After exploring Sydney for a few days, and meeting up with the infamous Nicholas, it was time for me to continue my round-the-world adventure with Vietnam Airlines to Ho Chi Minh City.
I actually booked this flight through a travel agent since it was a really long and complicated itinerary. I originally booked my flight in Vietnam Airlines’ Premium Economy. One-way tickets in Premium Economy are usually around $700. Meanwhile, one-way business class tickets end up being in the $1,500 neighborhood. For an eight hour flight, that wasn’t bad at all. Since it was a daytime flight, I decided to save some money and booked premium economy.
After booking, I discovered Optiontown. I had never heard of this service before. For a fixed price, you can pay to be on the upgrade list to business class. The cost for the upgrade was only $420. That would make this business class flight cost a total of $1,100, saving almost $400. I decided to go for the upgrade option and see what would come of it. A day before departure, I was alerted that my Optiontown upgrade had cleared ‘subject to availability’. I figured it would be good to get to the airport early and see what this meant.
I arrived at Sydney’s International Terminal about three hours prior to departure. Wow! Vietnam Airlines already had huge lines at their check-in desk. Thanks to my Gold Medallion status with Skyteam partner, Delta Airlines, I received access to the Sky Priority check-in lane. It took me about 30 minutes to finally reach a check-in desk even though I was the second person in line.
It seems like most passengers were traveling with a lot of luggage and some boxes. Most were families of four or five people, which meant there was a lengthier check-in process for them.
After approaching the counter, I was checked in and my bags tagged within minutes. I enquired about my Optiontown upgrade and was presented with a boarding pass for seat 7K- business! Within twenty minutes, I passed through security and immigration and was on my way to the American Express lounge.
I have the Platinum Card from American Express. As a result, I received complimentary access to the American Express Lounge at the Sydney Airport. The lounge was nothing to write home about. It was incredibly crowded. By the time I got there, there were only a few food options left. They informed me the kitchen was still making food, but I settled for a glass of orange juice.
I then proceeded to access the Skyteam Lounge. I received access due to my Sky Priority status with Skyteam. Non-Optiontown business class passengers with Vietnam Airlines would also receive access to the lounge. The Skyteam lounge was better, but still quite packed. I did, however, manage to find a place to sit and had some fruit. Thankfully, I didn’t eat too much on the ground.
At 11:05AM, boarding began for our 11:50 departure.
I was greeted by three flight attendants with a very enthusiastic “Hello!” I turned left into the far aisle of business class. Vietnam Airlines arranges their 787s with 28 business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. 7K was a window seat on the right side in the last row.
It should be noted that there are no overhead bins above the center rows. This makes storage a little tight. Row 7’s overhead bins were stocked with blankets and newspapers. If you’re traveling with carry-ons, I would suggest boarding early to secure some overhead bin space. Luckily, this turned out fine for our flight since business class was very lightly loaded.
I stowed my belongings and examined my seat.
This was a standard reverse herringbone seat. I did appreciate the amount of room I had for my feet. On some configurations, the space for your feet can be very tight. I didn’t feel that at all in this seat.
To the right side of the seat were the seat controls, headphone jack, and USB outlet.
Next to that, there was a reading light.
The seat had enough storage options. The headphones were located in a storage cubby at the front of the panel.
Below the side console were the universal power outlet, literature pocket, and water bottle storage area.
There was a place to stow your shoes underneath the footrest.
In the left armrest, there was another small storage area.
The left armrest could also be raised for privacy.
Also present at each seat was a pillow, blanket, and a pair of slippers.
I wish that airlines would wrap up the pillows in some way. I’m not a fan of receiving a pillow on the footrest where some people will prop up their shoes.
Each passenger also received an amenity kit.
The kit contained lotion, lip balm, a comb, an eye mask, a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, ear plugs, and stickers. I thought the sticker concept was interesting and didn’t observe anyone using them.
The seat and amenities were a strange combination of old and new. On one hand, the seat controls, remote control, outlets, amenity kit, and IFE felt new and refreshed. On the other hand, the seat cushion, pillow, and blankets felt incredibly worn.
