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Friday, November 25, 2016

(Un)dress for success: Vietnam has its first-ever woman billionaire, thanks to... bikinis!

VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is No.62 on Forbes' list of 'Power Women' in 2016.
(AFP file)
  • VietJet CEO: 'If that makes people happy, then we are happy'
Alright, we've heard the phrase "dress for success" time and again, but VietJet Air has given it a whole new meaning - literally.

It all began when the Ho Chi Minh-headquartered low-cost carrier was thrust into the limelight sometime in 2012 (it was started the previous year) when it was fined about $1,000 for an unexpected complementary "service" while in the air - an inflight bikini show.

Unsuspecting passengers suddenly saw the scantily-clad air hostesses strutting along the aisle, doing a little "Hawaiian" dance after which they interacted with passengers and handed out toys to the youngsters. And yes, you could've guessed that almost everyone pulled out their smartphones, which is why the whole thing landed on YouTube.That didn't sit well with the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam; while a VietJet official said that since, at that time, it was "the first flight to [the] beach town [of Nha Trang]", the stunt was their way to "make passengers happy and to improve our customer service", the Vietnamese government arm wasn't having any of it, saying that it was in violation of its rules by organising an unapproved show on an aeroplane.

Fast-forward to today, and VietJet is still at it with their sky-high show. Oh, and they're even on the carrier's annual calendar.

And the result? It's made its CEO, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, Vietnam's first woman billionaire. She's the co-founder and chairman of Sovico Holdings, which owns VietJet Air and HD Bank. She's also No.62 on Forbes' list of "Power Women" in 2016.

Viva Lifestyle and Travel further reported that her staff "do in fact make the call between wearing the bikini or a traditional uniform". Guess what (and good news to some): many are "opting for the former".

Thao says that the "sight of these young ladies strutting their stuff is powerful amidst Vietnam's conservative culture", and it could be "empowering to the women themselves".

Apparently, Thao is fine with her airline and bikinis mentioned in the same breadth: "If that makes people happy, then we are happy," she says.

Well, that should rake in more curious (and interested) passengers.

At least it's not an engine malfunction, terrorist attack or a hijack that would make temperatures rise on a flight, right?

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