Another long weekend in Singapore, another chance to get away from the city and go to a tiny town on the coast of some Southeast Asian nation. This time we decided to go to Vietnam. The plan was to fly 3K from SIN to SGN on Friday night, meet up with some friends who run a children's charity in HCMC for breakfast on Saturday, and then fly on VN to Nha Trang, a small town of about 300,000 up the coast from HCMC and have a relaxing long weekend to relieve stress and forget about work. I will keep the words to a minimum and let the pics do most of the talking. This is one of the very few TRs on domestic flights in Vietnam. I had previously written a report on VN from SGN to HUI and from HUI to HAN.
We woke up early on Saturday and walked over from the Caravelle hotel to Kumho Asiana Plaza (all the major Korean chaebol are in Vietnam) for a coffee with our friend, the director of the charity in Saigon. After a one hour meeting to discuss a fundraising event in Singapore, we made our way to Au Parc, one of the many nice little French cafés in HCMC. After a nice breakfast there, complete with Vietnamese coffee and a baguette, we quickly went back to the hotel, checked out, and took a taxi to the airport.
We got a metered taxi and we realized he was taking all the small backroads which were clogged with traffic. We told the driver we didn't have much time, so he said if we paid him a flat fee of VND150,000 (about USD7) he would take the bigger roads which had less traffic. Money can solve many problems!
When we arrived at the domestic terminal of Tan Son Nhat International Airport it was only 11:30am, so we had plenty of time before our 12:55pm flight. We headed to the empty check in counters for VN, which are in a separate area than those for BL (Jetstar Pacific - the domestic subsidiary of Jetstar) and P8 (Air Mekong). We were asked for our "ticket", so luckily I printed out the email we received from VN. When traveling in the developing world, I've found it very useful to print out all documentation for your flights. We were also asked to show the credit/debit card which we used for the booking, so I had to show her all of them because I couldn't remember which one I used. We also requested a window and middle seat, which incidentally took a good 15 minutes to settle.
I saw we got seats 38E and 38G. For a moment I thought perhaps we would be flying on a widebody, but later I realized there is no letter F in the Vietnamese alphabet, and perhaps that's why the seats on a narrowbody are ABC DEG. We then headed upstairs through security and towards the gate area.
The domestic terminal of SGN is a bit older and is showing its age, although a new terminal is being built. I believe the international terminal was renovated about 4 or 5 years ago. They had many Samsung flat screens with FIDS and one old school flip board with the flight info. I tried to take a pic but there was a lot of reflection.
At around 12:45pm a crowd started to gather in front of gate 8, but there was no sign that we would be boarding any time soon. Finally around 1:00pm an announcement was made, first in Vietnamese and then in English calling for our flight to board. We then headed down a flight of stairs and boarded a bus that took us across the tarmac to our plane. A lot of interesting birds were on the platform: VN A32Xs, an ATR72 in the old livery, one or two A330s as well as a 772. I also saw a Jetstar Pacific A320 and a couple of 734s. I didn't get a chance to see any Air Mekong aircraft. I had originally tried to fly Air Mekong to Nha Trang, but even though they showed up as operating the route with a B1900 on the OAG guide, I wasn't able to book a flight on that route on their website.
We decided to board through the back stairs since we were seated on row 38, which turned out to be a good idea because we were in the second to last row of the plane. Boarding was quite fast and efficient and most of the passengers were Russian tourists. Nha Trang is so popular with Russians that there are two daily flights to Khabarovsk. By about 1:00pm everyone had boarded and the a/c and we started to push back. We taxied past the domestic and international terminals and were soon on our takeoff roll on runway 25R.
Soon after takeoff the captain (he had an American accent, while the first officer had a German accent) came on the PA and explained that we hadn't been able to leave on time because of bad weather en route and at Nha Trang. Indeed throughout the flight it was very bumpy, particularly on descent.
The cruise lasted only about 15-20 mins and after a water run we were on descent towards NHA. The scenery on descent was quite impressive, but unfortunately the weather didn't look very good (and indeed it rained during our three day stay).
