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Vietnam's third budget airline finally takes off

Bamboo Airways' maiden flight signals more competition in nation's skies

Crew members of Bamboo Airways stand outside a plane before a flight from Hanoi's Noi Bai airport on Jan. 16.   © Reuters

HANOI -- Bamboo Airways, Vietnam's third low-cost carrier, made its maiden flight on Wednesday after two delays due to failure to obtain government approval.

The launch of the airline is likely to heighten competition between other budget carriers like VietJet Air, pushing down fares in the country's crowded aviation market.

Established in 2017 as a member of real estate developer FLC Group, Bamboo Airways has grown rapidly, with Wednesday's initial voyage from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.

The airline plans to fly 37 domestic routes by the end of this year, connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with resort destinations, according to local media reports. The airline is also eyeing international routes to Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Europe.

FLC Group has developed resorts in Quy Nhon, the capital of Binh Dinh Province, and other regions since its founding in 2008. The group had planned the first flight for Oct. 10 last year, but was delayed after the airline failed to gain government approval. The launch was postponed again in late December for the same reason.

The government appears to have closely examined Bamboo Airways' operating expertise and financial position, as the airline has no previous aviation experience. The airline was finally given the green light on Jan. 12.

In Vietnam, government-owned Vietnam Airlines, budget carrier VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific Airlines, a unit of Vietnam Airlines, all operate domestic routes. With Malaysian budget airline AirAsia's announcement of entering Vietnam's airline market later this year, competition is likely to further intensify.

More than 100 million passengers used Vietnam's domestic airports in 2018, up 13% from a year ago. The country's gross domestic product grew 7.08% last year, the highest among Southeast Asian countries. Demand for air travel is expected to continue increasing.

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