VASCO is an acronym for ‘Vietnam Air Services Company’. The carrier operates s a kind of extension of Vietnam Airlines. The beautiful island of Con Dao belongs to Vietnam and lies due south of the mainland, a short flight of 45 minutes away from the capital.
Date: 4. September 2012
Airline: VASCO for Vietnam Airlines
From: Ho Chin Minh City
To: Con Dao
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Vietnam is a fascinating and beautiful country. Even Saigon has a certain charm about it, although it may not exactly be what you’d call beautiful. The city still retains many traces of its colonial past as part of French Indochine, most noticeably the cathedral of Notre Dame in the centre of town, which was built by French craftsmen using bricks that were brought all the way from Marseille in France.
So far I was always under the impression that Beijing has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, mainly due to the fact that most Chinese seem to have a very developed death wish and simply drive like maniacs. That was until I came to Vietnam…
It’s not that there’s a lot of congestion and you certainly can’t say they drive too fast. They couldn’t even if they tried probably. The thing is, the cities are crawling with Vespas. The Vespa appears to be the most popular mode of transport within the cities and it’s not unusual to see as many as four or five persons on a Vespa at the same time, driving through the narrow streets of Saigon just like thousands of other drivers.
From what I gather the strategy when driving in Vietnam is just to never stop, no matter what’s coming your way. Instead slow down and start honking like something crazy.
Fortunately I had the pleasure of being driven to the airport in the hotel shuttle, which I suppose is quite a derogative term for something with a Mercedes star on the bonnet. The journey to the airport from the hotel takes about 45 minutes, mainly due to the traffic. The airport is actually very close to the city.
I arrive at the domestic terminal, which looks like it’s quite an old facility from its architecture. Apart from that though, it’s clean and seemingly well equipped. I find my row for check-in and am processed by a friendly young lady. Initially she places me on 14A. Just as I turn to leave though, she calls me back and asks me if perhaps I would prefer the exit row ‘because you have long leg’. I have two actually and I agree that by Vietnamese standards I probably am rather tall. So she issues me a new boarding pass for 1D, window seat.
From check-in I head one floor up to the departure lounge. Security is a very relaxed affair, you don’t have to remove your liquids or your laptop, which makes the whole process much easier.
There is a Business Class lounge but the young lady tells me that my Air France Platinum card is only valid in the international lounges if travelling on an Economy Class ticket.
So instead I have a look around the airside shopping area, which is certainly different from the retail selection at other airports. Anyone for some frozen snake perhaps?
Boarding is called on time. Literally. I don’t know if the PA was kaput or what but the gate agent starts yelling something in Vietnamese – the only bit I understand is Con Dao – at which the other passengers at the gate stand up and go through the gate.
So I follow suit. I head down the stairs to the waiting bus. All in all, I count 40 passengers on this flight. The bus driver demonstrated the same driving style on the apron as his compatriots on the public roads. We pass an Farnair ATR-72 freighter, which is a long way from home, before pulling up next to our ride to Con Dao.
Great place to put your hat, officer...
The cabin of this bird looks very well used. I like how the headrest covers look as though they’ve been ironed to death.
The view outside.
From what I can observe, the inner one of the two parallel runways is used for departures at Saigon, while the outer one is used for arrivals. Take-off is quite sprightly for this little turboprop. As announced by the pilot we hit quite a bit of turbulence as soon as we get airborne.
You're rather far from home!
The cabin crew consists of two young Vietnamese ladies, both of which are friendly and welcoming. Right after take-off we are served Jasmine scented cold towels.
Service on this short flight consists of a bottle of VASCO branded still water.
That gives me more time to enjoy the view outside. It’s quite interesting how you can clearly distinguish the brown river water from the greenish-blue sea. I would have thought it would be more gradual.
The approach into Con Dao is lovely. First we pass over the island before doing a u-turn to line up for the approach.
The approach is also quite spectacular. Think St. Maarten. With the only difference being that while St. Maarten’s runway is long enough to accommodate a widebody, Con Dao requires even our little ATR to do some serious breaking action. Most of the approach is over water, then we fly over the beach at a very low altitude before eventually touching down.
As the icing on the cake, I disembark and walk across the small apron to the terminal building.
At arrival the driver taking me to my hotel, the Six Senses Con Dao, is already expecting me. For the next four days I am going to do exactly nothing at all except sit in or by my own pool. What bliss.
