A Weekend of Flying in May 2015 | Flight #3 Series Introduction: After numerous delays and a failed initial sales launch, V Air, a Taiwanese low-cost carrier, finally succeeded in selling tickets on its first route between Taipei and Bangkok (Don Mueang). I have been following all the news related to this airline very closely, but all along did not plan to snatch any of the cheap tickets during its sales launch since it wouldn't be exactly convenient for me to especially fly to Bangkok, just to try this new Taiwanese airline. Oh well, to cut out on all the long-winded story, I eventually still ended up with an approximately SGD67 one-way ticket from Bangkok to Taipei, scheduled on the first Saturday of May 2015. (Do refer to this introductory post of mine to learn more about V Air's website and ticket reservation system.)
Now, I needed to find a way to get to Bangkok before Saturday, and then to return to Singapore by Sunday night, so that I can report punctually on Monday for my first day at work. The initial plan was just to add two more budget airlines' flights, before and after the confirmed V Air flight, so as to complete the loop (SIN-DMK-TPE-SIN). The routing obviously did not turn out to be that simple in the end; just look at the route map below depicting My Weekend of Flying in May 2015. Enjoy the series!
This is a list of all the other reports in this series.
I guess it’s obvious that this trip happened only because of V Air. That’s why I am posting the report of V Air first. For the other 4 flights in this series, I plan to only cover them in December 2015. Look forward to that!
ZV6 is the return journey for the inbound ZV5, which also means that Taiwanese travellers who are travelling to Bangkok would have been at the airport in the early hours of the morning just to catch their early-morning V Air flight here.
For the departure from Bangkok, it was more bearable with a departure time scheduled at 10.50am.
Slightly more than 3 hours before my flight, I left my transit hotel for DMK by taxi. It was quite a journey since I arrived into BKK the night before and was staying at a budget hotel near BKK.
Having heard about the unpleasant and unpredictable traffic congestions in Bangkok, I decided it was best to leave earlier for the airport.
About an hour later, I was dropped of at the kerbside of Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). This was my second time in Bangkok, but my first time visiting and departing from DMK.
From the outside, DMK did indeed look like an old airport. It’s truly old, given that its history dates all the way back to the 1910s. While it was closed for a period of time between 2006 and 2007, various problems with the “new” airport (BKK) prompted authorities to reopen DMK for commercial flight operations.
As of today, DMK sees mostly flights operated by various budget airlines. Very interestingly, Maldivian has 5 weekly scheduled flights from Malé to DMK as well; but I don’t think Maldivian is a budget airline.
Enough about the airport’s background. Let’s start our tour in DMK quickly before I discuss more about V Air’s flight with you.
Before entering the check-in area, a security check of all bags was conducted.
In summer, both Tigerair Taiwan and V Air have morning flights that depart DMK for TPE. On top of that, Tigerair Taiwan also offers a second flight on certain days of the week in summer. As of now (October 2015), Tigerair Taiwan has switched to the winter schedule and the only daily flight from DMK departs at 8pm.
That day, the signage for Tigerair Taiwan wasn’t removed even though check-in had already closed for that flight.
Three check-in counters were opened for passengers not travelling with a tour group. If I remember correctly, there were two more counters dedicated for tour groups.
V Air allows up to 10kg of carry-on baggage, which is considerably better than some other Asian low-cost carriers (LCCs) that allow only 7kg. My backpack was tagged but not weighed that day.
I was done with checking in for my flight at 8.37am, and there weren’t many people queueing up yet. With more than 2 hours to go before my flight departs, I decided to walk around the airport’s public area a bit before passing through immigration.
This “exit” sign shows the way to “exit” from the cordoned-off check-in areas.
I headed off to the F&B area for some food first. After returning from my first visit to Bangkok in April this year (2015), I have been craving for the famous Thai dessert – Mango Sticky Rice.