The padding on the seat was fine for a daytime flight when sleep was not the priority. I ended up still getting about three hours of sleep in-flight. Although, for a longer flight such as on Vietnam’s flights to and from London, I would prefer a mattress pad of some sort.
The IFE felt modern. I appreciated the clear display. Using the remote control was a breeze and the system was incredibly responsive. It was a touch screen, although the screen was a bit far away for me.
The movie and TV selection was much better than I expected. With close to 100 movie options and a large variety of TV shows and music, there was plenty of entertainment for an eight-hour hop.
One aspect where Vietnam Airlines could improve is with their headphones. They felt cheap and were slightly uncomfortable. However, I did find the sound quality to be pretty good. With other airlines offering noise-canceling headsets in premium economy, Vietnam Airlines could improve. It might be a way to differentiate them from future competition in Bamboo Airways.
Unfortunately, no Wi-Fi was offered on this flight.
After settling in, I was presented with a pre-departure beverage. The options were water, orange juice, apple juice, or champagne. I went with a glass of orange juice.
Video of the day:
Business class was very lightly loaded. At least 10 seats were unoccupied. As a result, refills were provided for pre-departure beverages. As they served our pre-departure beverages, menus and drink lists were distributed.
The menu for the main meal was as follows:
The drink list was as follows:
About 10 minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came around for drink and meal orders. To start, I ordered a Pepsi. I also received some spiced nuts and wasabi peas.
55 minutes after takeoff, I received the starters. I ordered the salmon.
In addition, some bread came with the starter.
I generally find flavor to be lacking on some meals, this was not the case for the soup. The soup was nicely spiced and the croutons paired well. The salad and cold appetizer were also nice. Cranberries in the salad gave some added texture and tasted fresh. Meanwhile, the salmon and salami paired nicely with the daikon capsicum slaw.
Next, I was presented with the main meal.
The beef was fantastic. It wasn’t overcooked. Peppers in the dish made the meal a little spicy which I enjoyed. I appreciated how Vietnam Airlines had something Vietnamese style. Some airlines tend to forego local cuisine on their flights.
Then, cabin crew came around with dessert. First, they offered passengers a selection of cheese and crackers from a basket.
Then, cabin crew offered some fresh fruit from a tray.
Finally, the cabin crew came around with assorted pastries.
I was stuffed! The food was fantastic and I ate more than I normally do on flights. Above all, the quality and presentation were stellar.
Along with dessert, flight attendants passed out bottles of water.
I woke up about three hours out from Ho Chi Minh City. I was a little thirsty so I rang the call button and asked for another Pepsi. Once again, I received some wasabi peas and nuts as well.
About one-hour and forty-five minutes out from Ho Chi Minh, the refreshment service started.
After some deliberation, I chose the chicken satay option. I chose well!
Much like lunch, the meal was flavorful. I really liked the sauce. It was a bit tangy and not very spicy.
I did appreciate the retro Pepsi cans.
There was a bit of a language barrier. Hand gestures and pointing ended up helping me order a meal. One flight attendant, who seemed to be the purser, spoke excellent English. Others knew enough to get through meal service. Nevertheless, every flight attendant (yes, every) addressed me as “Mr. Singh.” Even when I went to the lavatory, the flight attendants would speak to me. “Mr. Singh, something to drink?” etc.
I would still say that the crew was warm and delightful. They were very attentive and always made sure I was settled in for the flight. Whenever I had anything to drink, they repeatedly offered refills. I have nothing but good things to say about this crew. They were utterly fantastic.
Thankfully, my bag made it. However, despite being tagged “Priority” I had to wait for about 50 minutes for my bag. Though it wasn’t a major issue, it is surprising how many airlines struggle with handling priority bags.
This was a fantastic flight. Scoring an upgrade to Business for a reasonable price was definitely a highlight.
I would recommend Vietnam Airlines in a heartbeat! Once they start flying to Los Angeles, Vietnam Airlines will be a great way to get to Vietnam.
Would you fly Vietnam Airlines? Have you flown Vietnam Airlines before? Let us know in the comments!