Vietjet Air Cargo in search of 737-400Fs

Low-cost carrier VietJet is getting serious about carrying both passengers and cargo. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Since commencing operations in December 2011, Hanoi-based VietJet Air has rapidly expanded its passenger aircraft fleet to fifty-four A320/A321-family aircraft. But the growth doesn’t stop there – the ambitious carrier has outstanding orders for one-hundred 737 MAX 200s and seventy-eight A321s. Of greater interest, however, is that freighters may finally be in the cards for the low-cost carrier’s cargo subsidiary, Vietjet Cargo.

On the sidelines of this year’s World Cargo Symposium in Dallas, VietJetAir’s VP Cargo, Do Xuan Quang confirmed to Cargo Facts that the airline was serious about leasing a pair of 737-400Fs, and putting them into commercial service in 2H18. Initially, the narrowbody freighters will connect the carrier’s largest hubs in Vietnam – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – with regional destinations in Asia such as Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. As for the source of the 737-400Fs, VietJet appears to be in talks with various lessors, and is exploring both ACMI and dry-lease options.

We note that this is not the first time VietJet has mentioned freighters. Back in November 2014, the acquisition of an A330-200F seemed all but imminent. But as it turned out, figuring out just how freighters fit into the network of the low-cost carrier was more complicated than anticipated. Since 2014 however, the carrier’s annual cargo handle has ballooned to a point where freighters are easier to justify.

Despite operating mostly short flights under three hours, and with very low average aircraft turnaround times of under 27 minutes, VietJet Air managed to carry upwards of 40,000 tonnes of cargo in the bellyholds of its passenger aircraft in 2017. This is quite a feat considering most flights carry no more than two tonnes of bulk-loaded freight, often consisting of hundreds of small pieces. Freighters would enable VietJet to target larger shipments that are otherwise unfit for the narrowbody bellyhold.

As for the A330-200F, Quang said that he sees medium widebody freighters as the “third phase” of VietJet cargo’s development plan, with phase one being limited to bellyspace, and phase two introducing narrowbody freighters. During this second phase, VietJet said it is also exploring interline partnerships with other carriers.

In recent years, Vietnam has surfaced as a major hotspot for export-fueling industrial production, and lately as a major source of cross-border e-commerce demand. In January, Beijing-based e-tailer JD.com reaffirmed its commitment to the country with an investment in e-commerce platform Tiki.  Then, earlier today, Alibaba announced that it was doubling its investment (to US$4 billion) in its southeast Asian e-commerce affiliate, Singapore-based Lazada. Lazada and Tiki are widely seen as the top e-commerce contenders in Vietnam.

Those interested in hearing more from VietJet and how e-commerce is reshaping air freight logistics across Asia are invited to join us 23-25 April at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai where Do Xuan Quang, VP Cargo, VietJet Air will speak on a roundtable panel dedicated to Asia’s emerging cargo gateways. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com

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