Proposed Vietnamese startup airline Bamboo Airways has boosted its fleet plans with a major Boeing widebody aircraft deal, supplementing an existing agreement for Airbus narrowbodies.

The carrier has committed to ordering 20 Boeing 787-9s, with deliveries tentatively set to occur from April 2020 through 2021. Although the order has yet to be finalized, Boeing said Bamboo has “completed the deposit requirement in mid-June to reserve the 20 airplanes.” The 20 Dreamliners are valued at $5.6 billion at list prices.

Bamboo signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus in March, for up to 24 A321neos. The airline did not reveal when it expects these aircraft to be delivered. The A321neos will have economy and business classes, while the 787s will have economy, business and first classes.

The carrier will be wholly-owned by Vietnam’s FLC Group, which is one of the largest conglomerates in Vietnam. FLC has said that it intends for Bamboo to begin operations in 2019. The group has previously stated that the carrier will launch with third-party leased aircraft before the A321neos begin arriving.

Bamboo will have a hybrid business model and will be based in Hanoi. It will serve selected domestic Vietnam routes, as well as international markets. The airline plans to target Northeast Asian markets such as China, Korea and Japan, but has long-term ambitions to serve Europe and North America as well.

The main aim is to link international markets to Vietnamese leisure destinations. FLC has previously said that Bamboo will have a different approach from existing Vietnamese carriers. Instead of focusing on the major cities and routes which are already overloaded with capacity, the new airline will target niche markets.

This strategy will involve direct flights from international and domestic markets to newly emerging tourist destinations. Bamboo will particularly serve destinations where FLC Group has heavily invested in tourism infrastructure, the company said.

In its first two years of operation, Bamboo will focus on domestic routes with 8-10 flights to destinations such as Quang Ninh, Haiphong, Thanh Hoa, Quy Nhon and Nha Trang, FLC said in April. International flights are to be added from the third year of operation. By 2023, FLC plans for Bamboo to have 24 domestic and 16 international routes.

The carrier began a recruitment drive in April, with the aim of hiring almost 600 staff. These include about 90 technical and maintenance workers, 92 pilots, and 250 flight attendants.

Adrian Schofield