VietJet to sign major Boeing deal during Trump-Kim summit, say sources

A VietJet aircraft is seen at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Reuters pic)

HANOI: Fast-growing Vietnamese budget airline VietJet Aviation is expected to sign a major jet deal with Boeing on the sidelines of next week’s Trump-Kim summit, according to sources familiar with the matter.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold their second summit in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Feb 27-28.

Holding a signing ceremony during Trump’s visit would help emphasise strengthening economic and military ties between the United States and Vietnam.

VietJet, while not government-owned, increasingly uses state visits to showcase major plane orders balanced between Boeing and Airbus.

It signed a deal to buy 100 Boeing 737 MAX narrowbody jets when former US President Barack Obama visited Hanoi in 2016.

The airline is likely to finalise next week a separate provisional deal agreed last year at the Farnborough Airshow to buy another 100 Boeing 737 MAX jets worth almost US$13 billion at list prices, sources said on condition of anonymity due to an expected announcement by VietJet.

The US Federal Aviation Administration declared last week that Vietnam complied with international aviation standards, in a move that would allow Vietnamese carriers to fly there for the first time and codeshare with US airlines.

VietJet said last week it planned to purchase widebody jets capable of US flights to open routes to cities with large Vietnamese communities in the United States, such as in California.

It might be too early for VietJet to place a widebody order, said one of the sources.

Another source briefed on the matter said the deal for 100 737 MAX jets was already on Boeing’s books, having been firmed up earlier and listed as an unidentified customer.

Boeing declined to comment. VietJet did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

VietJet finalised a deal in November with Airbus for 50 A321neo jets during a visit to Hanoi by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe that had also been announced provisionally at the Farnborough Airshow.

VietJet operates 385 flights daily within Vietnam and to places such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.

However, industry analysts have questioned whether the airline will take delivery of all the aircraft on order as the aerospace industry reaches the peak of an extended growth phase.