Domestic flying in Vietnam is a lot like taking a bus. And from what I can tell, that’s how VASCO understands its mission. No more, no less.
rogerbcn From Andorra, joined Sep 2006, 1126 posts, RR: 19 Reply 1, posted (7 months 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 3431 times:
Anmother great one.
Really great to see an unknown airline here at a.net. When I first read of VASCO, I thought some sort of Portuguese related airline but soon I discovered my mistake when reading your trip report.
Really nice to see that out of such a short hop a great report can come out. It is really interesting to see your comments on Saigon traffic and obviously the approach to Con Dao is really something not to miss. I hope you left your comfortable accommodation to go there for some combing of your hair when airplanes pass so close. By the way, your hotel looks like heaven on earth, really a place to relax and forget about everything... Great!
Surprised to see you were not allowed into the lounge, what are alliances for?
I have read your other reports previous to this one, make some comments later.
"At reise er at leve" H.C. Andersen (Travelling is Living)
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1726 posts, RR: 9 Reply 2, posted (7 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3395 times:
Amazing trip report... a fascinating report about a little known airline.
Good to know about Vietnam Airlines' lounge policy for domestic flights... VN is definitely on the "cheap" side and I hope Skyteam can clarify such policy in its website. The US has similar policies so that is okay, but just make sure that you let your other members know and not to make up rules according to your liking.
Love all your reports and look forward to the rest!
reifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1126 posts, RR: 1 Reply 3, posted (7 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3224 times:
Wow I never heard of that place and it seems so beautiful! what do they charge for these kind of domestic flights? I believe booking is through Vietnam Airlines?
Hope to see more pictures of that place on your next report
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): Really great to see an unknown airline here at a.net. When I first read of VASCO, I thought some sort of Portuguese related airline but soon I discovered my mistake when reading your trip report.
Oh I see, you mean Vasco as in Da Gama?
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): Really nice to see that out of such a short hop a great report can come out.
Flying in Vietnam is great fun. With all the derelict old Soviet airliners there's always something to see or photograph!
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): It is really interesting to see your comments on Saigon traffic
By the time I left Vietnam I was quite a pro. The trick, even for a pedestrian, is to never stop. As soon as you stop, that's when an incident is likely to happen.
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): I hope you left your comfortable accommodation to go there for some combing of your hair when airplanes pass so close.
I did think of it, but then I found out there are only about nine flights a day to Con Dao. So I decided against that and did another lap in the pool instead!
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): Surprised to see you were not allowed into the lounge, what are alliances for?
That was kind of strange. But come to think of it, I don't think those were Vietnam Airlines lounges but contract lounges provided by the airport.
Quoting rogerbcn (Reply 1): I have read your other reports previous to this one, make some comments later.
Thanks Roger, that's very nice of you.
Quoting Carfield (Reply 2): Amazing trip report... a fascinating report about a little known airline.
Thanks! I'd never heard of them either until the bus pulled up next to the aircraft!
Quoting Carfield (Reply 2): Good to know about Vietnam Airlines' lounge policy for domestic flights... VN is definitely on the "cheap" side and I hope Skyteam can clarify such policy in its website. The US has similar policies so that is okay, but just make sure that you let your other members know and not to make up rules according to your liking.
I think they just have another approach to flying and aviation. In Vietnam flying is really not much different to taking a bus or the train. Probably the lounges would be too small if they also had to let people in just because they have status.
Quoting Carfield (Reply 2): Love all your reports and look forward to the rest!
Thanks, also for the encouragement!
Quoting reifel (Reply 3): Wow I never heard of that place and it seems so beautiful! what do they charge for these kind of domestic flights? I believe booking is through Vietnam Airlines?
I've deleted the ticket already, but it wasn't expensive. Booking is a bit complicated via the VN website. On their international website the booking engine wouldn't show flights to Con Dao.
Quoting SASDC8 (Reply 4): Excellent series of reports so far! Your reports have become a must read for me
Thanks, that very nice of you to say. I'm glad you're enjoying the series.
Quoting SASDC8 (Reply 4): VASCO seems quite an interesting airline, but to they offer business class on this flight?
From what I gather it's only Economy Class. VASCO has an interesting status and its relationship to Vietnam Airlines is not entirely clear to me. Some aircraft are in VASCO livery and operate as VASCO flights with a Vietnam Airlines code-share while other aircraft have the full Vietnam Airlines livery. The latter are in better shape I'd say from my own experience.
