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Thursday 26 May 2016

Flying with Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 (2016) Part 1

Welcome to my Trip Report on Vietnam Airlines!

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

For my part 2, click here

Vietnam Airlines was offering the cheapest fare for Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City return trip, so it wasn't difficult to figure out which airline to book. The price was around S$200 (the U.S $144) and I booked it without hesitation. My work currently requires me to travel there more often, and the more trips I made to Saigon, the more I am falling for this city. Of course in other months to come, I will be dropping by other cities. Anyway, do sit back and relax and enjoy this trip report. I have previously flown with this airline's Airbus A321, you can check out the report over here.

About the Airbus A321 

Airbus A321 is a member of the Airbus A320 family. It is the largest among its sibling. The Airbus A320 consists of A318, A319, A320, and this aircraft. However in the future, for the NEO (New Engine Option), only the A319, A320 and A321 will have the new engines, the A318 is dropped due to poor sales. 

The Airbus A321 was formerly known as A320 Stretched or A320-500. It was launched on the 25th November 1988 after commitments from 10 customers over 180 order for this version. What's the difference between this and the A320? Basically, it is the longer fuselage and the wings incorporating double-slotted flaps and minor trailing edge modifications. Because the length of the fuselage is longer, 2 emergency doors are designed (in front and behind the seats at the wings) instead of having the 2 overwing emergency windows. 

Check out here below for example:

This SN's Brussels Airbus A320 featuring 'Tintin' livery - spot the 2 overwing emergency windows?  

The Lufthansa's retro livery shows the Airbus A321 with the 2 emergency doors behind and in front of the seats at the wing. Can you see spot the difference? 

This aircraft type made its first flight on the 11th March 1993 first flew with the IAE V2500 engines then the second flew with the other engine option, CFM 56-5B turbofans. Alitalia and Lufthansa were the first airlines to operate this aircraft, with the latter taking delivery first.  

For more information on Airbus aircraft, you can check out my aircraft guide over here.

Airline's website 

The airline updated the website with some minor changes to the home page. 

I prefer the previous version which you can view all the destinations. For this case, I had to key in SIN (Singapore). 

The difference between this trip and my previous is that there are more flights between Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City. This time I decided on the evening flight there and the last flight back to Singapore, this gives me more flexibility. 

Later on, I was offered by Optiontown to upgrade my seat to Business Class. Doesn't make sense since the flight was short and I had already experienced the airline's A321 business class. You can check out that trip report over here.

Airline's web check-in (Mobile app)

Do note that once you check-in, you cannot cancel your check-in or change seat, so be sure to confirm your action before clicking on the check-in button. 

Adding frequent program can help you earn miles but for discounted airfare, usually, you don't get any points. 

Selecting my seat is quite important for me! I don't want to end up sitting between 2 fellow passengers.

The front rows were taken. 

I decided to sit near the rear instead as I hope to be able to have the middle seat vacant. 

Do take note of this! 

Once that is done, there is no way back. If you need to change seat, you have to do it at the airport.

Usually, the airline issues boarding passes and I heard that from Vietnamese Airport, they don't accept mobile check-in. 

Seat map of the airline's Airbus A321 

Brown seats - Business class (16)

Blue seats - Economy Class (168)

On the day of departure 

I did some work in the morning before heading to the airport around noon time. Disappointedly, I was told to check-in 3 hours before the scheduled flight, no early check-in for this airline at Changi Airport. For the return flight (departure from SGN airport), the check-in staff had no issue checking me earlier. My guess would be the airline has to pay more for the airport fees to allow passengers to check-in early? Who knows. 

Vietnam Airlines depart from Terminal 3 of Changi Airport 

Checking the flight board for my flight status looks good. 

Charging port is available at the landside (near the departure drop-off area)

Vietnam Airlines Check-in counters - the counters were opened for Hanoi flight and I had to return half an hour later for my check-in. 

Singapore Airlines showing off its top-class products (Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class)

The impressive Premium Economy Class seats 

Economy Class (Better than the previous product)

Business Class product (One of the best out there in my opinion)

Safety card of the Airbus A350, Singapore Airlines' newest aircraft in the fleet. The airline has ordered 67 of this aircraft type. 

The aviation gallery at Terminal 3 

Not ideal for plane photography 

Electronic goods are sold here but the prices of the items do not interest me 

Some restaurants to check out before you head to the airside 

Painting on exhibit! 

Once the 30 minutes of exploring are up, I made my way back to the check-in counter to complete the procedure. 

This time, my flight details were shown on the screen. 

Got my boarding pass, this is my 8th boarding pass from this airline!

Do you like the interior of this terminal? 

If you are a tourist, you have to check out this place, great view to enjoy especially for a picnic. 

Crowne Plaza and the Skytrain station are just beside each other at Terminal 3

Take the boat along Singapore River! Go to either Clarke Quay or Boat Quay to catch a ride. 

If you need help, you can use one of these giant monitor touch screen displays to help you.

Checking Flightradar24, I was slightly disappointed that it was one of the older Airbus A321 scheduled to fly me to my destination. I was hoping for a newer aircraft, the VN-A6XX series in fact. 

