On the 7th and 8th of May 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, the Embassy of Vietnam in the US, competent authorities of Vietnam and the US, and Vietnam Airlines jointly organised Flight VN1 from San Francisco (US) to Van Don (Vietnam) to repatriate more than 340 Vietnamese nationals. The passengers consisted of mostly children under 18, the elderly, people with medical conditions, and students without accommodation due to dormitory closure.

Vietnam Airlines President _ CEO Duong Tri Thanh visited the cabin crew before departure in Vietnam

Previously, Flight VN1 from Hanoi to San Francisco carried US citizens to return home as well as medical equipment and supplies from local organizations supporting the Vietnamese community in the US.

Pre-flight briefing in Vietnam
Vietnamese nationals checking-in at San Francisco Airport

The US is not one of Vietnam Airlines’ frequent destinations, and the US – Vietnam non-stop route covered a distance of more than 25,000km for returns. The arrangement of this flight required thorough coordination and enormous efforts among the Vietnamese state agencies, US authorities and Vietnam Airlines. The application for a flight permit went through multiple stages. It took many days of working with the US agencies to obtain the permit for the repatriation flight departing on the 7th of May for Vietnamese nationals in the US.

Passengers embarking the aircraft in Van Don
Passengers in Van Don

These repatriation flights were operated on one of Vietnam Airlines’ most modern and biggest aircraft – Boeing 787-10. Compared to a regular long-haul flight crew of 14 to 16 members, Flight VN1’s crew doubled that and arranged 30 members including 8 pilots, 16 flight attendants, 2 technicians, and 2 ground service staff members. Such supplements aimed to ensure flight safety and health of the flight crew. The captain of the flight has more than 26 years of experience under his belt. He also flew Vietnam Airlines’ first Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 787-10 from their assembly facilities in the US to Vietnam in 2015 and 2019. Apart from pilots and flight attendants, seasoned technicians and ground service staff members were available to carry out passenger and baggage services as well as necessary technical assessment in US airports.

These special flights doubled the number of crew members of a regular flight

The total flight lasted more than 33 hours throughout its departure from Noi Bai to the US and returned to Van Don. Onround and in-flight service delivery strictly complied with regulations on pandemic prevention and flight safety. The flight crew was equipped with complete medical protective gear, and their communication was restricted during the service delivery. Passengers went through pre-boarding temperature screening and were required to wear face masks for the entirety of the flight. After landing in Van Don, the passengers were taken to centralized quarantine areas per the regulations while the entire aircraft, from the cockpit to the passenger cabin, was cleaned and disinfected.

Under the Prime Minister’s direction, Vietnam’s authorities, overseas representative agencies, and domestic airlines have organized repatriation flights for Vietnamese citizens with special circumstances in France, UAE, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, etc. The respective organisations will review people’s wishes, the quarantine capabilities of cities and provinces, and the pandemic’s development to continue to operate commercial flights to bring Vietnamese nationals home.