Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lao Airlines

Given a chance, I try to fly Lao Airlines. You could say I’m a nationalist.

So when I heard that Lao Airlines would fly from Laos to Ho Chi Minh (Saignon, Vietnam) and vice versa from January 2010 onward, I was very excited and planning to use its service. As I have Vietnamese friends and some of them live in HCM, I figured I might as well go there (I’ve been to Hanoi before). I started to look for accommodation and attractions in HCM. I first bought a ticket from HCM to Bangkok from AirAsia while waiting for Lao Airlines to officially launch its new routes and start to sell the tickets. I even booked a room in HCM.

The only thing left to do was buying a ticket from Laos to HCM. I tried to check it on Lao Airlines’ website and found the information about the flight details and costs, Vientiane-HCM for $93 for one way, and Pakse-HCM for $65. It’s pretty affordable, I thought. However, I could not book it online. In fact, the website didn’t seem to work either. So I wrote an email to its salesperson and received the worst reply ever. It went something like this:

Me: I would like to book one-way ticket from Pakxe to Ho Chi Minh on 18 February 2010. How could I do so? I have tried Lao Airlines' website but it does not appear to have that option. Can I buy it from any Lao Airlines offices such as provincial offices?

Lao Airlines’ salesperson: I would like to inform you that is not possible to book routing from Pakse to Ho Chi Minh, Because in february 2010 We will have to close Pakse airport for renovuate work.

Me: Does it mean that all flights from Lao to Ho Chi Minh have to put on hold? Is it still possible to fly from Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh?

Lao Airlines’ salesperson: Thank you for this e-mail And I would like to inform you that it's not confirm yet for the flight from Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh.

And??? Give me more info!!! With not much information being given, I decided to go to its ticketing office in Xiengkhouang and was told that the plan of flying between Vientiane or Pakse and HCM has not been confirmed even though the date of launching the first flight already passed.

A salesman suggested that I fly from Vientiane to Hanoi with Lao Airlines and then change to another airline to fly from Hanoi to HCM. It was a good suggestion except I would have to stay overnight in Hanoi and catch the flight the next day. That would mean I had to leave Laos one day earlier than I originally planned just to make sure that I could catch the flight to HCM. The timing was not too good for me. So I waited to see if there would be any changes to Lao Airlines’ plan.

Two days later, I called and checked again; I was told that the direct flights between Laos and HCM have been postponed to October 2010! Ten months later from its original date! And even when it eventually starts to fly, it’s not $93 (VTE-HCM) for one-way ticket but about $210. I wondered why Lao Airlines has to advertise its services everywhere in every media when it could not deliver them.

Sad to say, I’ve lost trust in Lao Airlines.

Now, I have to fly with Vietnam Airlines instead. And it’s not cheap.

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Hey mate FYI you can arrange cheap flights from VTE to HCM with Vietnam Airlines - the best place to do this is with the travel agent next to the "new lao paris hotel" (across from blue bananas bar). They offer the best rates in town. All the other places around town seem to charge alot more (esp those around the fountain). Have been using them for my travel needs for years and they can't be beat.

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