I was quite certain that I would be able to find a stall selling it in the airport, so off I went searching for it. It didn’t take me long before I managed to find a restaurant that offered this signature Thai dessert, and I decided to get a cup of really-sweet Thai iced milk tea with it. It was serious sugar rush early in the morning. Oh, and one more thing: look at how busy it was at DMK; no wonder the authorities tried forcing all LCCs to shift from BKK to DMK, BKK just doesn’t have the capacity to handle so many LCCs from all over the region.
I was quickly done with my food and drink; they weren’t exactly tasty at all, as compared to those I tried on the streets of Bangkok.
I then stopped by a directory of the terminal to see where I could go to kill some more time.
The directory showed that there is an “observation level” on the same level as where all the F&B stalls were located. It was therefore a no brainer for me to head off in the direction of the observation deck.
The observation deck had very little chairs and it was quite a distance away from most parts of the tarmac. I first connected to the free airport wifi as I wanted to track V Air’s inbound flight. You can also see some sample shots of the airlines serving DMK – most of them were Nok Air’s aircraft; and there were quite a handful of AirAsia planes as well.
This aircraft with a familiar livery appeared – it was IT508 bound for Taipei Taoyuan Airport.
I tried to video Tigerair Taiwan’s take off, along with the landings of some other flights – AirAsia, Lion Air. At 2:00, you will be able to see the V Air flight arriving from TPE.
Sorry for the poor video though, that was the most my camera could zoom to. My new camera is really good, but it just wasn’t designed to zoom in too much.
After capturing the landing of my aircraft, I headed off to passport controls.
While you can expect to get a proper boarding pass with V Air’s logo when departing from Taipei, the only thing I got from DMK was the boarding “receipt”. The luggage tag used by DMK’s luggage handler was also the most “budget” kind I have seen before.
As mentioned above, my cabin bag was tagged at the check-in counter.
With quite a few international departures at that time, there was quite a crowd at immigration. My Singapore passport allowed me to use the shorter queue at the “ASEAN Lane” though!
With the shorter queue, I passed through security and immigration in just about 8 minutes.
The airside area of DMK looked very well maintained, there were many shops, including a Starbucks outlet. I went directly to my boarding gate after spending some more Thai Bahts on a bottle of water; I was still left with some Bahts after that, but I made good use of it on the flight later on!
The sign “please send off passenger here” caught my attention. Is this an indication that this part of the airport was once used for domestic departures?
A very first shot of the star of the day!
Introducing to you, V Air from Taiwan! This aircraft was being prepared for its return journey to Taipei, soon after arriving as ZV5. The turnaround time was just slightly more than an hour.
At that point in time, B-22608 was V Air’s only aircraft. Its first flight took place only on 31 March 2014, so it’s a really new aircraft. V Air’s parent company, TransAsia operated the aircraft for a short period of time before handing it over to V Air.
In the background of the picture, you can see very clearly that DMK is one of AirAsia’s Southeast Asian hubs.
A sign displaying ZV6’s destination as Taipei; and the boarding gate used that day was gate 23.
At about 10.11am, a boarding announcement was made in Thai (0:00) and English (0:20); boarding soon commenced by rows.
I went to join the queue and was very soon on the aerobridge walking to my aircraft.
I was able to take a few more close up shots of B-22608. Apart from the very prominent bear on the aircraft’s tail, this aircraft has quite a simple and boring livery. The other aircraft that has joined V Air’s fleet has a slightly different livery.
Another short video of the boarding process and welcome announcements; in Chinese (0:16) and English (0:38).
Boarding was soon completed and the flight wasn’t very full. Push back began early at 10.43am and by 10.54am we were already accelerating down the runway!
ZV6 took off from runway 21R. DMK has two parallel runways.
Soon after taking off, we did a big U-turn to head towards the South China Sea, and then on to Taiwan.
I have pre-selected seat 25A, which was an exit row seat with awesome legroom. But during take off, I shifted two rows forward to 23A so that I could watch the take off. (25A has no window)
Soon after the seat belt signs were switched off, the cabin manager began her lively announcement, introducing each and every flight attendant. When their names were called, they will walk down the aisle just like it was a fashion show. It was quite a refreshing and new thing to see on a flight, interesting!
