Vietnam Airlines, SAS, United Unveil New Long-Haul Routes

Auckland skyline

United Airlines’ new route to Auckland, New Zealand, from Los Angeles is part of the carrier’s expansion of its South Pacific network.

Credit: Samuel Ferrara/Unsplash

Vietnam Airlines, SAS Scandinavian Airlines and United Airlines have unveiled plans to expand their long-haul networks, targeting destinations in Australia, Thailand and New Zealand, respectively.


Australia’s Melbourne Airport is set to gain a new link to Vietnam from June as traffic between the two countries continues to rise.

Vietnam Airlines has scheduled the start of a route from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport to the city in the state of Victoria from June 15, operating twice a week. Service will be on Thursdays and Sundays using a 305-seat Airbus A350-900, data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows.

The carrier already serves the Melbourne market from Ho Chi Minh City, flying six times per week. Frequencies are scheduled to rise to daily from June. The SkyTeam alliance member also offers daily flights to Sydney from Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a 2X-weekly service from Hanoi.

Once the Hanoi-Melbourne route begins, the airline will provide some 10,980 two-way seats between Vietnam and Australia, up by about 29% on current levels. The figure is also around 19% higher than before the pandemic in 2019.


The planned expansion comes as Vietnamese LCC Vietjet is targeting Australia for the next phase of its growth. The airline debuted in the country on April 8, linking Ho Chi Minh City and Melbourne, with a second route from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney starting on April 12. Brisbane becomes Vietjet’s third Australian city from June 16 with the launch of a 2X-weekly service from Ho Chi Minh City.

The increased capacity between Melbourne and Vietnam will boost two-way leisure and VFR traffic, as well as increase trade opportunities. Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Australia reached a record at $12.4 billion in 2021, data from Vietnam’s General Statistics Office shows, while air freight exports of products from the state of Victoria to Vietnam were valued at $113 million in 2021-22, up 77% on the previous 12 months.

Victoria is also a popular tourism and study destination for visitors from Vietnam. Around 9,500 Vietnamese students are currently enrolled at Victorian institutions—one of the largest international student populations.


SAS Scandinavian Airlines is set to resume operations in Thailand’s capital Bangkok after an absence of nearly 10 years.

The airline plans to introduce seasonal service between Copenhagen and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, offering three weekly flights utilizing A350s. Pending government approval, the flights are scheduled to commence on Oct. 30, marking the start of the winter 2023-24 season.

With the launch of this service, Bangkok will become SAS’s third destination in Asia. At present, the airline operates a route between Copenhagen and Shanghai Pudong, with three roundtrips per week. Additionally, flights from Denmark’s capital to Tokyo Haneda resumed on June 1, also with three weekly roundtrips.

SAS last operated flights to Bangkok during the winter of 2013-14. However, the airline suspended service to the city in March 2014, and Bangkok has remained absent from the carrier’s network ever since.

Despite this, there has been a continuous nonstop connection between the cities thanks to Thai Airways International’s longstanding Copenhagen-Bangkok service. The airline, which is a partner of SAS in Star Alliance, operates daily flights utilizing Boeing 777-300ERs.

Prior to the pandemic, Scandinavian LCC Norwegian also operated flights on the 8,631-km (4,660-nm) sector. However, the airline has permanently withdrawn from the market after discontinuing all long-haul flights.

Los Angeles-Auckland

Competition in the Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, market is set to increase in the upcoming northern winter season, with weekly capacity projected to surge by approximately 32% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

United Airlines is the latest carrier to join the fray, with the launch of four-times-a-week service to Auckland from Oct. 28 using Boeing 787-9s, as part of the airline’s wider expansion of its South Pacific network. In addition, United is launching routes from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia, and from San Francisco to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Prior to the pandemic, Air New Zealand and American Airlines both offered nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Auckland, operating 2X-daily and daily, respectively. Currently, Air New Zealand is the only carrier serving the 10,480-km (5,659-nm) sector, but that is about to change.

Delta has announced plans to begin daily operations from Oct. 28, using A350-900s, while American Airlines intends to restart daily flights on Dec. 21, utilizing 787-9s.

The surge in activity is set to push weekly seat capacity to about 17,600 two-way seats by the start of 2024, compared with 13,400 during the same week in 2020, before the onset of the COVID crisis.

According to Sabre Market Intelligence, in 2019, the O&D traffic between Auckland and Los Angeles amounted to 195,709 two-way passengers, equivalent to 268 passengers per day each way.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.