My previous rides with this airline's A321 are VN-A325 and VN-A392 (twice), so the consolation part was it was a different aircraft. 

About to take off!

On her way to Singapore and she arrived pretty much on time

Almost there! Look at the amount of traffic taking place

On final approach 

This is the plane finder application, a rival of Flightradar24. 

At the airside 

What I like about Terminal 3 is it is spacious even when it is crowded.

Lots of shops to check out 

Come here to charge your phone

Snoozing area but don't forget about your flight!

This Boeing 777-200ER was undergoing an engine test. 

I stopped by Durkin Donut to pick up 2 doughnuts and a drink! I know its sinful, but I needed something sweet. :)

Once the time was near, I made my way to the departure gate. The aircraft was already there when I reached. 

The departure room was 1/4 filled when I was there. If only there is a toilet inside each holding room.

My ride: VN-A324

Flight route: SIN-SGN

Miles: 675

Flight Duration: 1 hrs 30 mins to 2 hours depending on weather and airport traffic at the arrival airport

The boarding announcement was done in an orderly manner. Business class, passengers needing assistance (family..etc) and Frequently flyer gold members were allowed to board first before the rest could do so. 

Time to board the A321

The control system that operates this aero-bridge

Welcome on board VN-A324!

A member of the Skyteam alliance!

Date of departure: 13th May 2016
Airline: Vietnam Airlines
Flight: VN654
Route: SIN-SGN
Aircraft type: Airbus A321
Registration: VN-A324
Delivered on 19th May 2011
Configuration: C16 Y168
Engines: 2 X IAE V2533-A5 
MSN: 4703
Terminal: 3 
Seat: 32A
Gate: B6
Load: 80% 
Duration: 1 hrs 35 mins
Pushed back: 1822
Boarding: 1749
Take off: 1832
Scheduled departure: 1835
Actual arrival: 1907
Scheduled arrival: 1930
Departure runway: 20C
Arrival runway: 25R

Cabin crew on this flight was once again a disappointment. The crew was just watching, no eye contact or smiles from them. Only the flight purser (probably) was nice enough to look at our tickets and direct us to our seats. Well, on a single-aisle aircraft like the A321, it isn't difficult to figure out. 

Business Class 

Same cabin products as my previous experience on this airline's A321. No back screen IFE system on both Economy and Business Class. These seats are regional business class, nothing to shout about. Good enough for short-haul flights like mine. However, I would not pay over the odds just to experience this product. 

 A divider to separate both Economy and Business Class 

The 2-2 layout is commonly used for Business Class on narrow-bodies (Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft) 

The cabin products are different from the newer generation aircraft, the Airbus A350, and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. 

Economy Class 

32'inch legroom space, quite comfortable. The airline's Airbus A321 flies up to 6 hours in the airline's network, I am surprised the airline decided not to retrofit the aircraft with 'sharklets'. 

No Individual PTV system, but there is a drop-down screen

Everyone was settling into their seat for the short 1 and a half hours flight to SGN. 

Shot of the interior during in-flight 

It is rare to see a 2-seater at the rear of a narrow-body aircraft. 

More photos of the seat 

Audio Entertainment system can be used to listen to the audio channel or the IFE (drop-down screen) shows - makes you feel like in the 90s. 

Decent legroom space 

Photos taken before the seats were filled up. Fortunately for me, the middle seat remained vacant. 

Photos of the toilet 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Airline's safety card 

In-flight magazine 

Disposal Bag 

In-flight Fashion Magazine 

Some details of the airline's newest aircraft: A350-900 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

In-flight experience

Greeted by the once again not so enthusiastic crew who seemed to prefer to be somewhere else. Made my way to my seat and being ignored by a couple of male crew whose attitude just sum up everything about them. 

Fortunately, the middle seat remains vacant and both my seatmate (aisle) and myself were relieved as we could enjoy the extra legroom space. A good thing I didn't pay more for the Business Class seat! We pushed back slightly ahead of schedule and taxied to runway 20C. The ride to runway 20C and there was no queue at all so by the time we reached there, we immediately took off. Our take-off was powerful as we climbed smoothly before turning towards our heading to our destination. 

Seat belt sign was turned off and the crew began their service. Later on. the captain (Korean) updated us on our flight path and even gave an announcement in Korean. There must be some Korean passengers on board my flight, I guess. Meals service came not too long after and it was done from the front to the rear with the drink service followed after that. 

What caught my attention was during the final approach to SGN airport, some passengers got up and headed towards the toilet. None of the crew stopped them, an announcement should have been made to remind them the aircraft was landing. Another passenger tried to go to the toilet when the aircraft was seconds to touching down but luckily this time a crew told her firmly to sit down.

So for you readers out there, please obey the crew's instruction and not to leave your seat during descending (seat belt sign on and flight is below 10,000 feet), what could have happened if the passenger is not seated during its final moments of landing, the flight crew (if they know about it) could request for a missed approach and that would waste everyone's time.

