Vietnam Airlines is leaving Gatwick to launch a direct service from Heathrow, with new bookings available from 12th January 2015. 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 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.
The increased Vietnam frequencies will also boost British businesses, who will benefit from improved direct access to a market where 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. 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.
Current new aircraft orders are dominated by 787s and A350s (nearly 70% of current orders) as airlines seek to capitalise on the improved fuel efficiency the aircrafts provide. With 85% of these orders coming from network airlines operating out of hubs, the deployment of the 787 by Vietnam Airlines on the Heathrow route is further proof that the aircraft is actually a ‘hub grower’ and not a ‘hub buster’.
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.
Vietnam Airlines General Manager UK & Ireland Le Thanh Dzung said, “The launch of Vietnam Airlines’ non-stop services from London saw UK arrivals into Vietnam rise by over 40 per cent year on year, and both the leisure and corporate markets have grown steadily ever since. Moving our operations to Heathrow will enable us to offer the increased frequency and capacity needed to build on and cater to this growing demand. As a prestigious global hub airport, Heathrow also provides a perfect platform on which to launch our new, world class product and branding.”