Since I had booked an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award that would give me a free stopover in Hong Kong on my way from the US to Bahrain, I had to set up separate tickets for my trip back from Hanoi to Hong Kong.
The short 500-mile flight is often expensive, with one-way fares at around $250 most of the time; that’s a sky-high 50 cents per mile flown! I finally realized that Jetstar Pacific had fares for $85 one-way – still not cheap at 15 cents per mile, but better than being stranded (and there was almost no award availability either).
Jetstar is a Qantas subsidiary which has expanded rather aggressively in China. It targets markets that AirAsia does not serve or are underserved by the Chinese airlines. Surprisingly there are quite a number left.
I was quite a bit early for this flight and had to wait for check-in to open. Once open, the line moved swiftly and check-in was very easy and professional.
I had paid for checked luggage, since the ‘word on the street’ was that the 8kg limit would be strictly enforced (my carry-on would be around 10kg). I asked at check-in and the agent gave me no option to keep my carry-on.
The gate had the luggage test contraption (!) with a scale, but there were a number of people who had much bigger carry-ons than mine that also looked heavy. So at least on this flight it was not enforced, though it seems Jetstar indeed take it seriously!
Hanoi Noi Bai Airport is brand new, but the departure facilities are not the best. For starters, it was very hot inside the terminal on this foggy morning. The WiFi would not connect and it proved almost impossible to find any breakfast despite many (not so good looking) food outlets. Plus while most Lotus lounges are part of Priority Pass, the lounge in Hanoi is not (and it’s the only one for the whole airport).
Well, the good news – despite patchy fog, most flights would operate on time or had minimal delays this morning. Take that, San Francisco Airport!
The Jetstar A320 was is pretty bad shape. There was leather on the seats but everything was worn and tired and most seat backs only had a fully-reclined position. Additionally, the seat pitch was super-narrow.
The flight was only about 50% full and ‘boarding completed’ came through almost right behind me. I switched to an empty row, but to my surprise nobody else switched seats (though many were in completely full rows).
This flight was routine. Jetstar has drinks and food for sale (but no free water) and there is no WiFi or power outlets. So there really isn’t anything to do besides use your own laptop or device.
Many discount airlines that have taken to the skies lately have modern planes, a few entertainment options and cheery staff. Jetstar has none of these; this plane was ready for a museum, the equipment was bare-bones and the fare was still relatively high. I hope they can do better!