Saturday, 19 September 2015

Flying on V-Air Airbus A321 (Part 1: TPE-CNX)

Welcome to my Trip Report on V Air! 

* Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from airliners.net 

For my part 2, click here

Introduction

Transasia set up this franchise subsidiary, a low cost carrier based in Taipei Taoyuan, V Air, to counter the likes of Air Asia, Jetstar, Vietjetair, Peach and a few others. V Air has raised quite a few eyebrows including mine, but it has successfully set it up without much issue. The name V Air doesn't sound attractive at first, but I have grown to it after some time. The name is certainly better than Scoot - the Boeing 787 operator based in Singapore. Up till now, I still dislike it, its truly an awful name for an airline, but this is another story. 

This airline started operation on 17th December 2014 with a single aircraft initially, an Airbus A321. After that a second one was added and for now (September 2015), its operating 2 Airbus A321s. It has plans to take delivery of more aircraft, 3 Airbus A320 by the end of this year and another 3 in 2016 to 2017. The first route was Bangkok then followed by Chiang Mai. It did operate flights to Macau for a short period of time, but due to low demand, it was cancelled and lately, it started flights to Busan.

Notice the bear on the tail of the aircraft below? The airline has adopted this Formosan Black Bear as the airline's corporate identity. 

Photo: Wu Miany




Route map (taken from the airline's website)

With more aircraft coming in, the airline would fly to more destinations. Currently, its operates a fleet of 2 Airbus A321s. 


The airline's website - Click here

The website is user-friendly and after going through Hong Kong and Xiamen Air's website, using this website was a relief for me. Its more advance and user-friendly for passengers. Unlike the other two airlines' websites, this one allows you to view your booking and change the seat or upgrade it with a fee. That is part and parcel of Low Cost Carriers, you have to pay for these conveniences. 

For just 2 TWD more, you can add in the 15kg luggage! Now you understand why I chose the V 2 stars package?


I am willing to pay for the seats, and window seat is a must for me. 


As you can see below, I could have added the combo meal, it would cost less than the V 3 stars package which offers combo meal. 


This is the airline's home page - pretty neat and easy to use. 


On the day of departure 

After my arrival from Hong Kong, I had about 6 hours to spare. Initially, I wanted to head down to my usual accommodation to dump my luggage but I wasn't sure about the Hong Kong Airlines' flight arrival because before I flew with this airline, I heard many reports of the airline's poor punctuality so I decided to just tag my luggage along with me and besides I had 15kg allowance on this flight and the return, so no worry at all for me. 

I had a little scare at the airport. I went to Chong Hwa Telecommunication shop at Terminal 1 to buy a sim card, not knowingly I left my luggage there and wandered off. Initially, I thought I had check in for my next flight then it was only when I was at the food court, then I realised that my luggage was missing and I didn't do any check-in! So my panic mode was activated, I back-tracked to where I came from and fortunately for me, my luggage was waiting for me at the counter of the telecommunication shop. The staff was there waiting for me, a big thank you to her! 

Time passed by quickly, I manage to get some work done while waiting, I did my check in at the V-Air counter at terminal 1. I took the skytrain over, only thing is it can be inconvenient with lots of passengers as you need to use the lift or staircases to access either terminals. 

Sign boards leading you to Terminal 1 




The train is clean and spacious, so shouldn't have any problem squeezing, otherwise wait for 5 minutes for the next one.


The ride takes less than 3 minutes to get from one terminal to another, then we have to walk to the lobby to take the lift.


Here is the list of airlines flying in Terminal 1 (September 2015)


Terminal 2 


Welcome to Terminal 1! 


This is the telecommunication shop. 


Checking my flight, no delay = good news!


Check-in counters of V Air. It was a good thing I lined up early as the queue became very long after that. The Check-in counters were opened at 1605 and I was the 2nd in line to check in. Few minutes after some typing and verifying my passport, luggage and face, I was given my boarding pass and instruction on my departure gate and the latest time to get there.



Air Asia X's Premium Flatbed, I have to try this product one day. 


My boarding pass



Once I got the boarding pass and confirming myself that my luggage was checked in, I made my way to the air side via immigration and security. It didn't take long as the queue was short at that time. 

Passing by some duty-free shops. 


I realised I was walking the wrong way so I headed back to where I came from. 


Now on the right track to the gate. 


The sign boards should be made bigger, its difficult to see from far. 


Is there anything interesting? 


2nd round for me? Yes, I decided to have a nice bowl of Tainan noodle soup. 


Simple yet tasty! 


After that, I made my way to the gate. The gate I am departing from requires passengers to take the airport bus to the aircraft. 

The walk from the immigration to the gate takes around 15-20 minutes, so remember to do some planning if you have the intention to hanging around the shops or eating places. I have seen passengers running to the gate with the gate staff, almost missing the flight! So be there around 20 minutes before the gate close. 


Praying room


Gate B1R - R means Remote Gate which means passengers have to take the airport bus to the aircraft. 


