As if the yellow fever snafu was not enough, I had a visa issue as well in Bangkok and had to pay dearly for a solution.
Yesterday, I had to get from Bangkok (where my cheap Ethiopian Airlines Business Class ticket ended) to Ho Chi Minh City (where my cheap Qatar Airways Business Class ticket began). I booked a ticket on Vietjet, a low-cost carrier, because the time was ideal, I had only a small carry-on bag, and I don’t need any service on a one hour flight.
But I was denied boarding at check-in. Reason given: no visa to Vietnam.
“Sir, we are a low-cost carrier. You cannot transit without visa.”
“But I am connecting directly to another flight. I won’t leave the terminal. Here is my connecting flight information.”
“Sir, it doesn’t matter. We are a low-cost carrier.”
“You mean you arrive in a different terminal? I recall there being only one terminal in Ho Chi Minh City.”
“Sir, this is a low-cost carrier.”
“Yes, I get that. Is there someone I can talk to?”
“No, this is our rule. But you can get the visa and then we will put you on our later flight.”
“I cannot take the later flight–I have a connection in Ho Chi Minh City.”
“I know sir, but this is a low-cost…”
“Yes, I know. So you will not be able to accommodate me on this flight?”
What is VietJet Transit Visa Policy?
I assume the agent was referring to the following VietJet policy:
Vietjet is a point-to-point carrier, passengers with connecting flight are required to have sufficient valid documents for entry at stop-over point, transit point in the journey. In addition, passengers are also required to receive the checked baggage (if any) and to complete check-in procedure for connecting flight.
The regulation is fairly clear: I needed a visa to enter Vietnam. But I had only hand baggage and already had checked in for my connecting flight. All flights arrive in the same terminal in Ho Chi Minh City and it is quite easy to transit without a visa. Bottom line, a visa was totally unnecessary and merely a punitive punishment for booking on a LCC.
Finding an Alternate Solution
I had to think quickly on my feet. I deliberately booked this flight instead of the later Jetstar flight in case of delay. Now it looked like I would have to take Jetstar because of the Vietjet visa policy.
It was too late to book online, so I headed over to the Jetstar ticket counter to book a seat on the flight. The online price was about $50, but they wanted about $110 at the counter. Fine…
But as the agent began to book my ticket, she took my passport and leafed through it, presumably looking for my visa.
“Sir, where is your visa?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Oh, then we cannot take you on this flight.”
“But I have a direct onward connection.”
“Oh, where is your ticket?”
<I presented my ticket>
“I’m sorry sir. You need visa.”
“No, I don’t need a visa.”
“You should check with Thai Airways. You don’t need visa with them.”
Now I was in panic mode, knowing that if I did not get to Saigon in time I would never be able to fly on my Qatar ticket.
I found a website that promised a Vietnam visa-on-arrival approval letter within 10 minutes for $200. I had a solution, at least. Then it dawned on me that Vietnam Airlines might have a flight.
A Solution on Vietname Airlines
Darting over to the Vietnam Airlines counter, I confirmed there was a 2:25p flight to Ho Chi Minh City and no visa was needed. Slight problem: it was 1:17p and Vietnam Airlines had no airport ticketing capabilities.
I was advised to book a refundable fare online for the evening flight and then they could move me to this flight.
That worked like a charm, though I was sad to see that restricted business class was the same price as flexible economy class–I would have enjoyed flying up front, even on a short flight. The ticket cost $223.
Boarding pass in hand, I darted through immigration and security and still managed to have lunch in the Oman Air Lounge prior to boarding my flight.
> Read More: Oman Air Lounge Bangkok (BKK) Review
I’ll review the Vietnam Airlines flight in a future post, but I made it to Ho Chi Minh City and connected to my Qatar Airways flight. Not without drama on my flight, though…
It may be (and is) stupid policy, but if you are flying on a low-cost carrier into Vietnam, you need a visa even if you are just connecting without leaving the airport. Full-service carriers like Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines allow transit without visa.
Do not make the same mistake I did. Wow, that’s a common theme lately…