We landed early and taxied to a remote parking lot where we disembarked. We transferred from the Airbus to the bus which took us to the terminal. 

In-flight meal 

I had a choice between fish and pork and I chose the latter

I chose 7-up for my drink. The pork rice was not bad, I finished the meal within 5 minutes, was quite hungry at that point. 

Window-shot photos 

The massive Boeing 777-300ER of Singapore Airlines! Hope to fly on you one day, 9V-SNB!

When everyone is on board early, the flight can leave earlier. So remember not to leave shopping at the last minute! 

Looks who is here? Air Asia's QPR's aircraft just arriving from Kuala Lumpur. 

Taxiing along November Charlie 2 taxiway

A UPS Boeing 767-300F resting 

Singapore Airlines' Triple 7 resting for the evening flight to Europe. 

Not at any point we stopped, we taxied to this point and the captain had powered up the engines as we started our acceleration for taking off 

Rolling down the runway 

Smooth and powerful take-off 

Goodbye Singapore, I would be back in 10 days! 

Unfortunately, the sunlight was against my direction when I spotted Changi Airport from the air. 

The view of Changi Airport! 

The sky is getting dark, lots of clouds along the way but the ride was relatively smooth 

Flying over the Malaysia Peninsula and after that, it was the South China Sea until the coast of Vietnam

Gloomy weather along the way, just a bit of bump here and there and seat belt sign was turned on for a short while. 

Finally out of the gloomy weather and the passengers on the left side of the aircraft got to enjoy the sunset 

Enjoying sunset at Flight Level 360 while enjoying my meal, what more can I ask? 

On approach to SGN airport 

Landing at this airport was a smooth affair 

Spotted the usual traffic 

We parked at the remote parking lot, I heard some groans from the rear.

At the luggage carousel 

Finally, we were out! I booked a private taxi - more comfortable than the regular ride and thankfully this driver knows the way to the hotel. 

My rating: 

Airline's website and mobile app: 6/10
SIN Terminal 3 Airport experience: 9/10
Check-in staff: 6/10
In-flight service: 5/10
In-flight meal: 7/10
Cabin interior: 8/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Enjoyment: 8/10
Overall rating: 74/100


Once again, another disappointing service from Vietnam Airlines. What this set of crew needs is some motivation and that can only be done by the management. However, my return flight's experience was better, more on that on my part 2, coming up soon. 

My overall experience is not that bad, at least one thing for sure about flying with this airline is reliability and decent in-flight meal on board. The airline's Airbus A321 cabin and seat pitch are definitely better more comfortable than the Low-Cost Carriers and you don't have to pay for your seats at all. So if you come across good offer with this airline (most of the time), go for it. As a Skyteam member, you can earn points provided you pay more for your economy class ticket (check the booking class on the airline's website for more info). Comparing this to my previous experience? There isn't much difference in service and in-flight cabin product. 

For my part 2, click here

Hope you enjoy this trip report!



  1. well it is true that the flight attendances are sometimes very rude and sometimes are so nice. You can clearly figure out who has the passion with aviation and who used the money to get this job. ;) That is the problem with VNA. ;)

    1. Not just with VNA, airlines in the U.S also have such cabin crew, maybe even worse than VN's crew. I just flew last week with VN, sad to say the service on both flights were once again disappointing.

    2. Just had J on SYD-SGN, SGN-PVG, PVG-SGN and none of the service was great. I was presented a birthday gift on board anyway, but the way they served their J customers was still SO-SO. I book SGN-PVG with 350 in mine but due to last minute change, I ended up getting 777 VNA-145 for both flights (Also 145 for SGN-SYD). Very tired J cabin. I think that aircraft loves me. I can't change my flights because the next couple months are also switched to 330 or 777. They are no longer fly with A350, eventhough they just introduce 350 for this route couple months ago.

    3. You just need to wait for more A350s to come in, only then the remaining 777 will be retired and you get to fly on the A350. For now, we are like playing musical chair game with Vietnam Airlines! Flying the A330, just don't get the old ones! You feel like in the 1990s when flying on them.

    4. Just got A330 from 1999 haha! pretty spacious cabin because of no overhead cabin for PVG-SGN. Haha! It was a fun experience because the crews were fantastic. On the other hand. I had 787 on SGN-NRT and the crews were impolite, unprofessional and rude to me so Im going to write a report. Ive never experienced such a bad flight. They took many wrong orders and they blamed to me and spoke loud to me. Ordered cocktail and they served tea. Who is going to order tea at 2a.m? The reason im going to report them is because for the breakfast they brought out the main with a yogurt. I asked them where are the Japanese side dishes and pickles and they said because I ordered the JP course with Western tray. The way they responded to me is like I was begging them for food. After all, they brought me a bowl of Pho and the male attendance said 2 words 'tự lấy' which means take it by yourself. Damn It was a nightmare flight and you can imagine how did they treat J passenger!! Anyway, thanks for keep chatting recently haha! It was fun to talk about this Airline.

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  3. sorry but some of the airline's a321 have ife screen on j class