2014 EOY Trip Flight #2 I am back for a series of report on the 10 flights we took back in December 2014 for our end-of-year trip. It was a great trip with 4 new airlines, 5 new airports and 2 new cities. The routing was SIN-SGN-TPE-PVG-ICN, GMP-PUS-GMP, ICN-PVG-TPE-HAN-SIN. To visualize the route we took, please refer to the map at the start of the report.
While our plan was only to visit my relatives in Taipei, and spend 10 days in Korea, the routing of our flights became more complicated as we decided to give up the direct flights available, so as to go for cheaper tickets that will also allow us to fly more!
This is a list of all the other reports in this series.
2014 End-of-Year Trip to Taiwan & South Korea Click Here 09/12/14, SIN-SGN, Vietnam Airlines VN650, A321 This Report 09/12/14, SGN-TPE, Vietnam Airlines VN570, A321 Coming Soon 16/12/14, TPE-PVG, China Eastern Airlines MU5008, A330-300 Coming Soon 17/12/14, PVG-ICN, Shanghai Airlines FM827, B737-800 Coming Soon 20/12/14, GMP-PUS, Air Busan BX8811, B737-400 Coming Soon 23/12/14, PUS-GMP, Air Busan BX8816, A320 Coming Soon 26/12/14, ICN-PVG, China Eastern Airlines MU5034, A321 Coming Soon 27/12/14, PVG-TPE, China Eastern Airlines MU5005, A330-200 Coming Soon 30/12/14, TPE-HAN, Vietnam Airlines VN579, A321 Coming Soon 30/12/14, HAN-SIN, Vietnam Airlines VN661, A321
Vietnam Airlines VN570 Aircraft Registration: VN-A609 Origin: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN) Destination: Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan (TPE) Date: Tuesday, 9 December 2014 Boarding Time: 1605h (UTC+07:00) STD/STA: 1655h (UTC+07:00) to 2115h (UTC+08:00) ATD/ATA: 1658h (UTC+07:00) to 2121h (UTC+08:00) Estimated Duration: 03 hours 20 minutes Actual Duration: 03 hour 15 minutes Flight Distance: About 1,384 miles / 2,228 km
We took ten minutes to get over transit security. After which, it was up the stairs and into the departure airside area. What we saw first were all the duty free shops.
With no interest in duty free shopping, we went straight to find the restaurant areas to see if there were any Vietnamese food stalls.
In the food court area, the wifi signal was strong and we were connected to the Internet in a few seconds. There were even different choices of wifi IDs and passwords for us to choose from, haha!
And then, it was time for some Vietnamese food!
Apart from Vietnamese cuisine, there were a lot of other food choices for us to choose from. However, all three of us settled for a bowl of Vietnamese Pho each, but I guess any travellers who are going to transit at, or depart from, SGN need not worry about having too little food choices.
At this moment, I realized that the airport has got really great tarmac views.
A particular aircraft caught my attention – LOT’s B787-8 Dreamliner (Reg: SP-LRC), this aircraft was probably heading to Warsaw as LO6508. As far as I am concerned, I don’t think Ho Chi Minh City is a scheduled destination for LOT and they only fly a few charter flights to and fro Vietnam throughout the year.
To me, LOT is a very unfamiliar airline so I felt lucky to be able to catch it at SGN. After that, it was time for a good bowl of Vietnamese Pho. Even though it’s common that food in the airport usually aren’t nice, this bowl of noodle was awesome! It probably is one of the best bowls of Pho I have eaten; and this makes me even keener to visit Vietnam soon, as a tourist. (My girlfriend and I are just so into food; travelling = finding and eating all the awesome food around the world!)
After a satisfactory meal, time for some more spotting.
This Tigerair aircraft in its old livery is 9V-TRG; it was heading to back to Singapore as TR2325.
LOT’s B787 departing for Warsaw. I hope, sincerely, for a flight on LOT soon! Don’t think it will ever happen in the near future.
This little guy here is an ATR72 (Reg: VN-B223); this is the smallest aircraft in Vietnam Airline’s fleet.
We walked to the gate at about 2.41pm; checked our flight’s details on our way.
One good point in this airport is that it has lots of seats available.
Took a look at the terminal’s directory. The international terminal in Ho Chi Minh City is not very huge but all the necessary facilities are available.
This was VN920 with an interesting route: SGN-PNH-VTE-HAN, operated by an A321.
Next up, an aircraft with a livery that I am very familiar with! It was EVA Air’s B-16303.
This A330-200 was scheduled to return to Taipei as BR396, the same route as our VN flight later on.