We landed on runway 02 and taxied to the small terminal. I was very surprised to see such a modern terminal, especially with airbridges. Inside the terminal was very modern as well, very much like a lot of the new airports in China's second and third tier cities.
After two and a half days of exploring Nha Trang, eating great food, and just relaxing in general, it was time to go back. We arrived at the airport quite early, around noon, and there weren't many people there. The VN check in desks were open for our flight as well as for a flight to HAN. After checking in we went to a café for a coffee and to wait for the security checkpoint to open.
We headed over to security around 1:40pm and there was a line already. After security, we turned right towards gate 1. There are four gates at this airport. Two of them have an airbridge and the other two board via bus. While waiting for our flight it started to rain very hard, and by 2:00pm our plane hadn’t arrived. There was an A320 at gate 2 and boarding had started. However, the FIDS didn’t show any information on gate number and there were no screens above the gate indicating the flight that was boarding. This confused most of the foreign passengers, but eventually it was clear that the flight boarding was the one to HAN and that the plane operating the flight to SGN hadn’t even arrived.
Finally around 3:00pm you could hear the reverse thrust and we saw the VN A321 arriving from SGN. It was a full flight as there were a lot of passengers deplaning, but the cleaning crew did a good job in cleaning the aircraft very fast. Within about 20mins of arrival, we were already boarding. That was a very quick turnaround!
Once everyone was seated, the Vietnamese captain came on the PA during pushback explaining the delay. Apparently the weather had gotten pretty bad between SGN and NHA that the plane had to circle around NHA for nearly an hour waiting to land in better weather.
We taxied to runway 20 and had a very fast and powerful takeoff. After takeoff we had a very nice view of the bay below and made a turn to the left towards the South China Sea. The service again consisted of bottled water. I wonder if there was a meal service in J, but given the cruise time was only about 15 – 20 mins, I thought they got any food. Perhaps only a wider choice of drinks.
Approach into SGN was bumpy due to the weather, but once we got closer to the city it was only partly cloudy, sunny, and a nice 27C. We landed on runway 25R and taxied through the international apron towards the domestic terminal. This time, we deplaned through the airbridge.
All in all the flights were quite good, although not enough time to gauge the service levels on VN. However, the ground services were largely good. Both flights had significant delays, but they were due to weather and out of control.
I hope you enjoyed reading this TR. My other TRs can be found below:
Yes, the pictures are very, very eloquent. I almost feel as if I had been on those flights. However, perhaps you could tell us more about your perceptions, especially regarding the crew both at the airports and on board.
Why not??? I guess the "ph" solves that, but wtf? Maybe the post-colonial Vietnamese wanted to break all ties with the French?
Quoting Coal (Thread starter): I was very surprised to see such a modern terminal, especially with airbridges. Inside the terminal was very modern as well, very much like a lot of the new airports in China's second and third tier cities.
I know, I loved the ceiling. It is quite cool.
Quoting Coal (Thread starter): After two and a half days of exploring Nha Trang, eating great food, and just relaxing in general, it was time to go back
Where are my pics?
Quoting Coal (Thread starter): We landed on runway 25R and taxied through the international apron towards the domestic terminal.
It is very cool you had the chance to see and snap a pic of the SkyTeam-livery VN A332. It is very cool!
Coal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 1625 posts, RR: 6 Reply 5, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 4684 times:
Quoting EddieDude (Reply 1): Wow! This is such a nice report. Thanks a lot for sharing. It has been a while since your last report, and I was missing them. I am happy now! The pics are fantastic and plentiful... awesome man!
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 2): Nice trip report, thanks for describing VN for us!
VN looks to be a pretty decent carrier!
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 3): Nice report and pictures, brought back memories of my trip to Vietnam a couple of years back, lovely country.
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 4): Nice report Coal, Thanks. Reminds me of my first ever A321 flight with Pacific Air (?) from Danang (DAD) to SGN.
Were they the predecessor of BL?
Nxt Flts: QR SIN-DPS | SQ DPS-SIN | 3K SIN-SGN-SIN | SQ SIN-PEK | CA PEK-FNJ-PEK | CX PEK-HKG-CGK