BACKGROUND Vietnam Airlines flies four times a day from Central Vietnam’s main port of Danang to the capital Hanoi. The direct flight takes 70 minutes. Jetstar Pacific, a low-cost carrier with Qantas backing, flies twice a day.
CHECK IN The check-in counters were quite free when I arrived and waited only a few moments to be dealt with. I then passed through the security check into the main departure area. There are only two departure gates. There are a couple of food and drink outlets and a Vietnam Airlines business class lounge and a CIP lounge, all on the same level. Toilets are clean but no sign of shower facilities. Construction is still underway for a new terminal that is due to open in 2010, demand is clearly taking its toll on the existing facilities.
BOARDING A boarding announcement was made about 35 minutes before the scheduled 1215 departure. Passengers were called by row number and were taken to the aircraft by bus. Boarding was done both by front and back entrances.
THE SEAT This was an A321 aircraft, – for more information click here. 28A is a window seat on an emergency exit row. Plenty of leg room but no window view.
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 A single bottle of water is handed out for this 70 minute flightaxity was obvious on the safety checks. Despite sitting next to the emergency exit door, no flight attendant asked if I was willing or able to act in case of an emergency. I wasn’t shown any documentation to show how the door could be opened. Nor was I asked if I preferred to sit elsewhere. Four of the emergency seat rows were occupied by non-Vietnamese foreigners and the cabin crew showed little sign of English fluency, raising obvious concerns about communication in any emergency. This is normal procedure on most airlines. One passenger continued to use his personal computer during the taxiing to the runway, while a flight attendant sat on the jumpseat (where 28D would normally be) about two feet away. Finally a senior flight attendant on his final rounds asked the passenger to put the computer away.
ARRIVAL Despite warnings from the captain that the flight would be turbulent there was no major problems. We landed a little ahead of our scheduled 1325 arrival. Disembarkation was through the front door only this time. Baggage collection was swift but remember to hang on to your baggage sticker as staff check these against your bag tags.
VERDICT Safety procedures were unacceptable. Vietnam Airlines needs to urgently overhaul its training programmes and safety process if it is to be taken seriously as a regional player. With a low-cost carrier operating on the same route, Vietnam Airlines seriously needs to raise its game.
PRICE Vietnam Airlines is currently offering an Super Saver promotion of VND476,000 (US$27) for a one-way economy class ticket on this route.