A rising low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia – Vietnam’s Vietjet Air. This particular A320 was initially part of Cebu Pacific’s fleet. That day, it was scheduled as VJ310, bound for Phu Cat in Qui Nhom, Vietnam.
When there were no aircraft movements, I walked around a little in the terminal. A rather overpriced massage service and “beauty salon” were also available in the airport.
The airport also has a second hand bookstore…
… along with other shops selling various products like Vietnamese coffee and costumes.
The paid lounge is also situated in Level 3.
Headed back downstairs to continue our walk to the boarding gate.
30 minutes before the scheduled time of boarding, we were already at our boarding gate! The boarding lounge has lots of seats too; should be enough for a full A330 load of passengers to wait for their flight there.
In the boarding lounge, there was also a small souvenir stall that seemed to sell quite a large variety of products. But of course, the highlight in the boarding lounge was the huge windows that provide travellers with a great view of the tarmac, facing the runway.
Coupled with the great weather, it was no surprise that I wasn’t the only one photographing aircrafts that day.
A few more aircrafts to look at before we board our plane.
The first Vietnam Airlines wide-body spotted that day. This B777-200ER (Reg: VN-A145) was scheduled as a domestic flight that day, flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi as VN250.
I guess, with more than 60 return flights a day, the SGN-HAN route can be considered as the Vietnam version of Korea’s GMP-CJU (Seoul to Jeju Island)!
The next aircraft was a Vietjet Air A320 again (Reg: VN-A690) scheduled as VJ174 that day, also bound for Hanoi. This aircraft is leased from Philippine Airlines.
And then we see yet another Vietjet Air plane; at least this one is much more colourful. VN-A689 was bound for Cat Bi Airport, Hai Phong that day.
Aha! Finally an aircraft of another airline. AirAsia’s 9M-AHX, heading back to its Kuala Lumpur hub as AK523.
One last aircraft for my short spotting session. Vietjet Air, again. This was VJ108 bound for the third busiest airport in Vietnam, Da Nang. Operated by VN-A680.
I would like to praise Vietnam Airlines for providing every transit passenger with a “through check-in wallet”. While this isn’t a very important thing to ponder about, I personally see it as an indication of how much an airline is willing to invest in its hub and also marketing itself not just as a point-to-point carrier, but also as a connecting carrier as well.
I must say that Vietnam Airlines has been giving a positive impression in this aspect so far.
As mentioned in the previous report, I do like the airline’s boarding pass design quite a lot.
Finally, a look at the aircraft that will be bringing us from Ho Chi Minh City to our final destination for this part of the trip, Taipei!
Flight VN570 will be operated by a very new aircraft in Vietnam Airlines’ fleet – VN-A609, a 10-months old aircraft as of December 2014.
That’s all I have for my very first transit experience in Vietnam. Recently, this airport was rated as one of the worst in the world. Well, I must say – I don’t agree. At least my 2-hours transit there was spent really pleasantly. The airport was clean as well, and the ambience of the terminal actually gave a rather peaceful feeling too. Maybe I am wrong, or maybe it’s because I haven’t spent a long enough time in it? But I seriously wouldn’t mind transiting here again.
Now, let’s board the aircraft. The scheduled boarding time was 4.05pm, however, boarding began only at 4.33pm – nothing new for international flights I would say.
A reminder that this flight was bound for Taipei.
Yet another Vietnam Airlines A321. It was all right though, since it would only have been my second time onboard an A231. Oh well, but all my four Vietnam Airlines flight in this trip were operated by A321s…
Mood lighting was switched on for this flight – this was not observed in the previous flight.
Seating configuration was of course 3-3 in economy. Nonetheless, there are actually a handful of couple seats within the economy cabin of this A321. I will touch on that on the final report in this series.
My four flights on this aircraft type of Vietnam Airlines have led me to conclude that this economy seat is pretty comfortable! While it does not have an adjustable headrest, this didn’t pose an issue for a short regional flight.
I am guessing that the legroom was 31”. Couldn’t find any accurate information online. Regardless of what’s the correct answer, my only comment about the legroom is: it was so much better than that on MH’s B738!
A coat hook can be found on the side of the seat too; haven’t really use this feature on any aircrafts before though.
Have a sample of the boarding music on a Vietnam Airlines flight. At 0:19, you will be able to hear a short welcome announcement as well.
The aircraft was pushed back 3 minutes after the scheduled time of departure. The punctuality of our flight is looking good here!
As mentioned in the previous report, “refreshing tissue(s)” were distributed during the very initial phase of the flight even before take off. Again, while this is just a small gesture, and I am sure many passengers wouldn’t even realize the difference, I must still commend the airline for willing to spend the resources adding this into their service.
