Flight: Lao Airlines QV 515
From: Vientiane (VTE) To: Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) Via: Pakse (PKZ)
At the time of my travel there was no non-stop flight between the two cities. There are two flights marketed as direct, which have one stop on the way. Vietnam Airlines flies via Phnom Penh, and Lao Airlines flies via Pakse. I choose the Laos Airlines flight as it was cheaper and also because I have never flown with them before so I wanted to try a new airline.
The cheapest flight listed was two separate AirAsia flights via Don Muang in Bangkok. By the time I added checked bags and fees that would have worked out the same. Plus the thought of transiting through Don Muang did not appeal to me.
Booking the flight on the Lao Airlines website was surprisingly simple. Compared to the hoops you have to jump through on AirAsia, and sheer ugliness of the VietjetAir website, this was a refreshing change. I selected my flight and the grand total was there on the page, without any of the bollocks of added charges. The total was $150USD.
The flight is direct to Saigon, via Pakse in southern Laos. It’s the same aircraft and flight number the whole way, and not changing aircraft to a new flight at Pakse.
As the first segment of the flight is a domestic flight I wasn’t sure if I should go to the domestic or international terminal at Vientiane. I went to the international terminal, but the check in was in domestic. I thought it would be domestic but no big deal as VTE is a small airport.
In this situation the general rule is that an airline flying within its own country is a domestic flight. An international airline flying within another country would be considered as international. For example my flight with Singapore Air from Cape Town to Singapore stops to pick up passengers at Johannesburg. It doesn’t have the rights to operate domestic flights in South Africa so it goes from international at Cape Town.
The domestic terminal was being renovated so the terminal was in a temporary shed. Vientiane airport is close to the city centre, and it took me six minutes to get a tuk-tuk from my hotel to the airport. I noticed on a map that there is a reservation further out of the city for a new airport, but for now the current one is being expanded.
In the domestic terminal this lady was making the best Laos coffee, where a sock of coffee is plunged into a boiling kettle of water. Such a great coffee-making method!
For this flight the aircraft was an ATR72-600. It’s been a while since I’ve flown on a turboprop so I enjoyed that in itself for the variety in flying experience.
The ATR72 has 74 seats in a 2×2 configuration. The cabin and seats are narrower than what most flyers are accustomed with in A320/737 jets. I asked for a window seat on the A-side so I could get a view of Saigon when arriving.
The inflight magazine of Lao Airlines is Champa Muanglao.
I always read the inflight magazine for the route map.
The Vientiane to Pakse segment is an hour and 15 minutes. Drinks and a snack of dried fruit chips was served.
Flying over the rugged beauty of Laos.
Arriving at Pakse we had to get off and take our possessions.
We passed through the baggage reclaim, though the bags are checked through to SGN. It is at Pakse that you go through immigration and get your exit stamp.
The same flight number and aircraft continues to Ho Chi Minh.
Pakse is a small airport so there were no delays, and I was happy to make the stop here instead of the Bangkok option.
This segment has a scheduled flying time of an hour and 35 minutes, and a lunch pack is served.
Lunch consisted of two savoury pastries of mystery ingredients, a cake, and some fruit.
Interesting to note on the lunch box there was a different route map which had a flight connection Vientiane to Bali. There was no indication if this was a future route, so I will be keeping an eye on flight news for that one.
Arriving at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City.
Being a small plane means no air bridge, so it is a bus to the terminal.
Overall this was a good flight between Vientiane and Saigon. I suspect that as low cost airlines like Vietjet and Jetstar expand their services they may start looking at direct non-stop flights to Laos. For now though this is a decent option.