Over the Labour Day holidays, me and my partner had wanted to make a short trip to somewhere near. Searching through the internet early in the year, I chanced upon Vietnam Airlines offering very reasonable fares to a less visited destination in Vietnam, Da Nang. Da Nang is reputed to have very beautiful beaches and is also near to the UNESCO historical town of Hoi An, Without much hesitation, the flights to Da Nang were booked. However in order to enjoy the cheap fares, our outbound would be transiting through Hanoi while inbound would be via Ho Chi Minh. We also signed up for Optiontown upgrades for all sectors, and even if all upgrades had gone through, our tickets would still be cheaper than a direct flight on Silkair economy!
Fast forward to 3 days before departure, our Optiontown upgrades on the SIN-HAN sector were approved. A day later, the HAN-DAD sector upgrades were approved as well!
On the day of departure, we arrived at Changi Terminal 3 for check-in. As we had Optiontown upgrades, we could not check-in online. At the check-in desks, the agent took a while to process our upgrades (apparently she was not too familiar with the procedures) and the Optiontown upgrades proved to be a bit of hassle as our economy seats and boarding passes had to be issued first, followed by cancellation of our seats (and tearing up of economy boarding passes) and performing an upgrade to Business, reissuing new Business boarding passes again with our upgraded seats. Luckily there were no queues at check-in and thus we did not hold up other passengers.
Business Class boarding pass issued. My first Business Class flight for the year! However, lounge access was not included with the Optiontown upgrade (that would be another fee for lounge access) but we did not intend to use the lounge in Changi anyway.
After immigration, we did some window shopping at the duty-free before heading to the gate at B9. Boarding has already commenced when we reached the gate.
01 May 2014 Vietnam Airlines VN 660 Singapore (SIN) - Hanoi (HAN) A321 VN-A351 Business Class
Unfortunately, one of VN's oldest A321 aircraft would be operating the flight today. This means we would be getting the oldest Business Class seats and almost non-existent inflight entertainment. Darn…
Entering the aircraft, we were welcomed and proceeded to our seats in Business. Here is the old Business Class cabin on the aircraft. No leg rests nor personal IFE on these seats.
We were initially seated in 2D/G, but shifted behind to 3D/G after everyone has boarded. Load for Business Class was only 3/16. No wonder our Optiontown upgrades were approved so early! Legroom was good and the seat was actually rather comfortable due to the thick cushioning used.
Magazines in the seat pocket. Interestingly, VN does not offer inflight duty-free sales.
The purser and a steward would be serving us in Business Class today, with 3 other crew members in Economy. Shortly after we got seated, the steward offered cold towels (much appreciated in the afternoon heat) and a choice of juices or champagne. I just had an apple juice for my welcome drink.
Newspapers were also offered to us, followed by menus, pillows, blankets and headsets. Orders were also taken for our choice of meals after takeoff. due to the very low loads, service was rather personalized.
Business Class pillow.
At the gate with the huge whale beside. Flight time was announced to be approximately 3hrs.
Doors were closed and armed on schedule and a really antiqued safety video was played. We started our taxi to Rwy20C for departure. Again, the usual Qantases and Jetstars can be seen during taxi, with the only interesting aircraft spotted being a Delta B772LR.
Takeoff from Rwy20C. First stop, Hanoi. It was so quiet seated so far in front haha.
Climbing to cruising altitude.
The menu for the flight today.
Refreshment would be served on this flight to Hanoi. However frankly speaking, portions seemed to be no different from lunch/dinner. 3 choices were offered.
The meal choices on the incoming Hanoi-Singapore sector.
Beverage list. Not too extensive, but VN do offer a few cocktails.
TV screens dropped down and short documentaries and comedies were played. However, the headphones were kinda useless as there were more static then sound coming out from it. No other radio channels were available as well. Guess this is due to the old aircraft? In the end, we did not bother with the IFE at all.
Shortly after takeoff, linens were laid out by the crew in preparation for meal service. The linens with the lotus design looks really nice!
