Vietnam Airlines is leaving Gatwick to launch a direct service from Heathrow, drawn there by the opportunity to access transfer traffic.
From next summer, the airline will use its new fleet of 787-9 Dreamliners to operate five weekly services to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Airport says route frequency will be further increased to a daily service as Vietnam Airlines benefits from the strong transfer traffic and premium passenger demand that Heathrow attracts.
Vietnam import demand is expected to grow by around 250% between 2010 and 2020 – faster than any other emerging economy, including China.
There are currently over 26 emerging market destinations with daily flights from Continental European hubs but not connected to Heathrow – a situation that is estimated to be costing the UK economy £14 billion annually in lost trade, tourism and inward investment.
Because Heathrow is full, slot availability for long-haul routes is rare. The agreement with Vietnam Airlines took seven years to come to fruition, and Heathrow currently has a queue of thirty airlines waiting for slots.
Although some airlines have attempted to operate from point-to-point airports, many more have instead opted to base their operations at hubs abroad. Heathrow say that last year alone, the UK lost over 5 million passengers to rival hubs, whilst a further 2.5 million passengers travelled from Heathrow via the UK’s European competitors due to the lack of long-haul connectivity caused by capacity constraints at Heathrow.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “We are delighted that Vietnam Airlines has chosen to operate its new Dreamliner 787 fleet from Heathrow, securing regular direct flights from the UK to a vital emerging market. This demonstrates once again that only a strong hub airport like Heathrow, with a mix of premium direct and transfer passengers, can help Britain win the race for growth.
“With Vietnam identified by the government as one of the top twenty growth markets for UK businesses, this new route shows how Heathrow expansion is the best solution for the UK economy, creating up to £211bn in GDP and 180,000 new jobs.”
Vietnam Airlines CEO Dr Pham Ngoc Minh said: “Our vision, and that of the government of Vietnam, is for Vietnam Airlines to become the major carrier in Southeast Asia – and this move represents a tremendous step forwards in achieving that goal. Less than four years after successfully launching the first ever nonstop services between the UK and Vietnam, we are delighted that our passengers will soon be able to enjoy daily flights on the very latest and most comfortable aircraft, from one of the world’s most important, advanced and well-connected international hub airports.”
The new slot at Heathrow was made possible because of a new tool developed by NATS and its partners in collaboration with Heathrow. The Strategic Airport Capacity Management (ACM) system means airports can now accurately and quickly simulate the impact of various factors on performance, for example stand closures, scheduling delays and poor weather, which means it can identify the existing and future capacity of its runway with greater certainty.