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Saturday 18 June 2016

Flying with Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 (2016) Part 2

Welcome to my return flight (SGN-SIN) on Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 trip report!

*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net 

One of the Airbus A321s in the fleet wears this Skyteam livery. 

For my part 1, click here


I did quite a lot on of trip reports on this airline, covering as many aircraft types as possible for the Airbus A321, this will be my last trip report on it. I hope you enjoy the reviews so far. Flying with Vietnam Airlines so far, I have been quite underwhelmed by the cabin service and finally for the first time possibly, I experienced a much better set of crew on this flight, something worth mentioning about. So sit back and relax and enjoy this trip report!
Vietnam Airlines aircraft flew so far: 

Airbus A321: VN-A325, VN-A335 and VN-A392
Airbus A330-200: VN-A372 (retired)
Airbus A350-900: VN-A886 and VN-A889
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner: VN-A862, VN-A863 and VN-A864

Some photos were taken during my time at Ho Chi Minh City 

I used mainly Foursquare which helped me find the best eating places in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Spicy beef rice - delicious 

One of the streets in Ho Chi Minh City 

Tiramisu cake and a chocolate drink at a cafe

Something caught my eye, guess what is it?

Florist shops 

This city is dominated by motorbikes - they are everywhere!

Cheesecake Cafe - it was vacant at that time and I managed to get quite a bit of work done.

Caramel cheesecake - this is really good 

Coffee Cheesecake 

One of Vietnamese popular local dishes 

Along the way back to the hotel, I passed by street shops

Look at the amount of cable!! 

Mango cheesecake and Ice Matcha with jelly

Seafood fried rice 

Grilled fish - Italian restaurant 

View of the neighbourhood in Saigon

Red Velvet Cake 


Sushi set - pretty average

Excellent Steak at  El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse

Side dishes to be ordered separately - quite an expensive meal but worth it. 

A local dish - one of my favourite

Pho beef noodles combination - really good 

Excellent Ramen at Ramen Danbo restaurant 

Coffee and Mango cheesecake

This is Hanoi's dish - fried rice with chicken (sliced meat cut inside)

Airline's mobile app (online check-in)

As my ticket doesn't allow seat assignment until 24 hours before departure, I had to do this quickly to get my desired seat. For short flights, I go for the window seat. 

Most rows in front were taken

I picked one of the rows near the rear, hoping that I can get at least the middle seat vacant 

On the day of departure 

It was my first time departing Ho Chi Minh in the afternoon, usually, I depart early in the morning. A good change as I didn't have to wake up early to rush to the airport.

Some photos of the interior of the international terminal (SGN)

The flights' departure at that time 

The normal queue was long, fortunately, the web check-in queue had only a passenger at the counter so, after 2 minutes of waiting, I was at the counter and got the boarding pass not long after. You should have seen the faces of some of the waiting passengers - priceless. 

Free Wifi at the airport and it is available at every part of the terminal. 

Look at the queue! I was glad to have checked in online. 

I wish I was flying to Taipei, one of my favourite cities in Asia. 

8th passenger to check-in, another flight from SGN to SIN, this route is becoming a routine for me.

The Airport Control Tower of SGN Airport 

At the airside, there are duty-free and souvenir shops to check out 

EVA Air's newest Boeing 777-300ER was at the airport, getting ready to push back. I like the new livery, do you? 

My lunch at the airport, it was quite expensive. U.S$8 for this. 

Spotted Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9, VN-A867 taxing to the runway for departure to Hanoi. 

VietjetAir Airbus A320

Another EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER was spotted, this time it was B-16712 being prepared for departure to Taipei. 

Quite crowded as most of the passengers were Taipei bound. 

Heading down the escalator, it means one thing, my aircraft was parked at a remote parking lot.

True enough, this was my 2nd time departing from one of these gates. 

Gate 11 was the assigned gate for my flight 

Watching the aircraft movement while waiting 

 Flight route: SGN-SIN

Miles: 675

 My ride: VN-A335

Date of departure: 23rd of May 
Airline: Vietnam Airlines
Flight: VN659
Route: SGN-SIN
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Registration: VN-A335
Delivered on 23rd August 2012
Configuration: C16 Y162
Engines: 2 X IAE V2533-A5
MSN: 5241
Gate: 11 
Load: 90% in Y class
Seat: 35G
Duration: 1 hrs 30 mins
Departure time: 1630
Boarding by bus: 1555
Pushed back: 1630
Take off: 1655
Actual arrival: 1943
Arrival time: 1925
Departure runway 25L
Arrival runway: 20R

The bus ride took around 15 minutes and we passed by a couple of new A321s (VN-612 and VN-614), I was hoping to get either one of them, but disappointedly we passed by them and stopped in front of this aircraft. Thankfully it was a new registration for me. 

