Vietnam Airlines Business Class Bangkok-Hanoi – Surprisingly good
At the Airport
I arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport two hours before departure at 10.15 am after a quick cab ride from central Bangkok with a very nice and talkative cab driver.
Vietnam Airlines uses check-in area L where there are separate sections for business class and economy class, and curiously enough with separate sections for the departures to Hanoi and to Ho Chi Minh City, which departed with less than an hour between each other. The business section for Hanoi was busy, so I was called to the Ho Chi Minh section next to it, where it turned out to be possible to check in for Hanoi as well.
Thai Airways took care of the check-in for Vietnam Airlines, with a middle-age woman manning the check in. I asked for window seats for my next two flights, which was fixed for the first flight but not for my connecting flight from Hanoi. The error was corrected after I pointed it out, but without as much as a comment. Seeing as I had both a business ticket and a Skyteam Elite Plus card I did of course also get a priority tag for my luggage, and I did in fact even get two of them.
I was also handed a lounge invitation to the Louis Tavern lounge. I asked if there was a special lounge that I was to use, since Louis Tavern has six lounges at the airport. The woman didn’t really understand my question, and instead added that I also could use Sky Lounge, which is the lounge that most airlines in Skyteam uses.
When checking in I also got a fast track card, and the passport and security check was managed in record time. There was no queue whatsoever, and I got through all the checks in less than five minutes.
Of all the different Louis Tavern lounges I chose to go the one in G pier, a lounge which I’d visited previously and which I knew was worthy of another visit. It is without a doubt one of the nicest lounges in Bangkok, and it might even be one of the nicest third party lounges anywhere in the world. This also has to be one of very few lounges to be separated into two different floors with an escalator in the middle of the lounge.
A good selection of drinks, sandwiches, and cold snacks. As opposed to Thai Airways’ lounges they also served wine, one white and one red variation from Portugal. Another lounge facility of interest was a miniature golf course where you could train putting.
Boarding and First Impressions
Boarding started at gate F6 20 minutes before departure and had priority for passengers in business class or with Skyteam Elite Plus status (and the same card in Vietnam Airlines’ bonus program).
My first impression was very positive indeed, the aeroplane felt fresh and the interior was in perfect state. Newspapers were offered in a rack by the entrance to the aeroplane, and when everyone had gotten on board a stewardess came by with a welcoming drink and a cold towel, a choice of orange juice, apple juice, or champagne. The cabin crew then went on to offer more newspapers, especially newspapers from Thailand (in both English and Thai).
A timely push back was followed by a security video being played on the screens. Most messages were prerecorded in Vietnamese and with perfect British. We lifted from Bangkok at 12.30 and with an estimated time in the air of one hour and 35 minutes.
The hard product was probably the biggest surprise of the trip. It wasn’t that the seat was spectacular in any way, it was in itself a fairly ordinary business class chair for these flights, but everything was good looking, modern, and well maintained, the cabin was simply in perfect state. This was not at all what I had expected.
The airplane, an Airbus A321, had four rows of business class in a 2-2 configuration, which resulted in a total of 16 seats. I have not been able to locate an exact number for the leg space, but it was probably at around 38-39 inches, which is the usual standard for shorthaul business class seat.
The seat’s functionality was pneumatic and controlled with the use of four buttons placed right by the armrest. Two were used to collapse the chair and control the footrest, while the two other were used to control the hardness of the seat and its backrest, respectively.
Immediately after getting up into the air one stewardess came by to take our orders for food and drinks. No menus were handed out, but there were two choices of main course nonetheless, beef with rice or chicken with noodles, and I chose the latter. I also ordered a glass of champagne and some water. They also accepted orders for coffee and tea.
A linen cloth in light yellow was presented, and thereafter came the meal tray with the food as well as the drinks. The starter consisted of salmon with mustard, vegetables, and some sort of ham, the main course was chicken and noodles, and last but not least we were presented with a bowl of fruits for dessert. The stewardess also brought us warm bread from a basket. Everything tasted perfectly fine and the meal was quite reasonable for a 90 minute trip, far more than one would have been served on most domestic European trips.
I was also offered a refill of champagne and water, and was later on served with my cup of coffee. I also asked what sort of champagne was served on board, and the stewardess brought me the bottle which turned out to be Heidsieck Blue Monopole.
The service on board was quite nice. The cabin crew spoke English well albeit a tad ruggedly, but I had no problem communicating with them or having them understand me. The cabin crew passed through the cabin a number of time to offer more drinks and taking empty glases.
There were no attempts of calling me by name, and they didn’t pay attention to my status as Elite Plus traveller either, even though it is the highest status level in Skyteam.
We started approach to Hanoi at 1.30 pm. The cabin crew handed out warm towels alongside a glass of water to all the passenger. The female captain also made a message, and turned out to speak spotless English.
We landed at Hanoi Nobai airport at 13.50 and were met with mist and just 15 degrees of temperature, a major difference from the humid and warm weather in Bangkok. After the airplane had parked one of the stewardesses took her place between business class and economy class in order to block the aisle and let us get off first before the others were allowed to do the same. A nice gesture.
The terminal in Hanoi is very small in spite of the building just being a couple of years old, it must have been one of the smallest terminals I had ever visited at a capital city international airport. Switching planes was however quite easy, and all formalities were very clear. There were Vietnam Airlines transfer desks for anyone who had not yet received their boarding cards for the connecting flight, and then I just went up one floor using the escalator followed by a security check.
A surprising flight. A very modern airplane with fresh cabin interior, excellent serving for a 90 minute trip, and nice service. A little better than I had expected.