Before settling into the flight, we shall now take a close look at the cabin of this A321. Since this is V Air’s first report on Flight-Report.com, I aim to give you a comprehensive view and understanding about this aircraft – and hopefully it helps when you are planning your next trip to Thailand, Taiwan or Japan!
Let’s start with the lavatory. Everything was tidy and in order, but the only major issue here is that there was no hand wash soap provided.
Next, we look at the various “types” of seats available.
By “type”, I don’t exactly mean that the seats are different in terms of their designs. As far as we are concerned here, V Air is an LCC that offers a full-economy cabin on its A321s. The different types of seats pertain actually to how the airline markets their seats in different “zones” of the aircraft.
The green ones are those nearer to the front of the aircraft, being seated at those seats gives you the “chance” of disembarking earlier. No guarantees here.
The red ones are those with much better legroom than the normal seats.
The rest of the blue seats are the normal seats, which already have a great seat pitch of 32”! Better than those you find on Jetstar Asia, Tigerair, Scoot or even Malaysia Airlines’ B738!
First up, the “Fit-V” seats, which are also the normal seats. They are all in the 3-3 configuration, just like what you will find on most other narrow-body economy cabins. But if you are travelling in a group of 2, look out for the seats at rows 10 and 24 because there are four pairs of couple seats at those rows; all you need to know is these seats can’t recline. So the choice is yours; it really doesn’t matter if your flight is a short, day flight.
One other point to emphasise here is the presence of an adjustable headrest! Compare V Air’s seats with this one here, if I were to force you to choose one, tell me which aircraft will you want to be travelling on?
The seats at row 35, the last row, also cannot be reclined. I wouldn’t choose the last row as far as possible. Not just for this airline, but generally on any narrow body aircrafts.
Because of the generous seat pitch, the seats have got a good recline as well, as you can see here.
And this is the couple seat at row 24, it cannot be reclined because of its proximity to the emergency exit.
The normal tray table was rather small in size – a norm for LCCs.
Seat back was empty; as far as I know, you can only expect personal TV screens on Jetstar’s B787 when travelling on LCCs in the Asia Pacific.
But look at the bear paws, quite cute, aren’t they? At least it wasn’t some ugly advertisements.
A quick look at the seat pitch of 32”, it really is quite comfortable and definitely scores a higher point on the scale, when compared to all other LCCs.
Next up, we have the “Fancy-V” seats. I know, and agree that, the names are a little bit cheesy. Haha!
Anyway, this was the “type” of seat I chose at row 25. It basically gives you much better legroom, and you don’t need to worry about the seat being unable to recline because they aren’t affected on these rows.
Two things you can see from this picture: (1) there is no fold down table here; (2) the seats are really thin…
For rows 11 and 25, tables are located in the armrests. These tables are of a much better quality than what I have experienced on Vietnam Airline’s A321 – the only other time I sat in an exit row seat. (See this picture for a comparison)
The thin design does affect the comfort of the seats. The cushioning of the seats was quite bad and the seat was quite hard to sit on. I didn’t feel very comfortable after flying 4 hours on it; wouldn’t want to imagine having to spend a red-eye flight on these seats.
Well, at least the legroom that I had more than compensated for the hard seats. These seats probably have better legroom than regional business class seats in Europe!
I chose 25A over 25F because I didn’t want to sit facing the jump seat.
For 25A, the seat pocket was located beside the emergency exit.
And here’s a look at the emergency exit. During the boarding process, a very friendly and nice flight attendant came over to give me a little more information about the procedure of operating the emergency exit.
I was also given a bilingual “notice for exit row seating”, but the English version really needed to be improved.
By the way, the very flight attendant that gave me information on the emergency exit also notice that I was taking photos of the aircraft; so she came over and offered to take a photo for me! HAHA, I declined but thanked her! They were really nice. But maybe that was also because we communicated in Mandarin.
