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June 21, 2012 / oneworld82

We travel in style (and we like it): SGN-NHA on Vietnam Airlines Business class

Leaving HCMC in style requires flying out in business class.

Yet, I have to say that this short hop started like an adventure. In fact, we thought what we believed it was a totally legit MaiLinh taxi from downtown Saigon (it definitely was an official MaiLinh taxi, as our hotel handled the call); when we jumped in, everything seemed normal, even though I started noticing the meter “jumping” a little bit too fast forward. I thought I would not bother complaining for a couple of dollars – after all I admire the attempt at trying to get some bucks more out of tourists in the most ingenious ways… But that wasn’t all. When we arrived, the total was 198,000 dong. I handed 200,000 to the driver, who started complaining. Then, without notice, he took my wallet (literally!) from my hands and tried to distract us; when he thought he DID distract us, he tried to pull off all my USD from my wallet. What he didn’t know is that I went through this scam in a similar fashion in Thailand, hence I was ready to block him and to prevent him from stealing our money. I started yelling at him in a very non-Confucian way, and the as*h!le still had the guts to ask for payment! I threatened him to call the police, at which he promptly jumped in the car and ran away. In all, we got a free taxi ride…



C class, seat 3G


While the nicest business class service on Vietnam Airlines can be found on the 777s used to fly to Hanoi, we weren’t headed there this time and had a much shorter hop to Nha Trang, just 55 minutes away. We originally thought about taking the night train, but as we are already using the railroad from Nha Trang to Hue, we decided to fly there. We originally booked a Y ticket online using my credit card on Vietnam Airline’s main website. Unfortunately, though, I lost the credit card I used to book this itinerary, and one of the requirements of Vietnam Airlines is to show the card used to book online at check-in. As we were about to leave the US and short on time, I just decided to ask for a ticket refund (paying a 20 USD fee) and to re-book using my new credit card; as C class was only 30 USD more expensive, we decided to give it a try. Even on a short hop like this one there are some marked benefits. First of all, business class has its own check-in area, with virtually no lines. This is not be underestimated, especially because many Vietnamese are new to air travel and carry with them countless bags and packages, making checking-in a long process at times.

Check-in was a breeze, I just had to present my online ticket reservation, passports, and the credit card I used to book the flight. We were handed our boarding cards and a lounge invitation.

Ready to go!

Well, not quite… 🙂

We climbed upstairs to departures level, went through security and headed to the domestic Vietnam Airlines lounge. This is another (obvious) perk of C class in Vietnam. The lounge had working wifi, comfortable armchairs, food (instant noodles, sandwiches, some pastries, fruit – quality was so-so), and a well-stocked bar where we were able to try local wine, Dalat (try it, it’s interesting, and then stay away from it, it’s of very poor quality,) and have some beers. A cheerful staff completed the scene, and flight announcements were made regularly.

Bar area of the Vietnam Airlines domestic lounge

Rather uninspiring food

Seating area

Another perk came at boarding. C class passengers board first, and then they have their own bus in case a jetway is not available; not bad, considering that we had 6 people overall on our bus while the other one was jam-packed. The plane – a rather new A320 – was still pretty spotless, at least in business class.

Our blurred A320

Nice, comfortable seat

After seating down we were offered some pre-departure drinks (water or juice) and a wet towel. Seats are comparable to a US carrier domestic first class seat, even though the armrest had more options, like, for instance, extending the feet support. I would say it was a pretty comfortable seat. Take off happened on time, and short after taking off we were offered drinks (I had a coffee and didn’t ask for alcoholic beverages so I cannot comment on their availability).

Coffee, please!

Service was attentive (we were also offered the national, English-language newspaper) and the flight went by very quickly. We landed on time at the new Nha Trang airport, ours being the only plane on the tarmac. The jetway quickly brought us to the baggage area, where we were able to buy minibus tickets to the city center while waiting for our backpacks which, as they were tagged priority, were among the first to be delivered. To sum up, I had a positive experience with VN C on the SGN-NHA route; while some things can be improved (re: food at the lounge), others definitely met my expectations. If in Vietnam again I would definitely try to book a C seat once more. Good job, Vietnam Airlines.

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