exchange of information on issues related to Earth observation, organising and participating in scientific and technological events as well as research into satellite technology.
Beyond its commercial success, Airbus is also growing its industrial footprint in Vietnam. In April 2014, Airbus awarded its first aerostructure manufacturing package in Vietnam to Hanoi-based Nikkiso Vietnam. This covers the production of composite spars and panels for the wing tip Sharklets fitted on the A320 Family. The work has been undertaken by Nikkiso Vietnam under a subcontract with primary Sharklet supplier Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD).
Its excellent performance led to Nikkiso Vietnam being awarded four additional work packages in September 2016, including torque boxes and cargo door components for the A350 XWB as well as parts for the wing tips and wing trailing edge on the A330neo.
Artus Vietnam, a subsidiary of Meggitt PLC, has been supplying electronic and electromechanical equipment for Airbus aircraft since 1996. Airbus signed an accord with Artus Vietnam in 2016 to evaluate a significant increase in the production of components supplied by the company over the next 10 years. Today, Artus Vietnam supplies parts for the complete Airbus product line (the A320 Family, the A330 Family, the A350 XWB and the A380).
Work related to Airbus aircraft programmes generates full-time employment for 550 highly skilled Vietnamese workers, and this figure is set to more than double to 1,200 by 2020. Airbus is also actively looking for opportunities to place more work packages in Vietnam.
In the area of infrastructure development, NAVBLUE, Airbus’ subsidiary dedicated to flight operations and air traffic management services, is working with Vietnam Air Traffic Management (VATM), to enhance further the efficiency of the air traffic control system in the country. This will aim to improve the use of airspace and traffic flows, especially around Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Airbus signed an agreement in early 2016 to provide flight and maintenance training services to VietJet in Ho Chi Minh City. This will also see VietJet’s flight training centre host an Airbus A320 Full-Flight Simulator (FFS) to conduct flight crew training for its A320 Family fleet.
In June 2018, Airbus signed two agreements with the University of Science and Technology of Hanoi (USTH) to provide financial and technical support for the creation of two new international standard degree programmes. Students began studying for the university’s new Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Maintenance and Engineering Operations and a Master of Science in International Air Transport Operations courses in September 2018. This helps to build up local expertise in Vietnam’s fast-growing aerospace industry and develop its future leaders.