My two nightmarish flights in Vietnam

By Anh Tuan   January 8, 2024 | 03:24 pm PT
Reading about the excellent evacuation of all 379 people from a Japan Airlines plane before it went up in flames reminded me of some different experiences I had in Vietnam.

Let me tell you my two worst ones: a 35-hour flight delay and a three-hour queue for check-in.

The long delay happened with my flight from Cat Bi airport in the northern city of Hai Phong to Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City. The flight was scheduled to take off around 8 in the morning, but it was delayed because of thick fog. The airline only gave passengers one short notice about that, and no support at all. I and other passengers had to rent hotel rooms to sleep that night.

We came back to the airport early the next morning, but had to wait until around 3 p.m. for the airline to give us another notice. This time, it said we needed to take off from Noi Bai airport in Hanoi. The airline arranged vehicles to carry us to Hanoi, but we had to pay VND120,000 (US$5) each. I paid as I had no better choice.

We arrived in Noi Bai and waited until nearly 6 p.m., when we, all exhausted and frustrated, started to have arguments with the airline’s staff. No managers showed up to deal with us. After a while, our plane finally took off.

The second time was when my family flew from Tan Son Nhat airport to my hometown during the Lunar New Year holiday. My flight time was 7:30 a.m. I was aware of the holiday crowds so I arrived at the check-in line at 4 a.m. I traveled with a 6-month-old baby and the airline required people who traveled with young children to check in at the counters, not online.

It was a very long line and it moved only by inches every once in a while.

After three hours, it was almost my flight time but there were still dozens of people ahead of me. I decided to quit queueing and came up to talk to the people at the check-in counter. I really made a fuss and finally was allowed to be cleared first. I and my wife, carrying our baby, then had to run very fast to the plane before it took off.

The problem was the airline let people from different flights wait for check-in in the same line. Many people who had an earlier flight like me ended up getting to the counters much later than those on a later flight.

The airline could have just posted signs directing people to different check-in lines for flights A, B, C, for example – then it could have prevented the unnecessary congestion.

These are just my personal experiences. But they made me see that Vietnam airlines will have to make a lot of improvements to be on Japan’s level.

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