Good Advice Tried and Tested

Vietnam Airlines A321 economy class


BACKGROUND Vietnam Airlines flies eight times a day from the business capital of Ho Chi Minh City to Central Vietnam’s main port of Danang. Five are non-stop, the others fly via Pleikou. The direct flight takes 70 minutes. Indochina Airlines also flies on this route, once daily as does Jetstar Pacific, a low-cost carrier with Qantas backing.

CHECK IN Tan Nhon Sat Airport was reasonably busy but the lines for domestic check in were short, so I waited only a few minutes. Counter staff were friendly but there was clearly a lack of English skills. No drama though and my bag was checked in. A security check was next and then I headed upstairs to the departure area. For those without lounge access, there are several cheap food outlets dotted along the concourse selling Vietnamese noodles and rice dishes, and drinks.

BOARDING Despite being told that boarding would start at 0945 for the 1015 departure there was no boarding announcement. Nor was there any delay announcement. As the queue reached the gate counter passengers were individually told the flight was delayed due to late arrival of incoming aircraft. Then a flight delay announcement was made in Vietnamese and English predicting a 20 minute delay. After a second delay, we boarded around 1040.

THE SEAT This was an A321 aircraft, - for more information click here. 21B is a middle seat over the wing. This is an old-style seat but reasonably comfortable on such a small hop.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? In economy class, rows 15 and 28 are exit rows with the most legroom. As there is no IFE, you won’t have to worry about IFE boxes under the seat in front of you.

THE FLIGHT The pilot announcement apologised for the delay, although the reason given was different from the one we were given at the gate. This time a technical fault was blamed. We took off around 1055 for Danang. The only service on this flight is a single bottle of water, there are no other snack or drink items and no other services.

ARRIVAL While we managed to make up some time we still arrived about half an hour late at Danang Airport. This has been renovated since my last visit in 2001 but its facilities are still sparse. Travellers should keep their luggage tags handy as staff match the tags with bags before you are allowed to exit the baggage hall.

VERDICT Don’t expect anything special on this flight. In fact, don’t expect anything at all. Stock up on drinks or snacks at the gate before boarding and take a book or an iPod. Stick close to the departure gate and keep monitoring it, as you cannot rely on the accuracy of clarity of announcements.

PRICE Vietnam Airlines is currently offering an online promotion of VND500,000 (US$28.50) for a one-way economy class ticket on this route or US$102.50 for a business class seat.


Kenny Coyle