VietJet Air started in 2011 as a budget airline with a need to distinguish itself from the pack. It was started by Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo, a finance and economics major who studied in Moscow. She found early success by bringing trade from Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea into the Soviet Union and building a bit of a portfolio for herself.
While she was a trader she realised that domestic travel within Vietnam would grow, and there would be a demand to meet that growth. She had made a ton of money in the real estate game as well, but she then started to dig into the airline industry, which was new to her. She took 10 years to get her head around it but she still in so quick that her newly established Vietjet became the first privately owned new-age airline in Vietnam in 2007.
VietJet needed something to set them apart, and obviously she looked into airlines past to see what airlines have shirked in recent years for job equality. Babes. It’s early advertisements caused quite a stir, and it’s true, the outfits are scandalous when they’re outside of a beach setting. The hostesses aren’t required to wear the uniform, and have a more modest option to choose from if they’re not in the mood to be leered at.
Nguyen’s story seems to be one of constantly finding gaps in the market and exploiting them to their full potential. In 2011 it became the second private airline to offer domestic flights. It now offers 40% of the nation’s flights with 300 flights a day. This is done with a fleet of 38 planes. The fleet is comprised of 28 Airbus A320-200’s and 10 Airbus A321-200’s.
They aren’t stopping there though. VietJet have finalized an order for 100 737 MAX 200 airplanes, the largest ever single commercial airplane purchase in Vietnam aviation. The first one will land in 2019 while the last in the order should arrive in 2023. The new single-aisle airplane will deliver 20 percent lower fuel use than the first Next-Generation 737s.
Early this year Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao took her airline public. This has suddenly skyrocketed her into a billionaire status, making her the first self made female billionaire in the country. At 46 she’s the second richest person in the country behind real estate tycoon Pham Nhat Vuong.
Since 2015 they served their 25 millionth passenger, and no doubt a few of those passengers have VietJet Calendars hanging on their walls. The bikini flights no longer run, as the airline becomes a serious contender with the national carrier.
However Thao hasn’t ruled out them returning. “If a beautiful image helps our customers feel happy, we will always try our best,” Thao told cnbc.