Vietnam’s start-up airline Bamboo Airways, which began operations in January, in expected to soon launch direct flights to the Czech Republic, which has a sizeable ethnic Vietnamese minority, the daily E15 reports.
A Vietnamese representative on the Czech Government Council for National Minorities confirmed that discussions are underway. Initial flights would probably connect Prague with Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) rather than the capital, Hanoi.
“All parties are very interested in launching the line, wanting to open it as soon as possible,” Pham Huu Uyen told E15. Prague Airport director Václav Řehoř said an initial meeting with Bamboo Airways representatives took place in March but declined to provide details.
Bamboo Airways, founded by the Vietnamese real estate company FLC as a hybrid airline with a focus on the international market, has announced major aircraft purchases in recent months in preparation of launching long-haul flights to Europe already in June.
In March, Bamboo Airways agreed to buy as many as 50 narrow-body Airbus SE’s A321neo jets, a month after signed a contract to purchase 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners during U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Hanoi for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
“Our long-term goal is to connect Vietnam with key markets in Asia, Europe and North America, and Dreamliners will allow us to open these long-haul routes,” said FLC Group chairman Trinh Van Quyet, who became Vietnam’s second dollar billionaire last year.
Vietnam agreed in June 2017 during an official visit to Hanoi by Czech President Miloš Zeman to open a direct air route to the Czech Republic and offer visa waivers to its citizens for up to 15 days.
The communist south-eastern Asian country, which has one of the toughest visa policies in Asia has been criticized by tourism industry groups, has set a target of welcoming 20 million foreign visitors in 2020 and developing tourism into a key economic sector.
The Czech Republic’s Vietnamese community, which exceeds 100,000 people, comprises the third biggest group of foreigners in the Czech Republic after Ukrainians and Slovaks. It is the third largest Vietnamese diaspora in Europe, after France and Germany, and the largest in Europe per capita.
Many first came to this country in the Communist era, when Vietnam sought to bolster its skilled workforce by sending thousands of students and guest workers to socialist Czechoslovakia for training and experience.
When the Iron Curtain disappeared, a large number of the Vietnamese here decided to stay rather than return to communist Vietnam.
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