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National airline of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Previously known by its Vietnamese name Hang Khong Viet Nam until its English name became more widely recognised probably the passengers didn't want to fly in an airline called Hang On Vietnam

After the Viet Minh liberated Hanoi from the French in the 1940s, they found themselves in possession of five small aircraft left behind at Gia Lam airport. After serving a series of domestic routes, the airline started flying internationally from Hanoi to Beijing in 1956. Subsequent international destinations included Vientiane (1976) and Bangkok (1978), using Soviet built aircraft.

During the period of renovation called doi moi (the Vietnamese version of perestroika), Vietnam Airlines started attempting to define itself as an airline similar to that of its South East Asian neighbours, even if it had about twenty years worth of work to catch up on. It got rid of its ageing Soviet fleet of aircraft through phased decommissioning and natural attrition (one of its Turpolevs crashed in Bangkok, killing scores of passengers including the Indian ambassador). It started leasing, then buying, foreign aircraft. Perhaps in an attempt to play the French and Americans off each other, it has inefficiently ended up with both Airbus (10) and Boeing (11) aircraft, along with eight ATR-72s and two Fokker 70s. And it gradually expanded its worldwide network to these destinations:

In Southeast Asia

In Northeast Asia

In Australia

In Europe

It also flies a few code share flights with other airlines, including a China Airlines service to Los Angeles and San Fransisco.

Vietnam Airlines has made various other changes to modernise. They made the first class section look a bit more exclusive and created a butt-ugly VIP lounge (hint: a sofa isn't going to appear more luxurious if you eagerly over-stuff it). In 2002 they changed the corporate branding and identity. Previously they had a rather clever but simple silhouetted blue stork flying past an outlined blue sun (or moon). Now Vietnam Airlines has painted their airliners an odd shade of very dark aquamarine, with a beige coloured lotus leaf sported on the fuselage. Fortunately for their stewardesses they get to wear something more sensible than those free-flowing light ao dais dresses (not something you would want to wear in arrival in Moscow in the middle of winter).

Their support for the international proletariat extends to giving individual touch screen video sets in economy class, where you can choose from about a very limited range of inflight prolefeed films, games (eight hours playing minefield gets tedious) and audio entertainment (only eight or so channels). Unfortunately something often will go wrong with the inflight system, leaving you with not much to do but sleep or read their extensive range of English language periodicals (not) plenty of economic journals available if you are interested in cement production in Soc Trang province.

Vietnam Airlines has a frequent flyer club called the Golden Lotus Club. A return flight to Paris from Saigon would get you a return flight to Dalat or Nha Trang.

The service is not too bad, but the stewardesses don't smile as much as the ordinary folk in Vietnam. Not suprisingly, most come from North Vietnam.

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