Quoting SASDC8 (Reply 4): How was the Six Senses Con Dao and how was the beach? I on the lookout for a new beach destination on my next SE Asia trip and Con Dao looks quite interesting.
I can certainly recommend the Six Senses and Con Dao is a beautiful place if you're looking for peace and tranquility. The hotel is laid out like a village and many rooms have access to the beach. As for the beach itself, it's very large and very empty and clean. If you have the opportunity, go there! I definitely plan to return one day.
Thanks for taking the time to comment and for the encouragement guys!
MSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2202 posts, RR: 14 Reply 6, posted (7 months 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 2710 times:
Great trip report, thanks for sharing this installment!
Always nice to get an ATR in Asia, VASCO seems to have an pretty ok service.
Con Dao looks very nice as well, specially with the fall temperatures here.
sultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1173 posts, RR: 29 Reply 8, posted (7 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 2385 times:
I was on the lookout for this exotic domestic Vietnam flight and I was not dissappointed! Great footage and it brings back some fond memories of my (honeymoon) trip to the country in 2007. I didn't know VN has this VASCO subsidiary? The ATR looked like heavily used but I'm glad the FA's were OK (I found them to be quite reserved and that's an understatement) and the water bottle service is always appreciated. Con Dao looks like a tranquil place to spend some time. We stayed on an island as well, but way further up north.
Knightsofmalta From Malta, joined Nov 2005, 1408 posts, RR: 17 Reply 10, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2075 times:
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 6): Great trip report, thanks for sharing this installment!
Thanks, my pleasure!
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 6): Con Dao looks very nice as well, specially with the fall temperatures here.
Con Dao really is a gem. Although on the last day there was not a single cloud in the sky. And then it was too hot!
Quoting vietsky (Reply 7): VASCO is a mix of charter and schedule airlines (on behalf of VNA). So you actually can book the entire aircraft for some domestic route in Vietnam. It is pretty neat airlines.
Thanks for the clarification. I rather liked them too, always good to clock a new airline!
Quoting sultanils (Reply 8): Great footage and it brings back some fond memories of my (honeymoon) trip to the country in 2007.
Vietnam must be a brilliant place for a honeymoon!
Quoting sultanils (Reply 8): The ATR looked like heavily used but I'm glad the FA's were OK
Defintely well used, but you also get the impression that they take their operation very seriously.
Quoting sultanils (Reply 8): And you can't get heads nor tails to that language.
It's quite funny. Just because they use latin script you think you'll be able to identfy at least something. But there's really nothing at all you can make out!
Quoting deltamartin (Reply 9): I can imagine, I have had a growing interest in visiting this country ever since I saw that Top Gear special. For sure seems like a unique place, with a lot of modern-day history.
If you can, try to visit. Vietnam is a great place and has everything, whether you're after a beach holiday or if you want to explore the cities and the country's rich history.
adamspotter From Netherlands, joined Feb 2011, 774 posts, RR: 2 Reply 11, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 1809 times:
Another nice report you made here on this somewhat unknown airline and route we dont see here a lot!
Not sure what to make of VASCO but hey you got into the sint maarten of Vietnam on time
That island looks so nice and peacefull. The hotel looks great especially with the pool. Some nice days filled with relaxing, love it!
Quoting Knightsofmalta (Thread starter): Just as I turn to leave though, she calls me back and asks me if perhaps I would prefer the exit row ‘because you have long leg’. I have two
Knightsofmalta From Malta, joined Nov 2005, 1408 posts, RR: 17 Reply 12, posted (7 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 1613 times:
Hi there Brendan
Quoting adamspotter (Reply 11): Not sure what to make of VASCO but hey you got into the sint maarten of Vietnam on time
VASCO are an interesting set up. The aircraft are well used and their feel is more like sitting in a bus than a plane. But they get the job done and from what I could tell, the staff I encountered very conscientious in regards to safety.
Quoting adamspotter (Reply 11): That island looks so nice and peacefull. The hotel looks great especially with the pool. Some nice days filled with relaxing, love it!
A great memory to think of when you're having a bad hair day!
Quoting adamspotter (Reply 11): Quoting Knightsofmalta (Thread starter):
Just as I turn to leave though, she calls me back and asks me if perhaps I would prefer the exit row ‘because you have long leg’. I have two