First time boarding the Airbus A321 via the staircase, I managed to snap a few shots of it. As long as you do it quickly, the airport ramp staff close one eye.

2 emergency doors between the 1st and last door mean its an Airbus A321. 

VN-A335 - Airbus A321 (Welcome on board, Charles!) :) 

The golden lotus logo looks nice in the dark green livery 

Time to board the aircraft, the male crew you see in this photo welcome us on board 

One last photo of the exterior of the aircraft before entering it

Interior of the cabin (entering the aircraft from the rear)

This male crew was looking elsewhere, he didn't bother acknowledging me or any of the passing by passengers. 

These are the 2 out of 3 toilets located at the rear cabin 

A choice of newspapers in both Vietnamese and English

Not many photos of the cabin, for reference you can check out my previous trip report over here.

View from my seat 

Window seat 

Overhead drop-down screen came on for the safety video and at one part of the flight - entertainment for us to enjoy 

Sorry for the poor quality - this particular crew was pretty nice

In-flight meal 

A choice of beef and fish for us to choose, I chose the former. 

It was decent, nothing special about it. 

I chose the red wine to go along with the meat 

In-flight service 

Apart from one crew, the rest of them were warm and friendly, it was a surprise change from my previous flight experience with this airline. Most of them were enthusiastic and cordial towards the passengers and that's what service should be all about! Our flight departed late but the flight crew apologised us for the delay. It is strange that we pushed back on time but to another parking slot. We waited for another 15 minutes before engines were started, according to the Captain, we were delayed due to busy traffic at the airport.

Once we were on the way, safety demonstration was done and the crew did their mandatory checks before departure. Take off was powerful and we had a good view throughout. This time, the take-off was not so bumpy as my previous SGN-SIN flight with Singapore Airlines. The flight was routine and the captain told us that the weather at Singapore was cloudy, no mention about thunderstorm or turbulence during arrival. 

While for the in-flight service, it was normal and the crew including that one (failed to greet the passengers) were friendly. 2 trolleys starting from the front to the rear. The front distributed the food while the other one distributed drinks. The wait for our meal was around 25 minutes after departure, not too bad. 

For most parts of cruising, it was smooth and once we started descending it got a bit bumpy (check out the photos below) and the passengers got to witness a lighting display (nearby to where we were flying), I was hoping that we didn't have to fly into those clouds. 

We were placed into a holding pattern for a while (smooth ride) but once we were out of it, the ride got a bit turbulent and it got worse as we got closer to the airport. Lots of shakes and a few down drifts causing quite a few "woohoo" but nothing serious. Everyone by then was seated with the seat belts fastened and that's important. The flight crew relied on the automated autopilot system until the final approach when one of them was to manually fly the plane and land on the wet runway. It was a smooth landing and some of the passengers were relieved to be on the ground. My seatmates were Korean and they were quite nice especially the lady beside me. We spoke no English but we understood our hand signals especially during turbulence and the sight of the lighting. 

Although the ride during descending was slightly nerve-wracking I enjoyed it compared to my other flights with this airline. I won't mind flying back with the crew if I was given a choice. 

Window shot photos 

One of my targets for the later part of this year, Cambodia Angkor Air 

I wanted to fly on VN-A614! Next time. 

We stood here for around 15 minutes 

Passing by Jetstar Pacific's Airbus A320 with the 'Kungfu Panda' special livery 

Passing by Vietnam Airlines Airbus A350 and B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft 

It was my first sight of VN-A888. This means I have seen all 4 of them at this time. The airline will take delivery of another 10 more. 

Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777, my target for my upcoming trip in June 2016

The familiar sight of Malaysia Boeing 737 and Tigerair Airbus A320

Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777 in the new livery 

The airline's hanger with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner undergoing maintenance 

We were at the threshold of runway 25 Left, getting ready for departure 

Off we went (No video)


Positive climb gears up! Runway 25 Right is in sigh

The airline's other A321 just landed and was exiting the runway. 

