Several pilots have left Vietnam after restructuring Bamboo Airways in the last two months after late payments in salaries, according to two people familiar with the matter. The people said about 30 foreign pilots departed during that time, more than 10% of the airline’s total pilot staff in June. Messages seen by Reuters from an internal company chat forum show some salary payments to foreign pilots have been late.
A spokeswoman for the airline, which has no publicly listed stock, said it aimed to make its operations stable and efficient. She declined to comment on the issue of the departures.
In 2020, Bamboo made an impressive comeback in the aviation industry despite the COVID-19 storm, which saw domestic airlines suffering huge losses, with the airline posting a pre-tax profit of VND400 billion ($17.4 million). Standing Vice President and CEO of the airline, Dang Tat Thang, told Reuters that Bamboo is continuing to strive for success in 2021.
“Bamboo Airways has recently reduced the number of pilot personnel to serve this goal, which is to offer our passengers the most convenient and safe flight service. The airline has a large number of aircraft and a modern fleet, allowing us to offer flights to destinations that are difficult to exploit with small aircraft like Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City – Rach Gia or Hanoi – Con Dao,” the airline said in a statement. It denied that the late payment of salaries was the reason behind the departures.
The airline has also made strides in other areas, including establishing the country’s first Business Lounge at critical airports and becoming the first private airline to receive an International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate. “Bamboo Airways will continue to strive for success in its business and bring tangible benefits to the aviation market, as well as the economy and tourism of Vietnam,” the airline said.
Earlier this year, the airline said it would launch flights to the United States by the end of 2021. But that goal now looks elusive. The airline has yet to secure approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate direct flights between the two countries.
The carrier has been undergoing a significant overhaul, including reducing its fleet, changing routes, and cutting costs. It has also distanced itself from its former controlling shareholder, FLC Group, a property group facing allegations of stock manipulation by the Vietnamese authorities.
Nevertheless, the airline has maintained that it is operating stably and planning to raise capital from strategic shareholders. One of its principal financial backers, Sacombank, has expressed confidence in the long-term prospects of Bamboo and indicated interest in increasing its investment in the airline.
In addition to the nonstop flight between LA and HANOI, Bamboo plans to open flights to other cities in the United States and other destinations in Asia. It also hopes to boost tourism ties with the United States, especially in agriculture and education.