Ho Chi Minh City-based VietStar Airlines is hoping to launch LCC operations this year, pending government approval.

The carrier intends to begin operations with five leased Boeing 737-800s, according to VietStar Aero Engineering commercial director Trinh Quoc Cuong. The company plans to expand to up to 15 aircraft by 2020, Cuong said on the sidelines of Aviation Week’s MRO East Asia conference.

Cuong said VietStar needs to gain government certification to begin operating narrowbodies. However, the approval process is complicated by the fact that numerous other airline startups are applying to launch in Vietnam, and the government is concerned about putting additional stress on constrained airport infrastructure.

Assuming it gains approval, the airline will serve domestic and international routes, Cuong said. It will likely compete on the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City route, which is already one of the world’s busiest domestic markets.

At present, VietStar operates small jet and turboprop aircraft, including a Legacy 600, a KingAir B350 and an M28.

VietStar’s main airline customers are LCCs Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet, which are both A320 operators. It also performs business jet work for its sister carrier as well as other operators. The company has gained approval for MRO work from Cambodian authorities, and is seeking to add C-check work from a Cambodian carrier, Cuong said.

The VietStar Aero Engineering unit operates three hangars in Ho Chi Minh City, with total capacity for five narrowbodies. The company can perform heavy maintenance up to C-check on Airbus A320s and A321s, and line maintenance for 737s.

While VietStar has no firm plans to add hangars, it has significant potential for growth. The company owns land at three other airports—Hanoi, Da Nang and Can Tho—providing acreage to build more narrowbody hangars and potentially a widebody hangar.

Adrian Schofield avweekscho@gmail.com