A nice view of Ho Chi Minh City 

We made a few turns before heading towards Singapore 

The light was getting darker and I was expecting a smooth ride towards Singapore 

Passed by some grey clouds, but it was not turbulent 

Soon we entered some clouds 

It was quite shaky at this point 

We started our descend was placed on holding pattern not too far from Singapore

At this point, I thought the weather was clearing up 

More clouds to navigate through 

Pretty nice cloud formation with the sun setting and we were placed on another holding pattern 

Once we were out of it, we flew through some clouds and soon we saw lighting flashing from the distance 

At this point, we started seeing the 'lighting' display! 

Lots of lightning flashed as we continue our descent, the passengers seated on the right side was treated to a spectacular view 

Lightning was flashing (see the photo below)

The landing was quite bumpy, but we touched down safely on this wet runway 

Taxi to Terminal 3 took around 15 minutes, so we ended up at the gate quite late, not the airline's fault. When it comes to mother's nature, no one can do anything about it. 

At Terminal 3 airside

For locals, we used the automated machine and that takes less than 2 minutes to get through. 

Belt 48 - it didn't take long for the baggage to come out

That concludes the end of my trip to Saigon. I always look for new ways to get there! Stay tuned for my next trip report. 

My rating:

Airline's website and mobile app: 6/10
Ho Chi Minh International terminal experience: 7/10
Check-in staff: 6/10
In-flight service: 7/10
In-flight meal: 6/10
Cabin interior: 8/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Overall rating: 74/100


This has to be one of the best flight services I had with this airline and I asked myself, why can't most of the crew show some enthusiasm just like this set of crew. They were cordial and friendly towards each passenger, serving us with smiles on their faces. Not quite the SQ or CX standard but it was something that made me wonder whether I was flying on Vietnam Airlines. This airline has a good safety record and new aircraft (A350 and B787), the Airbus A321s are quite young in fact, with the oldest around 4 years old so it's fleet is quite modern compared with other Asian airlines. Cabin product is inconsistent and that's what the airline needs to work on, to standardise the new aircraft especially. Why did this airline have different configuration on the 787 (no Premium Economy Class on two of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, VN-A865 and A866?) No one outside the airline knows so it is down to "lottery" if you are flying long haul to let's say London because if you book yourself on Premium Economy and if you get either VN-A865 or A866, you are most likely get bumped into Economy Class if the Business Class is full. 

Airbus A350 (VN-A886 to A889) have different cabin products to the 787 Dreamliner but stories have been circulating that VN-A890 onwards would have cabin products similar to the 787 Dreamliner and hopefully the Premium Economy would be fitted with 2-3-2 instead of the 3-3-3. 

My next ride with this airline would be on the Boeing 777, stay tuned for the trip report.

For my part 1, click here

Thanks for reading.



  1. Just had I flight with 772 couple days ago, and I was surprised that Y seat is much more larger than those in 789 and 359. However, it is terrible in J.

    1. I booked myself on VN's 777 for both ways but aircraft changed to A330 and B787 (VN-A866), stay tuned for my trip reports on these 2. Going to try again in August/September.

  2. I just booked my flight in Business for SGN-PVG-SGN and I was so happy to fly on A350. A350 has been served on this route since April and the schedule was quite good as I check on flightradar. However, since couple days ago, they decided to switch back to 332, and they dont even notice to their J customers. Soooo angry :(

  3. Oops, looks like you are not the only one that got aircraft changed! That's life! Anyway, just heard news that VN-A863 has hit the jet bridge at Hanoi, it means one less Dreamliner for a while. Sad!

    1. Instead of getting 332, i got 777 for both flights. So sad!
      I will have SGN-NRT tonight in J thanks god no aircraft change at this point. HAN-NRT is now switched to 330 for sometimes from now. So happy they decided HAN not SGN haha. I just check the seat map and my friends who sit behind me will end up getting premium economy seats. Haha! They are going to use the aircraft for London and Frankfurt.

  4. Because of incident of VN-A863 crashed her door in Noi Bai last month, So Vietnam Airlines had to change their plane in some routes, both domestic and international because their flight plan had "broke".So last week, I booked flight VN 250 for SGN-HAN. in normal, B787 did this flight most frequently, I went to SMIS (Saigon ground service web ) to check plane, it showed VN-A866, OH yeah.But when i went to VNA checkin web,OH god it was A321 seat map and i got angry :( The booking room in HCMC had closed so i could't change my flight :(

    1. That is very unlucky! Last minute aircraft changes and anything changes from a wide-body to an A321 is a huge disappointment. I guess your flight was full, right? Better luck next time! On my previous flight (HAN-SGN), my flight was changed from the 777 to the 787 and according to the staff, I was supposed to fly on the A350 but when the bus transported us from the terminal to the aircraft, it was 787 (VN-A866).