I’m currently sitting at my gate at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam after an unplanned extension to our time in Southeast Asia. Robin and I booked our flights months ago with Vietnam Airlines through Red Tag Vacations, and received an email yesterday saying our flight details had been changed. The first stretch of our trip from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi was unchanged, but our second flight seemed a little off. The departure time had been delayed for 30min, no big deal, but our arrival time in Frankfurt had changed from 6am to 2pm – quite the jump. We thought maybe it was because the times had been changed to local time, but that didn’t add up, and when checking on their website the times had not been updated. So we carried on our merry way with no hitch from Kuala Lumpur (which has a beautiful airport by the way) to Hanoi.
That’s when the spiral began.
We disembarked to find out that our flight had been delayed until the next morning. We found a representative who said she would bring us to a hotel paid for by the airline. Great! So we go through immigration… well, Robin goes through immigration. Turns out Canadians need a visa, and even though it wasn’t my decision to need to enter Vietnam, I still need a visa. So I’m on one side of immigration while Robin is on the other, trying to figure out this mess so that I can get to the hotel with him. After talking to three different representatives, a manager finally came over to help me get this process started. After over an hour they hand me a photocopy and inform me that they are keeping my passport until I return for my flight the next day. Yep, that’s news to me. I begin to panic as my passport has never been out of eyesight other than to renew it, and Robin begins to question this ‘procedure’. After yet another 30 minutes of arguing it’s clear they’re not going to budge, and we collect our luggage to head for the hotel. But wait, it doesn’t stop there!
They throw us into an airport taxi to take us to our hotel which is an hour away from the airport. The cab driver is going through, yet I notice he goes through the same intersection four times. Robin tells him no more ‘shortcuts’ and to get us to the hotel. We conveniently arrive about 5 minutes afterwards where upon check-in they take our passports. Well, Robin’s passport and my photocopy. Again, never heard of a hotel that takes your identification until you check out again. We get into our room and try to relax after I have a breakdown from the stress. All I keep thinking is what if I don’t get my passport back?! Luckily there’s wifi so I’m able to keep my mom updated and Robin is able to keep his sister updated, who is a gem and is picking us up from the airport.
After some chats, hugs, and a bath, Robin heads to the front desk to see if we can get some extra water as all we had in the room are two 330ml bottles. Upon his arrival he saw the staff were looking through the guests’ passports – his included – and recording where they had been previously. I guess I dodged a bullet there since all they had was the photocopy. Dumbfounded and our brains tired from trying to wrap them around this entire situation, we finally get to sleep around 3am. Oh, he also didn’t get any water as they wanted to charge him 5€ for two tiny bottles and give him back $2USD.
An hour later I’m practically lifted off the bed as our room phone rings – a bloody wake up call. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I never asked for one, and had planned to sleep for another 30min, but at this point there’s no hope of me getting back to sleep. So up I get and we both get ready and head down to check out about 15 minutes early.
Upon our arrival there’s a mess of people as apparently everyone who was displaced on this flight was in this hotel, and they’re taking their sweet time getting us checked out and our identification back to us. After what seemed like eternity we finally had everything back and a sad excuse for a ‘breakfast’ as we hopped in the cab for the airport. Same cab driver, same van, yet it only takes us 30 minutes to get to the airport. Yep, our cabbie was running the meter last night.
Finally we get to check in, re-drop off our bags, and inform the guy behind the counter that I need my passport. He gets on a walkie talkie to radio a guy who leads us to an immigration kiosk to another guy who leads us through to the immigration gates. He then disappears for 10 minutes behind a ‘do not enter’ area, but I see my passport in his hands. I breathe a sigh of relief as it is now returned to my hot little hands. We head for security who then proceeds to split us into two different lines, and not only keeps us apart but gives Robin a condescending look after he asks to keep us together.
In summary, if I have to come back to Vietnam in 5, 10, 15 years – it would still be too soon. Canadians, be careful when flying with airlines that have hubs in countries without an agreement with Canada in case something like this happens. I know I’ll be doing a bit more research next time I book a flight like this, but for now – I will never fly Vietnam Airlines again, and I can’t get to Frankfurt soon enough.
UPDATE: Delayed yet again by an additional 20 minutes, because apparently 8 hours wasn’t enough.