This holding area can hold passengers of up to 4 flights (Narrow-body aircraft such as Boeing 737 and Airbus A320) = around 700 pax. Fortunately, I didn't have to experience it! 

Low Cost Carriers usually use this gate. 


There is a charging point for passengers to use while waiting. 


Gate 3 was the only one in used. 


Looking out of the window, I saw B-22608 being towed to the aero-bridge. I was thinking could the airline moved this aircraft from the remote parking lot to the gate to save our trouble since it was pouring at that time. If it is, then there would be a delay since they need time to load our luggages and fuel onto the aircraft. 


This is one of the two Airbus A321 operated by V-Air. 



Apparently not as the announcement was made shortly to board the bus after this aircraft was parked. There wasn't any queue but the passengers consist of mostly Taiwanese formed a queue shortly after in order and we were soon on our way onto the bus. There were 2 buses waiting, so I was on the first one and after the bus was full, we proceeded to our waiting aircraft at the other side of the airport. 

Once there, I saw the beautiful B-22610 and the crew waiting for us. 

Flight route: TPE-CNX 

Miles: 1492


My ride: B-22610

This aircraft operated with its parent airline, Transasia for a short period of time. 

Photo: Marcel Hohl


Now its in the V-Air's livery. (Photo: Jason Chen)


Date: 29th August 2015
Airline: V Air (79th Airline)
Aircraft: Airbus A321 fitted with 'sharklets'
Registration: B-22610
Date of delivery: 30th Sept 2014 to TransAsia then to V Air on 21st June 2015
Configuration: Y194
MSN: 6294
Engines: 2 X IAE V2533-A5
Route: TPE-CNX 
Gate: B1R
Seat number: 15A
Departure: 1835
Boarding: 1800
Push back: 1843
Take off: 1915
Schedule arrival: 2150
Actual arrival: 2145
Load: 80%
Duration: 3 hours 13 mins
Departure runway 23L 
Arrival runway: 36

The bus drove as closely to the sheltered stairways as possible and the front door of the bus leading to the stairs was opened, which means alighting from the bus took quite some time. I was one of the last few to alight.

Once I reached the door of the aircraft, I was greeted by the a Taiwanese crew in V-neck T-shirt and Khakis. The T-shirt has this Black Bear and the word 'Crew' on the back and the airline's logo on the front so its easy to identify who is the crew. Apparently the t-shirts comes in 2 colours, white and black. For this flight, I saw only crew in white t-shirts while on the return flight, a mixture of Black and White T-shirt crew's shirts were spotted, I wonder what's the difference.

Looking at the cabin, I was quite impressed with the different seat colours and of course the bear on the seat cover. 

Here are some photos of the cabin 

This is the Fast-V seat


This is the Fancy-V seat, better legroom space means you have to pay more for it. 

You can upgrade if these seats remain vacant after the door is closed. Let the cabin crew know and you probably have to pay a fee before they allow you to move over. 

This Fancy-V has better legroom space than other seats but I decided not to take them. 


This is the normal Fit-V seat, for a 6 foot 4 guy like myself, I had no problem with the seat pitch of 33' inch, and find it to be comfortable for short to medium haul flights.



As you can see, its pouring outside. 

The seat has the audio remote, but is not in used for any of the V-Air flights. 


I like the design of the seat cover.  


At first, I was sitting at this seat, 15F. 


Cute foot print of the bear and the airline's website of the back of the seat cover. 


It was only at this point I realised I was assigned to seat 15A. So I took a few more photos before moving to the correct seat.


The crew's T-shirt



Now at the correct seat.


The cabin shot of V-Air's Airbus A321. Looks clean and neat. 


The first batch of passengers settled down and waited for the next group of passengers to arrive. At this point, I had a seat mate and he was on the aisle. So hopefully, the middle seat remained vacant. After the 2nd bus arrived, the passengers took the seats and fortunately for both of us, the middle seat remain vacant. Looking at the the cabin around me after the door is closed, there were spare seats around, so the loading was around 80%. Not a bad load factor considering this is an Airbus A321, larger capacity over the more common A320 aircraft. Later on during the flight, I had a good conversation with him, more of that in the later part of the report. 

Announcements were made in Mandarin and English and the English is pretty good. Looking around me, there were a few Caucausian travellers. 

Once the door was closed and everyone settled down. Cabin crew began the pre-flight preparation and did the safety demonstration in an attempted humorous manner. That's a good way to catch the passengers' attention. After that, they did the normal checks with the no electronic devices sign board to remind us before sitting down. The taxi to the runway seemed eternity and finally after 25 minutes, we were in the air towards our destination. 

Once the seat belt sign was switched off, the cabin crew introduced themselves and each of them did a 'catwalk' along the aisle towards the rear, giving a wave to the passengers like how a celebrity does. The introduction was also done in English, but the crew didn't repeat the 'catwalk' from the rear to the front. One of them looked like one of those cartoon characters from the animated Japanese cartoons, with the 2 pony tails on her head. On this flight, it was an all female crew and they were pretty good looking, I am sure some guys on board must be enjoying the sight.  

