Just a month after my trip to Tokyo, it was time to embark on another trip. This time to Vietnam, both Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, with a colleague. The main highlight of the trip was to visit Halong Bay (1 of the 1000 places to visit b4 u die) as well as the Cu Chi tunnels which I missed out on the last visit to HCM City. The trip was planned to be very budget, flying Tiger up to Hanoi and back from HCMC, with a domestic flight from Hanoi to HCM on Vietnam Airlines (VN was only slightly more expensive than Jetstar Pacific, so why not fly VN instead). Total ticket cost including taxes was around S$300 for SIN-HAN-SGN-SIN for 3 flights. Pretty decent if you ask me.
09 May 2010
Singapore (SIN) - Hanoi (HAN)
Nothing interesting to report down here. We will be departing from budget terminal which I guess most of you readers knew how it looks and feels like. Bought some snacks and drinks from the 7-11 store in the departure hall to avoid paying the "above average" onboard food/drinks prices. Flight today was operated by Tiger's oldest plane, 9V-TAB (TAA has been sent to Tiger Oz).
9V-TAB, looking in need of a wash
Passengers queuing up for boarding
Boarding has begun. Pax walking across the tarmac to the aircraft.
Boarding. Last photo taken before I was stopped by a security officer from taken photos on the tarmac.
Look how dirty the fuselage is! Black streaks all around.
Was welcomed aboard by a Ti-girl. Total of 4 crew onboard today and the flight was pretty full. Most were middle-aged Singaporeans going on a holiday. Me and my friend had an empty seat on our row of 3-seater. What luck! The crew were very friendly and helped passengers settle down quickly for an on time departure. Flying time was announced to be 3hrs 10min. Even though the exterior of the plane was very dirty, the interior looked clean, even though some of the seat covers were fraying. However, still not that bad for a more than 5 yrs old plane.
Boarding was completed rather quickly.
Another Tiger plane preparing to depart for Phuket before us.
Welcome announcement, pushback and safety briefing
Taxi to the runway and mandarin safety briefing
SQ773 going to Jakarta
Tiger departing for Phuket
Takeoff from Changi Rwy 02C. Count the number of SQ birds parked at the remote stands!
Climbing after takeoff
Stuff in the seat pocket. Inflight magazine, duty free catalogue and safety card.
Seat pitch was tight, as expected for a budget airline, but tolerable for the short flight. However I find Jetstar's seat pitch to be worse as my knees would be touching the seatback in front on Jetstar's A320s.
Cruising. The flight was very smooth due to the good weather enroute.
After the seatbelt signs pinged off, the crew first came around with Vietnam immigration cards followed by sale of hot meals, snacks and beverages. Options for the hot meals (which were offered for flights above 3hrs) were chicken rice and one other choice which I could not remember. However no takers for the hot meals. Sale of snacks and beverages were also not too great, as I counted less than 10 sales. In the meantime, I secretly tucked into my bring-onboard snacks and drinks. Service was completed very quickly and the crew disappeared behind the curtains of the galleys. Duty-free was offered about 1hr prior to landing (some sales) followed by another round of beverage sales with no takers again.
Crew conducting snack/beverage sales service
Lavatory. Surprisingly, it was rather clean, unlike the horribly stained toilet bowl on my last Jetstar flight.
Cabin view. Very full flight.
Starting our descent into Hanoi.
Descending. Engine and wing view.
Final approach into Hanoi. It was rather smoggy outside.
Landing in Hanoi. The landing was smooth!
Some planes during taxi to the terminal:
Vietnam Airlines ATR72
Lots of planes on the tarmac
Parked beside a Vietnam Airlines A321
China Airlines A343
Even though with all the Tiger bashing in the news recently, I still find service on Tiger rather acceptable if everything goes well. If expections are lowered, Tiger is a perfectly budget airline to fly with.
Now for the more interesting flight after 3 nights in Halong & Hanoi, Vietnam Airlines domestic from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Some fun facts, apparently, the HAN-SGN route is the longest domestic route within Vietnam. In fact, HAN-SGN is of a longer distance than SGN-SIN!!
12 May 2010
Hanoi (HAN) - Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
A330-200 (was scheduled to be a A330-300 which went tech)
The check-in for VN217 opened 2hrs before STD. The Hanoi airport terminal looked quite run-down and check-in desks were allocated for specific flights even though they were all operated by VN. 3 counters were allocated for our flight today. Both domestic and international flights shared the same terminal but different security check areas. Definitely not a first world standard airport terminal.
Checking in for the flight
A VN B772ER at the gate & a TG A300 taxiing for takeoff
Security was painless as it was a domestic flight and we entered the departure. The domestic departure hall was just rows of chairs with a cafe, a bar and a convenience store, as well as VN's business class lounge.
Soon, our scheduled A330-300 arrived from SGN. Note the white nosecone.
Our STD was 1230hrs. However, by 1215hrs, boarding was still not announced. I had the feeling that our flight would be delayed and how right I was when the ground staff announced that our flight would be delayed till 1430hrs due to a change of aircraft. I suspect that our A333 has some technical problems. However, VN arranged lunch for all the pax, which consisted of either a bowl of noodles or packet of fried rice and a tea/bottle of water, all from the only cafe in the domestic departure hall. It was a madhouse as all pax scrambled to the small little cafe to exchange their boarding pass for the free meal.
The free lunch provided by VN. It was ok but not filling.
Nothing much else to do but some plane-spotting:
SQ B777-200 departing for Singapore
VN A320 departing for some domestic destination
Jetstar Pacific just arrived.
At about 1345hrs, buses pulled up to our gate. It seems that we would be departing from a remote gate instead. Wondering what aircraft would we swap to??
The A333 being towed away from the gate, probably for maintenance?
Knowing that some seats would be changed as VN has only 1 A330-300 and any other aircraft that we were swapped onto would definitely not be a A333, I was curious if there would be any chaos during boarding. While the gate agents checked our boarding passes, they had stickers of new seat numbers which they would paste over the original seat numbers on the boarding passes. However, our seats were not changed. We then go through the aerobridge and down onto the tarmac to the buses which would bring us to our aircraft. It was an opportunity to tour the airport tarmac! Eventually we pulled up next to a newish A330-200. New aircraft model for me!! All of VN's A332s are ex-Swiss and so retained Swiss's seats and configurations.
Pulling up to our plane.
Boarding via stairs from the rear door.
The flaps were not fully retracted and were at their take-off configuration.
Boarding in progress. We were welcomed by 2 male crew members at the door. Newspapers were available on a trolley at the aircraft door too! Boarding music and video were played on the PTVs.
Seat pitch was pretty generous!
Stuff in the seat pocket. Inflight magazine, safety card and airsick bag.
After all pax boarded, doors were closed. We were welcomed aboard by the purser.
During the welcome announcement, refreshing tissues were handed out by the crew.
Safety demo was then shown. The safety demonstration was done manually.
We then taxied to the runway for takeoff.
Takeoff for SGN!
Fasten seatbelt signs turned off.
Airshow on PTV. This is my only entertainment throughout the flight. The only forms of entertainment were either the airshow or a short silent documentary about soccer. No headphones were given out and no other entertainment were available on the PTVs. There were also no entertainment listings in the inflight magazine for both long/short haul flights. Wonder how is the IFE programming like for the longer haul international flights.
Shortly after seatbelt signs were turned off, lunch service started. We were offered a choice of either pork with rice or fish with noodles. Along with the meal were a fresh fruits. Juices/soft drinks were also offered and coffee/tea service was conducted after the meal service. The crew were pleasant and polite yet efficient.
Received my meal with an orange juice.
Had the pork with rice. It was standard airplane food. Not excellent but not too bad.
Close-up of the meal
Cabin view after meal service
The sun is setting and descent just started.
Approaching Ho Chi Minh City.
Speedbrakes up, flaps down
Landing into Ho Chi Minh City. The airport is right smack in the middle of the city!
Taxi to the domestic terminal. Note the flaps are not fully retracted again.
Other VN aircraft also did not fully retract their flaps. Guess this is the airline's SOP.
Thank you for flying Vietnam Airlines!
View of the business class seats while deplaning.
Vietnam Airlines offers a reasonably good product for the route. Other than the delay, the rest of the flight was comfortable. However, they would still have a long way to catch up with the other powerhouse airlines in Asia.
Last flight on the standard Tiger budget flight. Let the photos and videos do the talking.
14 May 2010
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) - Singapore (SIN)
Some plane-spotting in SGN:
VN A321 departing soon for Singapore
Air Asia "Truly Asean" A320
EVA Air A330-200
China Southern A320
Our baby airbus arrived very early!!
Lufthansa B747-400 in special livery. Anyone knows what livery is it?
MH B737-400 beside us.
9V-TRB being prepared for the flight home. 2nd time I would be flying on this aircraft. The previous time was to Penang.
Boarding. The flight was very full, mostly business men & women returning to Singapore for the weekend.
View of the seats. Legroom was better on the A319.
Seatpitch was better than A320s.
Waiting for pushback. Doors were closed 15min before STD!
Taxi to the runway
Takeoff to Singapore
Overflying the city
Banking. See how built up HCM is!
Some rivers and wetlands
Snacks and beverages for sale
Flying around the evil-looking cloud.
The sun is setting
Arrival into Changi Rwy 02L almost 30min early!! Well-done, Tiger! Who says that Tiger flights are always delayed.
Parked at Budget Terminal
Please feel free to comment on my short report.
Next flights would be a short trip to Kuching in June on Tiger and MH. Watch out!