The time took to taxi to the runway was just about 7 minutes. After which, VN-A609 took off from SGN at 5.05pm.
(UTC+08:00 from now onwards)
At about 6.14pm, airshow started to be shown on the dropdown screens in the cabin.
I found the lighting in the aircraft a little weird. It seemed to remain like this throughout the flight.
Very quickly, the flight attendants then came around to distribute Taiwan’s arrival card and headsets for the IFE system. (Audio channels or short programmes shown on the dropdown screen)
Initially, I removed the packaging just for the sake of taking a photograph for this flight report. However, after testing out the quality of the headset, I decided to spend the last part of the flight just listening to the audio channels they have onboard. The quality of the headset was very acceptable! (More details about the IFE will come soon, as promised in the previous report.)
Here is a picture depicting the full recline angle for this product. It has a good recline and I felt that even if the passenger in front reclines, it would still not impede too much into your space.
A quick walk around the aircraft before meal service began. From this angle, the cabin does look much longer than that of an A320 – an aircraft that I am all too familiar with.
A quick peek at the galley while queueing for the lavatory.
Also, you can see that the last row of the aircraft has a set of couple seats. While it may seem like an appropriate choice for couples, the inability to recline still renders these seats as a big “no-no” at all times. There are “much better” couple seats in this very aircraft – wait for my last report for more details about that!
Let’s check if the lavatory on a 10-months old aircraft was maintained properly.
Yup, the lavatory remained clean throughout the entire flight duration of VN570; kudos to the flight attendants!
It was a pity we couldn't see the sunset that day. The sky was nevertheless still really beautiful!
20 minutes before dinner was served, we were first provided with peanuts and drinks.
After which, the flight attendants immediately started collecting trash and preparing for the actual meal service. The next video just shows a short glimpse of the cabin.
At this point in time, it was already very dark outside; we were flying above the South China Sea.
40 minutes into the flight, we were still flying towards Hainan Island, but will soon be turning right towards Taiwan.
One significant advantage (at least in my opinion) of giving up direct flights for connecting flights, like this pair of Vietnam Airlines flight, is that we were really well fed throughout the day.
We ate a light lunch before our first flight, had another round of lunch on board the first flight, then the tasty bowl of Pho at SGN, and finally this meal!
I was surprised when I received a menu depicting the main choices available. Like I said, it probably doesn’t cost a lot of have one or two of this menu being shared among all the passengers; but many airlines are doing away with it nonetheless, all in the name of cost-cutting.
My girlfriend and I chose the fish with rice option while my mom picked the chicken with noodles. Utensils were provided in a plastic packaging.
The bread was served hot, and it tasted good. (Try comparing it to this…)
The appetiser tasted a little “Vietnamese” and was okay. While we didn’t quite appreciate the unique taste of the dressing, the ingredients were really fresh, especially the prawns!
Here are the photographs for both choices of mains. The steamed fish option looks a little salty, nonetheless, it was actually very flavourful and was a great dish to go with the rice, mushrooms and vegetables.
The chicken noodle option, on other hand, wasn’t as good. It wasn’t bad either, but the noodle just did not suit our tastes. Vegetables here tasted a little bland; but the meat was prepared all right – at least it wasn’t too tough.
The part about the meal service that I liked the most was the dessert: a dragon fruit pudding. It tasted like the real fruit, wasn’t too sweet, and was just a perfect dessert to end of the above-average economy class meal on this flight!
As I settled in my seat after the dinner, I listened to some music, and genuinely enjoyed the peace and silence throughout that flight (the cabin was really very quiet).
Took some time also to document the rest of the seat pocket contents that I missed out in the previous flight.
The article titled “DOs and DON’Ts for Eating in Vietnam” was part of a small booklet that provided very interesting information about travelling in Vietnam – definitely useful for travellers intending to head to Vietnam!
And then, a close look at what was on offer in Vietnam Airline’s IFE; I focused only on the “non-demand” entertainment though, since this was what’s available on this flight.
We see a Jazz channel and a Korean music channel with a very good selection of the recent K-pop hits – spent some time to finish listening to all the Korean hits in this channel!
Some other audio programmes available were “French Pop”, “Sky Japan” and “Gentle Breeze”.
Many different albums were available as well.
And then some of the TV programmes that were presumably shown in the overhead screens (I didn’t pay attention to them).
This page displayed the programme schedule on various flights; but I just couldn’t figure out how to decipher it.
Cabin temperature dropped by quite a lot during the flight – good for me, but maybe not for others who may not like the chilly temperatures. My mom, for example, requested for a blanket; the request was promptly attended to.
