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Vietjet proves that a budget airline can offer travelers something extra

Oct 15,2018
Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh
Top: The Vietnamese airline Vietjet offers not only direct flights to Vietnam from Korea, but also puts holiday travelers on connecting flights to get them other popular leisure travel destinations like Da Lat, pictured left, or Haiphong, pictured right. Above: One of the aircraft in the Vietjet fleet. [CATCHEM]
Who says budget airlines have to only offer a minimum amount of service to keep costs low for their customers? Vietjet Air, the largest airline in Vietnam, is making convenience its priority to offer customers a hassle-free trip. It is working to make its name better known among Korean travelers looking to fly to destinations in Southeast Asian countries.

The airline’s CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao was awarded the “Asean Entrepreneur Award” Thursday at the 19th edition of the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul for her contributions to bolstering travel and trade between Vietnam and Korea.

According to Vice President Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh, who came to Korea to accept the award as proxy for the CEO, more than five million people traveled between Korea and Vietnam last year. and Vietjet Air transported over two million of them to their destinations in the two countries.

“We want to [further diversify] the routes we fly to in Korea,” said Nguyen during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, adding that the demographics of the passengers are different depending on their destinations. Travelers are about 70 percent Korean on flights from Korea to holiday destinations like Da Nang or Nha Trang and 80 percent Vietnamese on flights leaving for Korea from big cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.

Currently Vietjet uses airports in Incheon, Busan, Daegu, Muan and Cheongju to take travelers to four different regions: Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The airline is scheduled to launch a new regular route from Korea to Phu Quoc, another holiday destination, in December. Vietjet has been working to boost its leisure travel business, and also caters to people who want to get to destinations where direct flights are not yet available, such as Da Lat and Haiphong.

“We dream big and make that dream come true,” she said.

The company stresses convenience in travel. It wants to do everything needed when planning for travel. Right now, the airline works with travel companies that sell packages for those looking for things to do at their destinations, but it plans to bring that service in house eventually.

Starting in 2021, customers should be able to visit the airline’s website to not only book a travel package but individually book hotels or a rental car. The site will also have shopping items available, such as beach gear and luggage or anything related to travel.

“We are working with travel insurers already,” said Nguyen, adding that the airline has already taken a step to make almost all bookings and travel purchases possible on its website. Tour programs will be available not only in Vietnamese cities, but also in cities in Korea and other countries where the airline flies.

The reason that Vietnam’s first private budget airline grew to become the country’s No. 1 airline is because it dreamed big, Nguyen continued. About 10 years ago, flying was still a luxury to almost everyone in Vietnam. The company was established to provide more chances to fly.

“We saw the potential. There were so many people in Vietnam who had a dream to be able to fly, as they considered flying luxury transportation,” said Nguyen. She added the initial vision of the company was in making air transportation something familiar and popular in the country. Now the company is moving to provide extra conveniences while still keeping its original idea - providing what’s essential.

Its premium program, SkyBoss, doesn’t offer bigger seats but provides fast check-ins and boarding as well as additional luggage allowances and free itinerary changes. These perks are aimed at business travelers or those with tight schedules.

“Our SkyBoss is not for luxury travel, but for those who need to have flexible treatment and whose [priority] is saving time,” said the vice president, adding that considering the short routes it runs, most of its customers don’t put too much focus on getting slightly more comfortable seats. She said about 10 percent of seats are usually occupied by SkyBoss members.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]