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How a Vietnamese Airline CEO Bet on Bikinis and Became a Billionaire

Women By
Vietnamese Businesswoman Made Billions on Bikinis
Billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, founder and chief executive officer of VietJet Aviation. (Linh Luong Thai/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


One savvy Southeast Asian businesswoman turned bikinis into billions. According to Travel + Leisure, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, one of just two billionaires in Vietnam, founded budget airline VietJet on the age-old principle that sex sells.

Back in 2011, VietJet launched its first ad campaign featuring flight attendants wearing bikinis. Of course, the stunt didn’t come without controversy, leading a year later to the Vietnamese government fining the airline a paltry sum, per the BBC. But that didn’t stop the airline from taking over 40 percent of marketshare and continuing to push the limits with its ads.

“We don’t mind people associating the airline with the bikini image,” Nguyen said in an interview with Bloomberg. “If that makes people happy, then we are happy.” Interestingly, the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger franchise just abandoned its bikini-clad ad campaign.

Below, watch a behind-the-scenes video of one of VietJet’s more recent ads.