While the cabin lights were turned down after the meal, the front part of the cabin still had the “mood lighting”; I was starting to wonder if it really was “mood lighting”. Or, did the engineers just randomly replace the cabin lights with different kinds of bulbs? Haha, just kidding!
Anyway, at some point during the flight. I headed to the lavatory again and this time round, the queue was longer.
You can also see that the three passengers seated at the last row did indeed look like they felt a little uncomfortable there. I really dislike being seated in the last few rows of a narrow-body, as people will always unconsciously bump into you as they head to the lavatories. A handful will even decided to just rest their hands on your seatbacks while waiting for their turn to use the lavatory…
Some sports programme was shown during the second half of our flight. It didn’t catch my attention, so I just continued listening to more music while the other two ladies travelling with me took a nap; we were all rather tired after half a day of travel.
8.22pm, the aircraft was approaching the Southern tip of Taiwan. Our cruising altitude that day was at FL370.
8.25pm, 3 minutes later, the aircraft’s heading was adjusted to fly towards Taoyuan Airport.
There is an hour of time difference between Vietnam and Taiwan.
Descend began at about 8.30pm
This video shows the announcement from the flight deck. - 0:12 English announcement by the co-pilot - 0:43 Pre-recorded landing announcement
After the announcements, our flight attendants sprung into action again to prepare the cabin for landing. They must also be looking forward for a good rest in Taipei as they will be spending the night there.
8.45pm, we flew pass Taichung and was approaching Miao-Li.
I thought we were held in a holding pattern when I saw this; it turned out that it was just a turn for the aircraft to get into its final approach into Taoyuan Airport.
Landed at Taoyuan Airport’s Runway 05L at 9.06pm
And we were allocated a gate really near the runway; so near that the taxi process took only 4 minutes. The cabin manager literally rushed through her landing announcement.
VN570 arrived at Gate A1 of Taoyuan Airport’s Terminal at 9.10pm. Out of the window, there was another Vietnam Airlines aircraft on our right; that was VN578 from Hanoi. Both aircrafts will be spending the night here before returning to Vietnam the next morning.
Here’s the (almost) full route of VN570.
9.13pm, disembarked from the aircraft.
Took a blurred shot of the business class seats when leaving the aircraft. There should however be individual IFE screens in Business class! (Reference: A very good and comprehensive report on VN A321’s Business by Marathon.)
From Gate A1, we had quite a bit of distance to cover before reaching the arrival immigration counters.
I guess I was right just now, about how our crew were eager to get off the aircraft for a good rest in Taiwan. Just about 15 minutes after our aircraft parked at the gate, they they were already heading to immigration, ahead of us!
Taoyuan Airport seemed really busy at that time, with a lot of flight arriving.
A group of China Airlines crew members also walked pass us. At that time, in December 2014, they were still in their old uniforms.
Approaching passport controls.
The beautiful and elegant looking Terminal 1 never fails to amaze travellers. This is a favourite photo spot where travellers like to take their first photos after arriving in Taiwan.
Our flight was allocated carousel 3; while immigration didn’t take too long, baggage collection took quite some time.
And after passing through customs, we spent a few more minutes recharging our Taiwan mobile phone SIM cards at the telecom counter.
More than 9 hours after departing Changi Airport, we finally reached our first stop in this trip.
Time to enjoy the stay in Taiwan before heading off to the colder parts of Northeast Asia!
Thank you for your patience reading this report. I hope you have enjoyed it and please feel free to ask any questions, correct any mistakes or to just discuss about your experience with Vietnam Airlines!
For the ratings of this flight, consistency of the scores is ensured for the scores for cabin comfort and crew as compared to my previous flight immediately preceding this one, given that it was the same aircraft type and the crew were also very professional, albeit a little conserved when interacting with passengers. The only difference here is the score for meal and catering, the one on this flight receives a slightly higher score because of the nice pudding. HAHA. On-time performance gets a 10 - no doubt about that.
SGN gets exactly the same score as per what I have submitted previously. Allow me to quote myself: Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport was again, much better than what I have expected. I am leaving the access and parking score at 5 because I can't comment about it as a transit passenger. As for the other aspects of this airport, allow me to discuss further in my next report as I share my transit experiences there. - Summary of VN650's flight report
To add on, I really do not agree that SGN should be one of the worst airport in the world. Yes, it isn't a super glamorous one, that's for sure. But to be fair, it was a really pleasant transit there, so I definitely have got more positive than negative opinions regarding SGN. A new airport will soon (in just a few more years' time) be completed and Ho Chi Minh City will see a whole new International Airport - I sincerely hope this will assist Vietnam Airlines in their expansion and improvement plans. (:
Taoyuan Airport - it just never fails to perform.
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