But all this expansion is no use for Bach Trong San, Nguyen Thai Son and Lam Tuan Nagen. Lam is only 20 years old and you can find him at 287/2/A2 An Thoi, Ho Chi Minh City if you'd like to know why. Alternatively, just pick up a copy of the latest VNA in-flight magazine and flick it open to the History of Vietnam Airlines page.
On that page, there's a box entitled Key Events. There, the names and addresses of these three individuals are listed along with an intriguing note to the effect that VNA "permanently refuse to serve" them because they have "damaged VNA prestige." Quite what they've done to deserve being not only banned for life but also being publicly named and shamed we don't know. We've made a note to find out and let you know.
We will have travelled five times on VNA by the time we leave Vietnam the day after tomorrow so we think we have a pretty good idea what they're like. So far, the planes, big and small, have been clean and the flights have been on time on the whole. Take-offs and landings have been smooth and we've no complaints at all there.
Our flight to Hanoi awaits us at Cam Ranh
We tried to communicate our panic to him to no avail. He could hardly understand any of our English and the only thing he could say was "Nha Trang no Cam Ranh okay". He then pulled onto a stretch of abandoned tarmac surrounded by sand and dead trees to a derelict building that had a sign above it saying Cam Ranh International Airport. On closer inspection it was actually a functioning airport despite its resemblance to some long-forgotten film set. We never did find out why Nha Trang airport had been abandoned in favour of this dump. Neither did we find out how our driver seemed to know. But he was right.
Cam Ranh airport - serving the wilderness...
If I may use a pun, our only "beef" with VNA is the food. And if I may be allowed to borrow an American phrase: it sucks. It really does suck. It sucks so much that for our next and last VNA flight to Laos, we've preordered vegetarian meals, something I've never done in 30 years of flying. When we got on our first flight in Cambodia, we were offered a choice of water, beer or Coke. We only later found out that this was three times as much as domestic flights where you get water or water.
Along with this dazzling array of beverages, VNA also gives you a little box. In it are the worst sandwiches I've ever had on a plane. Even the stewardess couldn't describe it in any more detail than simply "meat" when we asked her what was in it. It seems to be some form of pate and they serve it on every single flight. It's horrendous.
Now we know that it's only a matter of time before we hear the whispered "What is it?" "I don't know but I think it might be pate." conversations around the plane as other unsuspecting travellers discover the wonders of VNA cuisine. Occasionally a child is quickly smothered but not before they blurt out the inexorable plea "But I don't like it!" And who can blame them.
So, the day after tomorrow when we take our final flight, we have two missions to accomplish. Firstly, to discover what the content of a VNA sandwich actually is and secondly to discover what it is that Bach, Nguyen and Lam have done to so incur the wrath of the airline. Maybe they complained about the food!