I told her that if my girlfriend were with me then I wouldn’t mind a photo. But I was alone, so it was okay.
The last “type” of seats was the “Fast-V” seats. In my opinion, you really shouldn’t spend the extra cash selecting a front row seat. The seat pitch is the same, and all it gives you is a “chance” to disembark earlier. You won’t be given the priority to disembark first like on business class.
When I flew on ZV6, the V Bear was seated on one of the “Fast-V” seats. Needless to say, he was a celebrity on that flight!
While the bear may look a little childish for many of our liking, there actually is a very significant and meaningful intention behind selecting a black bear as V Air’s mascot. That was the airline’s way of establishing the clear image that it is a 100% Taiwanese carrier as the Formosan Black Bears are actually inhabitants of Taiwan and is currently an endangered species.
“V” on the other hand stands for Voyage, Vision, Vivid, Victory and Venture. According to the airline, the name is aimed at mirroring “the characteristics of Taiwan’s younger generations”. (See more at the airline’s intro page)
We are done with the seat introduction now. Just a few more picture on the cabins. We have the standard overhead panel and overhead luggage compartments.
What you don’t see often on traditional airlines is the advertisements that filled up the entire cabin. There were the airline’s own advertisements about add-on services provided by them, and also another one advertising the “Taiwan Hakka Tung Blossom Festival”. Those banners looked like they were going to fall off at any time.
At this point, it was about 20 minutes into the flight and arrival cards were first distributed before meal service commenced.
In the next part of this report, we take a closer look at what’s on offer in V Air’s buy-on-board meal service.
Pre-booked meals were first distributed at about 12.21pm, which was also about the time our aircraft reached the initial cruising altitude of FL330.
I did pre-order a meal. While waiting for my food, I took a quick look at all of the seat pocket contents first.
First up, the on board menu! The menu was named “Vitamin” – not very creative in my opinion.
There were a few featured dishes. The popular Taiwanese popcorn chicken was one of them. A more “direct” translation from its Chinese would actually be “deep-friend salted chicken”. This is actually one of my favourite Taiwanese street foods.
Other dishes on offer: Black Sticky Rice Dumpling and Fried Rice Noodle. Prices were rather competitive in my opinion, for an airline’s on board menu.
Another featured dish was the Pork Chop with Rice, which also happened to be the meal I pre-ordered.
There was a vegetarian choice as well.
Dessert choices seemed limited.
There were more choices for instant noodles than for dessert.
Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were available for purchase.
Gift sets can also be bought if you suddenly remembered that you missed out someone’s gift when you were buying souvenirs.
There were quite a fair bit of pre-orders on the flight but my meal came to me pretty quickly anyway.
The set lunch consists of the main, a mango juice and a dorayaki made by TransAsia Kitchen. The soft drink “Apple Sidra” that you also see in the picture belonged to the next set of meal that I ordered; I was just that hungry!
The main dish tasted quite delicious, surprisingly! It probably was one of the best LCC in-flight meals I have tasted. Those on Jetstar and Scoot usually taste terrible. The one I tried on Tigerair Taiwan was quite okay. But this one was really not bad! (I haven’t flown on AirAsia before so I can’t compare it with theirs; no intention to fly AirAsia anytime soon though.)
I knew I will still be hungry, and the fried chicken looked so tempting. After enquiring if I could pay using my leftover Thai Bahts, the crew said yes, and I happily bought yet another meal using my last bit of Thai Bahts (which will not be of much use to me in the near future, anyway)!
You know, the idea of having “fried food” on an aircraft just doesn’t seem appropriate because if it wasn’t heated up properly, the “fried” chicken would taste like “rock” chicken instead.
This one, on the other hand, was great. I almost forgot to take a picture of it!
Of course it wasn’t as good as what you can get at Taiwan’s night market, but comparing this to other airplane food objectively, I give this a high score.
It was also really nice that another flight attendant came over just a while after they collected my empty trays to ask: “How was the fried chicken?”