Our meals were served on trays, first with the appetizer plate alone with salad and fruits. It appears that the meals were catered from Hanoi. An assortment of breads were also offered, where I chose a cheese bread and garlic bread. The steward gave us 3 pieces of garlic bread each, and offered top ups during the meal!
Starter: Grilled prawns with citrus mayo dressing, hot smoked creole salmon. The starter was delicious! Prawns and salmon were fresh, and the melons added a nice twist.
Cheese bread and garlic bread. We were given unlimited servings of garlic bread by the crew till we had to refuse them.
Salad and fresh fruits. Would have preferred something more sinful for dessert though.
I had a mimosa cocktail to go with my meal.
When the steward saw that we were done with our starters, he immediately came over and cleared and starter plates, and served our main courses piping hot from the galley.
My main of Pork ragout, mash potatoes with garlic. It was ok but nothing too spectacular.
VN branded cutleries.
My partner had the Fried Chee Cheong Fun roll, prawns and scallops. The chee cheong fun was cooked Vietnamese style and has an acquired taste, very much different from the version found in Singapore.
Throughout the meal, service by the crew was good to excellent, especially the steward who mainly attended to us 3 pax in the J cabin. The purser had went down to the back to assist in economy halfway through the meal service. True, the VN crew might not have the finesse of crew from premium airlines such as SQ and CX, but they did showed the effort in serving us.
After we were done with our meals, hot towels were offered (and they did smelt just like SQ towels) for us to freshen up. The steward also came up to us and made small talk, which resulted in a short conversation on our intended destination, accommodation, VN crew work patterns, favourite (and least favourite) destinations etc. Rather interesting to know the difference in crew rotations for VN vs our local airlines (it was tiring just listening to their schedule), and I must say our local crew had it so much better! The short conversation was very much appreciated especially as the steward was not the most comfortable conversing in English.
After our conversation, our steward asked if we wanted anything else, and feeling curious, I requested for the cocktail Tropical Dawn on the menu. As described by our steward, it is a mixture of Campari, vodka and orange juice, and was presented beautifully with fruit garnishing and swizzle stick.
Since there were nothing else to keep us entertained, we decided to nap on our rather comfortable seats. However the recline of the seats were not overly generous.
The very old school IFE controls, but barely working.
Visit to the lavatory. It was clean but with the bare minimal amenities.
After 2 short features were shown on the screen, it was changed to the flight map. However, it froze and for the rest of the flight, this was shown on the dropdown screens…
The only other form of entertainment.
Just before our descent into Hanoi, water was served to us again as well as another round of hot towels.
Approaching Hanoi. It was rather hazy during approach.
On finals into Hanoi Noi Bai Intl Airport.
Landing on Rwy11R ahead of schedule.
We taxied to and parked at the remote stand.
After we were parked and seatbelt signs were switched off, the steward immediately came down to the rear of the Business cabin to stop Economy passengers from disembarking ahead of us as Business Class passengers have our own shuttle van transfer to the terminal.
View of our seats for the flight.
Bade farewell to the crew and thanked them for the great service. Disembarked via stairs to our awaiting van, ahead of the economy pax.
And then it was a short ride to the arrival hall. Glimpse of our VN-A351 (not final glimpse though).
VN B772ER parked at the terminal building.
Immigration and baggage claim took a while as another flight had just landed before us, but it was not too bad. We had a slightly more than 2hr transit in Hanoi before our next sector to Danang and thus grabbed a light dinner at the airport terminal. Out first foray into Vietnamese food on this trip.
Noodles with pork sausages.
Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette)
Singapore - SIN
Hanoi - HAN
It was a rather pleasant first experience on Vietnam Airlines Business Class. Service was pleasant and catering was acceptable. However the only let down was the aged plane and old (but still comfortable) seats used for the flight, and almost non-existant IFE. VN still has a long way to catch up with premier airlines, but I guess their Business Class offerings are still comparable to regional airlines such as Silkair. And with the price paid for it, it was definitely worth every penny!
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