More photos of the seats 

Dislike these boxes as they take up some precious legroom space. 


Seat pitch is comfortable especially for a Low Cost Carrier.


The two reminders to take note of 


Audio channel was not in used. 



After the duty free and meal service, the cabin crew came around asking passengers whether they want to take photos with the airline's Mascot, the Black Bear. Of course, I took it for this report and memories. 

However the response from the passengers were lukewarm and few besides myself took photos with the bear. Well, it is all for the fun, a good way to attract the public. 


A photo of her with the mascot!

This particular crew reminds me so much of a friend in Singapore. I told her about it, hopefully she takes it as a compliment! Haha.  


Photo of me and the bear! Don't worry, the airline won't charge you a fee for taking this photo. 


In-flight service 

I have to compliment this set of crew for being very nice and helpful to every passenger. They were seen all over the cabin during the flight assisting the passengers especially when it comes to meal service. I rate them as good as the crew on board the Japanese and Korean Low Cost Carriers, and they are definitely in my favourite list. 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

The airline's duty-free magazine 


In-flight magazine 


Vitamin menu 


Safety card - Pretty, isn't it?


I did a check at the toilet, I saw a bottle of liquid soup on this aircraft and the other. I forgot to take the photo on both flights. Why I did mention this? My friend, Carfield flew with this airline and to his disgust, there wasn't any in both toilets and he was concerned with the crew's hygiene. You can check his trip report over here for more information.


Crew's working space 


The bear's resting area 


This is the toilet and the crew's seats - at the very front of the aircraft. 



In-flight meal 

My seat mate and I started our conversation midway during the flight. He was afraid of flying, gave him some advice, hopefully he won't be afraid the next time he flies. Anyway, he introduced this to me and told me to try. I had it once before and I was willing to have a go at it again. 

This is the Marinated Pork Sandwich and I had to settle for this as the other hot meals were sold out, not just on this flight, the return as well so my recommendation is to pre-book your meal to avoid disappointment. 

The crew were apologetic about it and made an announcement which was a good decision. 

This comes either on its own or in a set (This sandwich + V Bear Dorayaki + a choice of Guava, Mango or Orange Juice). 

I didn't buy the set, thinking about it I should have. 


Trust me, this is really good. I enjoyed every bite of it at Flight Level 340. 


Check out the Taiwanese Flavours in the menu when you fly with this airline.


The flight was bumpy at times and the seat belt sign came on and off a few times, reminders were made by the crew and I think they did a good job ensuring the passengers were seated during this period. Urgent nature or not, passengers should obey it, for their own safety! Anyway, I spent half of the flight chatting with my seat mate got my time going past too quickly for my liking. Before we knew it, the aircraft started descending and the crew made an announcement shortly that we would be landing soon. 

The approach to Chiang Mai was smooth and we landed at Chiang Mai on schedule. Here are some window shot photos. 

My aircraft was parked beside this Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321, reminded me of my flight from Taipei Taoyuan to Ho Chi Minh City. I was more fortunate than this passengers as my aircraft was parked at the terminal. You can check out my trip report on this airline (TPE-SGN) over here.


Took off from Taipei Taoyuan


I would be back the following day. 


This photo was taken while the aircraft was on its final approach to Chiang Mai. 




Touched down safely and this aircraft and the crew would rest for a short while before flying back to Taipei Taoyuan. A big thank you to this crew for making it a very pleasant flight for all of us! 


The last time I was in Chiang Mai was last year, I flew with Nok Air to this city and flew to Bangkok with Thai Smile.


Since I had a good first impression on this airline, I got myself an airline tag and an Iphone cover. 




My rating: 

Airline's website: 8/10 
Airline's livery: 6/10
Check-in counter staff: 7/10
Taipei Terminal 1 Experience: 7/10
In-flight service: 9/10 
Seat comfort: 8/10
In-flight meal: 8/10 
Cabin interior: 9/10 
Cleanliness: 10/10 
Punctuality: 10/10 
Overall rating: 82/100

Conclusion

I had a good time on this flight, better than I expected. Among the Taiwanese flights I experience so far, this set of crew is the best. They are friendly, helpful and speak good English. This airline has definitely left an impression not just me, a few others as well. The V-Bear and the crew's catwalk during the introduction are some innovative ideas by the management and I think that is working well for them. With more aircraft to be delivered, this airline would be expanding to more cities and I believe this airline would able to succeed especially with against its fiercest rival for this case is TigerAir Taiwan. I have plans to fly on this airline in November 2015, so stay tuned for my trip report on that. I will give an overview of this airline on my part 2 of V-Air's trip report. 

Hope you enjoy this report. Click here for my part 2. 

Cheers,
Charles







2 comments: