V Air is a small low cost Taiwanese airline fully owned by the larger TransAsia Airways. They operate a fleet of two sharklet fitted A321s and two second hand A320s from their base at Taipei Taoyuan. V Air fly to two destinations in Thailand, six in Japan and one in Korea, which was where I was heading that day. However these flights aren’t scheduled to be around for much longer as it was recently announced that from the 1st of October 2016 the airline will cease operations. Whether TransAsia will continue any of the airline’s current routes is unknown.
When booking the flight, I had no idea that the airline was to cease operations within a few months, I simply chose to fly with them because they offered the cheapest fare on the route and would allow me to fly a new airline. Booking via the website was quick, easy and painless, in the end I paid 3790 TWD for the flights which included seat selection, 20kg of luggage and a free in flight meal which I selected during the booking process. Whilst this was the cheapest option directly from TPE to PUS, a cheaper option would’ve been to fly on Tigerair Taiwan to Daegu and then catch a bus or train to Busan.
A good thing about the flight’s 16:55 departure time is that it allows for a leisurely morning in Taipei. Given the distance between central Taipei and Taoyuan Airport, any traveller flying on an early morning flight may face trouble getting to the airport by public transport. I left central Taipei at 12:00, travelling to the airport by bus from Taipei station. Upon my arrival there was no information regarding the check in time for my flight however after asking about this at the Transasia ticket desk they informed me I could check in at the empty Transasia counters. Here the friendly check in agents checked me in without any issues and I decided to head straight through to the airside area.
There was a slight queue at immigration and security although these moved fairly quickly and I was airside within 15 minutes or so. TPE is pretty nice, everything is clean and modern, and I’d probably say the airport that I’ve flown from most similar to it is SIN. The only issue I really had was that a couple of the plug sockets I tried to use didn’t work however these were plentiful and so this wasn’t a problem. With some time before my flight I took a seat and watched the constant stream of departures. At about 16:00 I made a leisurely stroll to gate B1 where I found my aircraft waiting for me. By this time there were already quite a few passengers waiting for the flight. Compared to the rest of the airport this waiting area seemed to be a little old fashioned and the wifi here seemed to be a little sporadic. On a side note, B1 was the same gate I arrived at on Vietjet several days earlier.
The aircraft for the route was originally scheduled to be one of the aircraft’s new Airbus A321s however waiting to take me up to Busan that evening was 8 year old Airbus A320-233 B-22320 which was built in Toulouse and delivered to TACA in August 2008 before flying for Avianca Central America. After seven years of flying around the Americas it was delivered to Transasia Airways in July 2015 and then handed down to V Air earlier this year. The aircraft features 180 economy seats, to but that into comparison that is the same as U2 and AK but 18 more than fellow LCC and route competitor Air Busan.
Boarding began and this was completed twenty minutes before our departure time at 16:35. The flight was virtually 100% full with around 50% of the passengers being Korean and 50% Taiwanese. Upon stepping on board the aircraft I was given a friendly welcome and made my way down the A320 to my seat receiving another couple of friendly greetings from the crew on my journey to the back. The aircraft featured fabric royal blue seats which seemed to be rather worn; not great considering the aircraft had only been in service with V-Air since February 2016. My bottom seat cushion appeared to be the odd one out in this aircraft neither matching with the others nor my back seat cushion. My seat pocket lacked the in flight menu as well as well an airsickness bag. In true LCC style the cabin was filled with advertisements in both Chinese and Japanese.
The crew did a great job of getting everyone onboard in a quick and pleasant manner. The fact boarding was completed so quickly got my hopes up for an early departure which I was convinced we would make considering we pushed back 10 minutes ahead of schedule. During this the crew began their light hearted safety demonstration. One thing I noticed about the crew was that nobody spoke Korean nor were there any pre-recorded announcements in Korean including the safety announcements. Not great considering that half the passengers on the flight were Korean.
After this we began our long taxi across the airport to runway 05R, any hopes of an early departure were crushed by the long departure queue. During this holding our captain performed his welcome announcement announcing the flight time as 1 hour an 50 minutes and informed us of our route, not that there was much to announce considering how virtually all of our flight was over the sea. After fifteen to twenty minutes of holding beside an Orient Thai 744 undergoing maintenance AT BR’s maintenance facility we taxied on to the runway and made a powerful takeoff into the sunny skies of northern Taiwan. Our initial climb offered those sitting on the starboard side good views of Tamsui and central Taipei in the distance before we continued our climb over blue East China Sea.
During the later stages of the climb the crew came around displaying the in flight menus in a commercial aggressive manner. It was pretty clear than V Air’s mentality was all about selling! A short while after the crew began their in flight service asking passengers to show their boarding passes. It seemed like many passengers had preordered a meal on this flight. When they arrived at my seat I was handed my three cups chicken which was served with an airline branded Swiss roll and an apple juice. It also appeared that these Swiss rolls were also offered to passengers who had not preordered a meal, if so, that was quite a nice touch. After the meal, crew members came around taking photos of passengers with V Air’s mascot, a Formosan black bear.
The weather conditions throughout the flight were perfect resulting in a smooth flight from takeoff until we began our descent. As we neared Korea, the skies outside began to cloud and the sun set offered some very picturesque scenes. With around 30 minutes to go we began our descent and the cabin crew made the usual announcements informing passengers to return to their seats, fasten their seatbelts, put their seat in the upright position and open the window shades. As well as informing us that the cabin lights would be dimmed for landing, these were turned fully off revealing blue mood lighting which had been retrofitted to this A320, a nice touch I thought. We began to sink through the clouds and a few turns and a lot of descending later we were still in the clouds, expecting us to gradually sink beneath the cloud, the ground suddenly rushed up to meet us and we touched down with quite a bump. As it turned out Busan was experiencing some unusually bad fog at the time which had led to delays and cancellations earlier in the day.
We taxied off the runway and past the sea of CASAs and C-130s at the ROKAF’s Gimhae base before pulling into a remote stand. Disembarkation here was a fairly calm and cool process. It was good to finally be away from the intense heat of Taiwan and SE Asia! Being one of the last passengers to join the bus there wasn’t much waiting to be done before we were whisked off to the arrival area of the international terminal. The only other time I arrived at PUS on an international flight was in 2014 on a Peach flight from KIX, then an AirAsiaX A333 had arrived just before us and despite that the fact that all the immigration desks were manned meant that I was able to clear immigration very quickly. Tonight however all lines seemed to move slowly and it took a good 20 minutes to be seen, by the time I arrived at the front of the queue massive lines had began to form due to an arriving JL 738 from NRT.
By the time I made it through my bag was already on the carousel. I’m a big fan of PUS, I go through here relatively often and the airport is small enough to be navigated easily and is clean and modern, a big like a miniature ICN.
My thoughts on ZV? They were pretty reasonable. The cabin crew members were very polite and friendly. The only real let down was the slightly worn aircraft however it was good enough for this relatively short flight. The chances are I’ll never fly them again which is a bit of a shame. If I could, I’d probably fly them again however if I flew between PUS and TPE in the near future and didn’t have the money to fly CI or KE I’d definitely choose Air Busan.
Thank you for reading everybody!