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Friday 10 May 2013

Flying with Vietnam Airlines (Part 3: TPE-SGN - J Class)

Welcome to my final instalment of my Vietnam Airlines's experience!

For my other reports on this airline:

VN's Airbus A321 SIN-SGN-SIN sectors
VN's Airbus A330-200 SGN-TPE sector

Flight route: TPE-SGN

Miles: 1370

So far, I had been underwhelmed with the airline's performance, as nothing much had impressed me so far.

Will the J class change my impression on this airline? Read more to find out. 

Originally, all 4 sectors were booked on Y class. I didn't have any intention to upgrade to J class on any sector, but that thought came into my mind just a few days before my departure flight from Taipei. I was furious to find out the night before that my flight was indeed downsized to A321 and it was the same aircraft as my SIN-SGN flight, VN-A392. Well, that certainly didn't improve my situation with the airline. Anyway, looking at the bright side, my request for an upgrade to J class using option town was approved. I paid about US$47 for it and at least for the 3 hours flight, I would get to enjoy some more legroom space and comfort.

Anyway, on the day itself. I woke up at 4 am and left my hostel at 4.20 to catch the first bus to the airport. The bus took about an hour to get there and when I was there, the terminal 1 check-in counters were buzzed with many other travellers who probably like me hated the idea to catch the early flight. Anyway, I went to the business class counter which was only like 1-2 persons in front of me, unlike the Economy class queue which was extremely long! Ohh yes, did I mention to you that there was no online check-in for Taiwan's departure (KHH and TPE)? Another negative point for the airline!

                                  Yes! I scored an operation upgrade.

                         A 3rd party application to view my booking

See the difference between the J class and the Y class queues. If you book on Y class and the airline doesn't offer online check-in, you are advised to come early to do so, to avoid the long queues. 

At first, the counter lady thought that I was in the wrong queue as my ticket was classified as a Y class ticket, but after showing them my 'option town' itinerary, the manager came to assist her before my ticket was issued without any further issues. I was issued the lounge and the boarding pass and I think no prize for guessing where I headed to after collecting the ticket. Yes, to the China Airlines's lounge which was quite close to my gate.

From the check-in counter to the departure hall took around 20 minutes, by then I had an hour and a half to spare, no problem, I would then make my way there.  Here are some of the photos.

 Slice Fish 'Bee Hoon' soup 

To order this meal, there is a touch screen computer at the counter. There is a choice of 4 meals, can't remember what are they, I picked this as I didn't want a heavy breakfast. The waiting time was about 5 minutes with a short queue of 5.

Looking around the lounge, it looks like in the 90s, quite old fashion, free wifi was not offered (if I am not wrong). However, there is an internet room for you to use the computer and print stuff, a toddler room and that's nothing about it, I think.

Not long after, I made my way to the gate. To see 2 A321s parking beside one another, I was disappointed. I would very much prefer flying on the A330.

The passengers were anxious to board the aircraft and luckily for me, I entered the aircraft on the first lane without anyone in the queue. It was a nice feeling to have folks watching you board the aircraft.  Later on, it turned out that the J class had only 4 of us. 4 out of 16 J class seats were taken and the economy class wasn't full, no wonder the A321 was used today.

My ride home: VN-A392, Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 

Photo: Jack Li

Carrier: Vietnam Airlines
Flight number: VN571
Aircraft type: Airbus A321
Registration: VN-A392
Line number: 5306
Engines: 2X IAE2533-A5
Delivery date: 12/10/2012
5th time on an Airbus A321 and 2nd time on this aircraft
Gate: A2
Seat number: 1A
Flight Duration: 3 hrs 15 mins
Departure time: 0745
Push back time: 0742
Take off: 0810
Arrival: 1030
Departure time: 05R
Arrival runway: 07R
FL: 350

                                My welcome drink: Apple Juice

Since there were empty seats, we were free to move around. However, I was more than happy to settle at my row 1A, a bulkhead seat. 

About the J class on this A321: There was neither IFE (In-flight entertainment system) or WiFi on board, so you have to sort that out yourself. There were magazines but they weren't interesting so, I sat back and just watched the world passing by me for most of the flight. 

Do take note that these seats are neither recliners or flat-bed, they offer only legroom space and wider width, that's about it. 

Mood lighting was activated. 

During the flight, it was a bit choppy but the seat belt sign was not turned on at all. If this was a Taiwanese flight, I would probably not had the chance to take these photos at all.  

About the service

Since the ratio of the crew to the passenger was small, the service that I received was expected, just a normal good service, nothing outstanding to be honest. The 3 hours went pass fast and we landed SGN slightly early and taxied to the remote gate where we disembarked. The business class passengers get to take the airport bus first and we reached the airport just a few minutes ahead of the rest of the passengers.

A mediocre J class meal

 I chose the egg omelette for my breakfast, probably the worst I have eaten so far. It was so blended and the vegetable and potato weren't any better. Fruits came along after that and that tasted slightly better. For Business Class, you expect better offerings than this. 

                     Some window-shot photos taken during the flight

I thought I was in Japan for a moment. 

In-flight service

I can't comment since it was only 4 of us out of 16 in the cabin, service like this, you would expect it to be better than normal (3/4 full at least) but to be honest, this airline after flying 3 times with them (at that point), had left me unimpressed. The lack of friendliness and warmth from the crew played a big role in my disappointment.

In-flight meal

No doubt, the worst J class meal I ever had. Blend taste is all I can say.


Despite the disappointing experience in-flight, the US$47 upgrade deal was a bargain. You may get lounge access depending on the airport staff,  they have the right not to give you access since one of the conditions of Optiontown states so. Not only that, at least you get business class serving and more importantly the much-needed legroom space. I would recommend anyone to try the Optiontown. This is how it works, you have to pay a non-refundable registration fee to sign up with Optiontown. Once you decide which flights you want to upgrade, you will pay for them and Optiontown will send you an email on whether your application to upgrade your flight is successful. Usually, if the airline has spare seats, your chance is high. If your request is rejected, Optiontown will refund your money.

Do I recommend this airline to you guys? If you have choices, I would say no.

Thank you for reading my trip report.




  1. Its really interesting will you tell me about Complimentary air miles, thanks for sharing such a nice Article

    1. Hi Amanda, Merry Christmas to you!

      Optiontown applies to some airlines such as Vietnam Airlines. You will receive an email to make a bid to upgrade yourself to a better cabin class (Economy to Business) and the bid is usually fixed and you will know the result few days before your flight. If your bid is unsuccessful, the payment you made would be refunded.