That was such a nice gesture and I told her truthfully that it was really good given that it was an airplane food! She then told me that they needed to separately “bake” the fried chicken pieces before serving it to customers; it was not just a simple task of putting the entire tray into the oven for reheating. It was a popular dish on board V Air flights.
After the meal service, there was a moment of silence/peace on the aircraft. There weren’t much noise in the cabin apart from the aircraft’s engine. Everyone was either resting, reading or using their mobile devices. At this point in time, we were leaving Vietnamese airspace, heading over the South China Sea.
The “moment of peace” didn’t last long. A few minutes later, some lively music started playing in the cabin and the cabin crew began introducing some of the featured duty free items.
I don’t think this caught a lot of people’s attention. I read some other flight reports stating that they felt that it was quite noisy for the crew to be doing this; but I thought it wasn’t an issue on a day flight.
Since we are on the topic of duty free items now, let’s move on to “V Shop”.
The introduction message written by the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer.
I wouldn’t dwell too much on the rest of the products, as they were just the standard duty free products you can find on every other airline.
Here’s the highlight! I don’t have a habit of collecting aircraft models because I usually find them to be too expensive and I really can’t afford them. This A321 model sold by V Air was however quite cheap I think! It costs just TWD800, about SGD34 and USD35.
The luggage tag is pretty well designed too!
Some other airline merchandises on sale were the blanket and comfort kit.
And finally, a pen and two different designs of key rings.
There was a page that gave information about duty free allowances.
Thinking that it would be very long later before I get another chance to travel with V Air again, I bought something for my friend and myself!
Lastly, we shall look at the articles that were available in the in-flight magazine! The name of the magazine is called “V Air”; I guess, at the time of naming this magazine, they were already running out of ideas.
The intro message talked about the in-flight meals and cabin crew. It seemed like it was written from the perspective of the “V Bear”.
While there was an article about the “Formosan Black Bears”, most of the other articles were either travel or food related.
This was an introductory article about an arts festival held annually in Kenting, a tourist attraction at the Southern end of Taiwan.
The next one we see here introduced the top 4 apps for backpackers – of course V Air’s mobile app was included!
And here we see the article about the Formosan Black Bear.
Seeing this makes me wonder just how much money the event organiser spent on advertising in V Air’s aircraft cabin and magazine.
I thought this section about all the common Q&As regarding budget travelling on LCCs was very well-written! Do let me know if you want to know anything about it, I can translate it for you.
Bangkok being one of the airline’s first destination, there definitely had to be an article dedicated to it!
The last two articles were about Taiwan’s scenery and food! These are two big things you cannot miss in Taiwan. While I personally think that the scenery in Taiwan won’t “wow” you the way some other places in the other parts of the world will, they are definitely still worth the visit. The thing about Taiwan is that you meet friendly and helpful people everywhere, this alone beats everything else!
Here’s V Air’s route map back in May 2015.
Very recently, as of now in October 2015, V Air has announced its planned routes to three more destinations in Japan. Currently, V Air also flies twice weekly to Busan, on top of its initial two destinations in Thailand.
In the magazine, you can also find the layout map of Taoyuan Airport’s terminal 1.
Not forgetting, finally, the aircraft’s safety information card.
At about 1.30pm, lights in the cabin were turned down for passengers to rest a little bit more before we arrive at Taipei.
I wasn’t tired, so I took out my MacBook and finished up some work. With the space I had at the exit row, it was actually quite pleasant to work on the aircraft. Like I said, I was seated at row 25 and that day, I was the only passenger seated at rows 24 and 25. I literally shifted around and sat on 5 different seats during that flight.
The first officer of our flight came onto the PA system at about 2.29pm to give us some information about our arrival. I apologise for the poor sound quality of the video. The original version had a very loud background noise and I barely made out what our pilot was saying, so I tried to reduce the background noise. My video editing skills are bad so this was the best I could achieve. Sorry about that! Anyway what he said was:
- Currently we are about 350 nautical miles Southwest of Taoyuan - Cruising at an altitude of FL370 - Cruising speed is about 900 km/h - The estimated time of arrival is 3.30pm - There is a time difference of one hour between Bangkok and Taipei - Destination’s weather is cloudy with a temperature of 29 degree celsius
I was soon done with my work and shifted forward to 23A momentarily to look out of the window. Basically, I selected seat 25A for this flight, and was free to move around and choose between 23A-C, 24B-C and 25A-C. What a great flight indeed!
