Vietnam Airlines operated its inaugural flight from Heathrow Airport to Hanoi on Tuesday 31 March after switching from Gatwick Airport and it says one of the main reasons for the move was to drive cargo volume.
The carrier’s general manager for UK and Ireland, Le Thanh Dzung (see picture), tells Air Cargo Week that the cargo opportunities that come by moving to Heathrow, was one of the key reasons it switched airports. He explains that cargo volumes will be higher as a result. “We did well with Gatwick, but expect more with Heathrow and needed more frequency, so we can have more space. Heathrow is better for us, as there are cargo warehouses on the airport site and it is easier to truck cargo from here and is better located,” Dzung explains.
The carrier will run four flights a week from Heathrow. Two will leave for Hanoi, one on Tuesdays and another on Fridays. It will also operate two flights a week to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Vietnam Airlines will increase the frequency later this year and fly five days a week first and then six times a week, once it deploys a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on the route from August. It will initially use a Boeing 777-200 extended range. Sometime in the middle of 2016, there will then be a daily flight to Vietnam from Heathrow, as it looks to build it into its third European hub alongside Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Frankfurt Airport.
Dzung says “From Vietnam to here the cargo load is good and volume stable, but we want to push more to Vietnam from the UK. Being at Heathrow enables us to do this and with more frequency we can expect higher demand cargo.”
Vietnam Airlines will be the only direct UK flight servicing Vietnam. The airline operated its last flight from Gatwick on Saturday 28 March. It previously operated two flights a week from Gatwick, one to Hanoi and one to Ho Chi Minh City.
Dzung explains that Vietnam Airlines will be able to fly more cargo from Heathrow compared with Gatwick, to not only Vietnam, but on to other Asia countries and Australasia.
He says that as Heathrow is such a, “global hub,” with, “better connectivity,” it will be able to act as a feeder for cargo from other European countries for the airline, and the cargo will then be flown back to Vietnam. The move will also benefit the Vietnam economy due to more frequency he says. Dzung adds that the economy has been growing at around five to six per cent per year, but the government is targeting seven per cent in the next few years.
Dzung explains that cargo exported from Vietnam, is usually textiles, shoes, mobile phones and food products. The airline is also working with coffee manufacturers to export directly to the UK. From the UK, he says, it is mainly machinery, but also salmon and pharma products and other food products that go to Vietnam.
As Vietnam Airlines goes through a restructuring, Dzung says the airline, “could even possibly enter the freighter market one day,” in a few years time, especially if the airline and Vietnam continues its strong growth. The move to Heathrow, he says, signals the start of the, “next step in the exciting chapter,” for the airline as it overhauls its fleet, develops its route network and launches a fresh corporate identity later this year.