Vietnam News

66 Years In The Skies: The History Of Vietnam Airlines

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Last month marked 66 years since Vietnam Airlines first took to the skies under the name Vietnam Civil Aviation.

Vietnam Airlines has been serving as the Vietnamese flag carrier since 1993, although its wider history dates back somewhat further. Operating out of hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the airline is now a key player in Asian aviation, and serves a wide range of short and long-haul destinations. With over 100 jets in its fleet, Vietnam Airlines has been a SkyTeam member since 2010.

Vietnam Airlines can trace its roots all the way back to 1956, when it came into existence as Vietnam Civil Aviation. Despite hampered development due to the Vietnam War in the carrier’s first two decades of operations, it has since become a state-owned company with a sizeable fleet and network.

The early years

The nationalization of Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport led to the creation of a company known as Vietnam Civil Aviation in January 1956. The carrier came into existence following the signing of a decree by the North Vietnamese government. In its early years, it functioned as a civilian branch of the country’s air force.

Owing to the support offered by the Soviet Union to North Vietnam during the conflict, several of Vietnam Civil Aviation’s early aircraft had a Soviet background. These included the likes of the Lisunov Li-2 and the Ilyushin Il-14, as well as the Czechoslovakian Aero Ae-45. The political climate of the time meant that US-built aircraft were not an option.

After the war

The Vietnam War came to an end in April 1975. Unsurprisingly, this heralded a period of expansion for the carrier, which was then known as the General Department of Civil Aviation in Vietnam. It began operating international flights, first serving Beijing and then adding Vientiane (Laos) to its network in 1976. Around a third of the passengers that it carried in that year traveled on international services.

As time went on, its international network grew, with the likes of Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Singapore being served. However, a trade embargo imposed by the US on Vietnam meant that the airline’s fleet still consisted largely of Soviet aircraft. In some instances, these didn’t meet noise restrictions at airports like Hong Kong Kai Tak.

Now a state-owned flag carrier

The carrier eventually became able to use Western-built aircraft if it did so on a leased basis. This unlocked intercontinental destinations as far afield as Paris and Melbourne. 1993 heralded the completion of a restructuring process that saw it become Vietnam’s state-owned flag carrier. However, it was still initially named after the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.

The US trade embargo finally came to an end in 1994, allowing Vietnam Airlines to fully renovate its fleet by replacing its aging Soviet planes. Since then, the carrier’s corporate identity has changed several times, going from a white livery to the turquoise paint scheme we know today.

Moving into the 21st century, Vietnam Airlines has continued to become a larger and more connected airline. For example, it joined the SkyTeam alliance in June 2010. More recently, it made history by operating its first-ever scheduled service to the US. This occurred in November 2021, involving a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco,

By Jake Hardiman – Simple Flying – February 3, 2022

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