Saturday, 24 May 2014

Asian airlines!

Whilst travelling in Asia we've been on a few flights for a range of distances. Here, I'll give an account of the journey and the positive/negatives of each airline in my opinion. I'll also cover the most important bits like free food, entertainment and overall experience.

FYI, I am not a champagne traveller, but I draw the line with Ryanair, they are just awful. My on board concerns are safety, price and good service!

Vietnam Airways

Long haul: London, England to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It was an 11 hour flight from London Gatwick to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). The flight staff were welcoming and passengers were given a cold towel during boarding. The traditional Vietnamese dress gave us a taste of the orient we were destined for. After taking off we were offered a refreshment and snack. Private entertainment screens offered a range of films, TV and music. On our flight not everyones screens worked. A few people were able to move to free seats, but some had to deal with a long flight movie-less.

Tip: Vietnam Airlines entertainment all began running automatically, so you need to be quick to find something or you'll have to wait the length of the movie for the next showing. 

We had a menu to choose from for lunch, and I do not recommended the fish (who serves fish on an aeroplane?). In addition instant noodle pots and drinks were available.

Snacks and the dinner menu on Vietnam Airlines

Overall we were satisfied with our experience, but I'm sure it would have been a different story if we were one of the passengers starved not only of oxygen, but entertainment too!

Rating: 8/10

Short haul: Hanoi, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia

This 2 hour flight was pleasant enough to be pretty forgettable! I chose to rebook with Vietnam Airlines after all!

We were greeted with a refreshing towel and were surprised to be served a lunch shortly after take off. Food is rarely included in short haul flights with low cost carriers in the UK. It was a tasty meal and a delightful change from noodles and rice.

Tip: cheaper food is available before security at Hanoi Airport. Smile nicely though and you might be let off a few thousand dong at Burger King!

Welcome salad on our way to Cambodia

We were handed the correct landing cards for Cambodia which saved some hassle at the visa desks, just don't forget your photos.

Rating 8/10

Cambodian Angkor Air

Short haul: Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand

This was my first experience of flying on a small aircraft and I didn't realise it was happening until we were sat in the departure gate. It was a noticeably bumpier take off and landing, but the rest of the flight felt like many others, though possibly a little less dehydrating!

For a 1hr flight we didn't need entertainment, so none was provided. Shortly after boarding each passenger was given a refreshing wipe, and not long after take off a packed lunch was served. It included a drink, sandwich (tuna mayonnaise) and a crispy chocolate bar. It was a lovely surprise as we had never expected any food for such a short flight time.

My first small plane!

All in all, from arriving at the very cute Siem Reap airport to landing my experience with Cambodian Angkor Air was a delight.

Rating: 10/10

Air Asia

Short haul: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bali, Indonesia

Air Asia has something of an easyjet crossed with Ryanair feel. I initially tried to book through Expedia, but with no clear information on baggage, I eventually booked through their own website.

Kuala Lumpur airport is practically run by Air Asia and we were able to self check in easily, though we still needed to visit a counter to drop our bags.

Tip: eat before security if you want a larger meal as only snacks are available in the lounges, whereas outside there is McDonalds etc.

The happy fun feeling akin to easyjet carried on on board. There was no entertainment or food included, but meals and snacks could be bought from the trolley, some looking very tasty too.

The flight was otherwise comfortable, though I was not sat with my husband, and we arrived in Bali on time.

Rating: 7/10

China Eastern Airways

Long haul: Bali, Indonesia to Rome, Italy via Shanghai, China

Our final flight in Asia would be our longest, and though we had a 23 hour stopover, I'm going to review these two flights as one as they had the same facilities and the experience was generally the same.

For both flights we had a slight delay which I had been expecting given other reviews for China Eastern Airlines. It being our first stopover experience I was surprised about the lack of guidance about what we needed to do. So summarise, treat is as two separate flights. Leave the airport after getting a temporary visa, and check back in as normal for the connecting flight (experiences will be different between airlines I expect).

Our meal on the Bali-Shanghai leg

Tip: Shanghai Pudong Airport board passengers by airline, not specific flight, making queues very long. This plus the immigration line meant it took us almost 2 hours from arriving to reach our departure gate, so if possible allow extra time.

The entertainment provided was excellent. 100% work rate I believe and there was an amazing collection on films both Asian and western, TV, games and a map. All seats also had a USB port, perfect for charging devices. However we were asked not to use our mobile phones even when in aeroplane mode, but our tablet was OK.

We were served a snack and drink after take off and an Asian meal shortly after. Drinks and snacks were available later in the journey, and water was frequently poured.

The first of two main meals from Shanghai to Rome. Beef noodles inside!

The staff were attentive, and even prevented a team of track suited tourists from having a picnic with what I can only expect would have been some smelly food. It was nice to see them taking the comfort of everyone into account.

Overall it was a comfortable flight, and the on demand entertainment kept me busy for nearly the whole of the cumulative 17 hour flight time. Pleasantly at the end of the flight everyone was invited to do some in-seat Tai Chi, which was a great idea all round!

Rating: 9/10

Hope you've found this helpful! Feel free to ask any specific questions. Happy travelling.