Here’s just another shot of the cabin about an hour before landing.
I am quite sure the first officer said we were cruising at an altitude of FL370. So, I presume that the aircraft descended back to FL330 as we neared Taiwan. Anyway, by 2.50pm, we were Southwest of Kaohsiung and had already adjusted our heading towards TPE.
Descend began 5 minutes later at 2.55pm.
We were then held in a holding pattern for about 10 minutes, just one round. This was, and still is, a norm for flights arriving into TPE because of its single runway operation. Fortunately, the runway renovation works are already nearing the end after 2 long years and by early 2016, TPE will again have both its runways fully refurbished and operational.
ZV6 touched down very early at 3.39pm on runway 05R, and that was followed by a relatively short taxi to our gate.
The aircraft reached its gate at 3.48pm, 12 minutes before the scheduled time of arrival.
One last look at this lively aircraft before I disembark! Albeit the fact that V Air’s seats were rather hard, the adjustable headrest, awesome seat pitch as compared to other LCCs will still give this airline a good advantage on top their competitors.
It’s now the start of my shortest ever stay in Taiwan – just 21 hours on ground before I return to Singapore. (And in July 2015, I broke this record again!)
Immigration had just a short queue and I was through in no time.
Baggage collection for ZV6 was at carousel 1 that day. Take a look at the luggage on the conveyor belt, it’s really nice that I frequently observe ground staffs adjusting most of the bags that arrive at the carousel to ensure that the luggage handles are placed in a way easy for us to collect.
10 minutes later, I was at the airport’s bus station purchasing a bus ticket.
This is the (almost) complete flight route taken by ZV6 on 9 May 2015.
Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed this report!
Keep a look out as I continue to post reports of my previous series. This one shall be continued in December.
(To be continued)
This report was completed on 28 October 2015.
Bangkok - DMK
Taipei - TPE
I have covered quite a fair bit about V Air's cabin comfort so I shan't repeat everything here. Basically, for an LCC, it was already very good. I am just deducting some points because of the hard cushioning. Otherwise, all is good for the seats. It's even quite cheap to select seats prior to flying!
Crew was awesome. There was an extremely fluent Thai speaker onboard the plane, she was a Taiwanese and was also the one who chatted with me the most. One of the most interesting topic we had was about Tigerair Taiwan vs. V Air. She asked me, really sincerely, about the pros and cons of both airlines, and she said she shall find a chance to try out Tigerair Taiwan one day. I like how the crew displayed a cheerful and lively attitude without jeopardising their professionalism. Some members of the crew may have to brush up their English speaking skills as they expand out to more destinations in the region. Other than that, very excellent crew!
Same for the meals, I wrote a lot about it. I don't dare to say that I am the best judge out here, but having flown also on a few more other LCCs within Asia Pacific, V Air's in-flight meals were really one of the best I have tasted. Entertainment gets a high score here because of the interesting magazine they have, the articles were well-written and really provide a good perspective about travelling within the region. The downside about it was that the English translations of the articles weren't top notch, and despite my average standard in written English, I managed to spot some grammatical errors here and there.
I will certainly fly V Air again when I get the chance to do so in future!
DMK is a retro airport. It was my first time there and everything turned out smoothly. While there is an observation deck, it really isn't the best place in the airport to watch aircraft movements. If you really want to watch the take-offs and landings, head in to the airside area and I think there are better spots in there.
Taoyuan Airport was all okay as well for this trip. Immigration didn't take too long as it wasn't the peak arrival period. Otherwise, I guess I have already reviewed this airport quite a bit on Flight-Report.
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