20 August 2019
Say what you want about AirAsia, but it’d be hard – and downright foolish – to deny the low-cost carrier’s ambitious and ever-growing network. Some surprising new routes seem to be opening up every year for the busy airline, and for 2019 the most exciting would definitely have to be the service between Kuala Lumpur and the oft unexplored Vietnamese city of Can Tho, the largest along the famed Mekong Delta.
AirAsia have actually made history with this new route, boasting the first ever commercial service to fly direct to the city’s tiny but orderly airport. Prior to this, those looking to explore the abundant city, best known for its jaw-droppingly fresh fruit and busy floating markets, would have had to take the 3.5 hour drive down from Ho Chi Minh City.
I recently travelled as a guest on the newly introduced service, flying from the Malaysian capital’s Klia2 terminal to Can Tho International Airport (VCA). Here’s how it went down.
Route: AK575 – Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 to Can Tho International Airport
Seat and Class: Economy 5E in a 3×3 configuration
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Flight Time: 2 hours
On time? Take off (7:55am) and touch down (8:50am) were both on schedule.
Check-In & Boarding
KL’s Klia2 International Airport is easy enough to navigate, but it’s always quite busy so do leave plenty of time to get through security even at such an unsociable hour as 5:30am (I like to be early for flights). Do note that all Australian travellers to Vietnam need to apply for a E-Visa online.
Importantly, this cannot be the usual ‘Visa on Arrival’ unless you are flying into one of the major airports, like Ho Chi Minh. Can Tho doesn’t do VOA. You can apply for an E-Visa.
You’ll also need to get your visa validated right after check-in (at a separate counter) before you receive your boarding pass.
Other than that, it’s all smooth sailing from there. And I’ve always found AirAsia to be incredibly efficient and orderly when it comes to making sure their passengers are zipped onto the aircraft with little to no delay. No exceptions here.
Seats & Comfort
The front five rows of the A320 are “hot seats”, with red headrests to distinguish them. This is where my seat, 5E, was found. Don’t make the mistake of assuming these differing seats will bring extra legroom, they won’t – excepting the exit rows and row 1. They are mostly there for convenience sake, with the main benefits being that passengers are able to hurry onto the aircraft quickly, and leave just as fast.
As for comfort, the leather Mirus Hawk seats are tight, but not much different from any other LCC. Pitch is around 29″, which is fine, and width is around 18″, which is the standard but can be annoying for larger people.
In Flight Entertainment
There is no in-flight entertainment so use Klia2’s decent free Wi-Fi to quickly download some Netflix shows before you board. On board, there is Wi-Fi but I found it to be exceptionally slow. I wouldn’t bother. Although at least it works, which is more than I can say for some of the other airlines I’ve flown.
Food & Drink
Food is where AirAsia has always shined for me, and is undoubtedly one of the main reasons they are constantly named to best LCC in the world. Their signature Pak Nesser’s Nasi Lemak is as good as some of the ones I’ve had on-ground (obviously not KL’s Village Park standard, but still), and I cannot say the same for any dish I have ever had on any other Economy flight. It’s also well-priced at MYR15 (approx. AU$5.30) and can be even cheaper if ordered online beforehand.
Food is always such a large focus for AirAsia, a commitment that has obviously sprung from the mounds of positive feedback, so there are plenty of other options if you aren’t in the mood for Nasi Lemak.
Meal service is quite soon after the seatbelt sign is turned off, and more importantly, empty dishes are collected quickly after you’ve had sufficient time to finish your meal. There’s no long awkward gap between meal placement and meal collection where you’re left with an empty tray sitting in front of you.
AirAsia staff are friendly and attentive. It’s a small, short flight and the attendants regularly shuffle up and down the aisle checking to see if they can help anyone.
Shortly before landing, there will be the usual plug for AirAsia’s many purchasable items. It can be a bit overlong and boring, but this kind of upselling is completely understandable for a LCC. Besides, it’s nowhere near as aggressive as it could be.
Arrival Into Can Tho
LCC’s often get shunted when it comes to gate priority at larger airports, which can lead to long taxis or empty waiting times after the flight has landed. Of course, that’s not happening at Can Tho. It’s a small airport, and as mentioned, AirAsia are the first international carrier to have a service fly into Can Tho.
Offloading is quick and efficient, shortly leading to 4 immigration counters for officers to check visas and travel documentation. As mentioned above, you won’t get Visa on Arrival at Can Tho so make sure you’ve got your E-Visa all ready and printed for presentation.
It takes only 20 minutes to reach Can Tho proper from the airport. Grab is available in the city, and is quite reliable as well. Although, do note that the GPS has trouble finding the airport, so if you are using Grab then your best bet is to actually copy and paste the airport’s Vietnamese name (“Sân bay Cần Thơ”) as your pickup location.
To deal with the early flight time, it’s wise to book a night at AirAsia’s budget Tune Hotel. It’s directly across the road from Klia2, and is only about a 5 minute walk from the airport’s pre-gate hub of restaurants and shops.
The return flight from Can Tho to Kuala Lumpur is AK576 and, like AK575, is also four times weekly (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun) but leaves later in the day at 9:20am and arrives in KL just past midday.
For 11 consecutive years now, the authoritative Skytrax have named AirAsia as the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline. You won’t get any argument to the contrary from me.
While long haul may test my patience a bit with the airline’s poor seat width (leg room is fine), a measly two hour flight leaves little to complain about.
As long as you’re proactive in keeping yourself entertained, and you make the right choices when it comes to food (ie, pre-order that Nasi Lemak now) then it’s an easy flight straight to the beautiful Mekong Delta.