I opted for this flight mainly because I had never flown west from Japan to the US before. However, I needed to get to Frankfurt for my fifth freedom route on Singapore Airlines to New York JFK. This Vietnam Airlines business class was perfect. I would connect in Hanoi before heading to Germany, arriving before 6:30 a.m. in time for my flight 8:00am to the US. Also, since this would be a relatively long flight, I wanted to fly Sky Team to credit my flights to Delta.
Overall, the journey on Vietnam Airlines was enjoyable, as the service was delightful and full of smiles, and the hard product was comfortable. Plus, the customer service experience was excellent across the board, with lots of smiles and a friendly and efficient crew.
The hard product was good, and the seats were comfortable, typical of what you would find on many other carriers. Also, the IFE was excellent, with lots of options and a wide selection of things to watch.
On the downside, the food was a little mixed, the aircraft needs some TLC, and the lack of Wi-Fi was a killer for me. That is really unacceptable in 2023, especially for the price paid for a business-class ticket. Also, Vietnam Airlines has some odd service protocols that can be dramatically improved!
Booking a Vietnam Airlines Business Class Ticket
Booking my Vietnam Airlines Business class ticket and its aftermath was a bit of an adventure and not a good one. I opted to book using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This way, I could save some money by paying for a portion of the fare with points. While still being able to credit my flight to Delta. I used 24,238 points to save $302.99 on my ticket for a total cash price of $1,415.22.
Things started to go wrong from the beginning. Unfortunately, even though I entered my Delta information directly into the Vietnam Airlines reservation manager on their website, this never made it into my actual itinerary. So, in the end, I have to go and claim the miles retroactively.
Next, there was a time change in the itinerary, and I was reissued a ticket. However, this one said “Economy,” which genuinely frustrated me. Suddenly, it looked like I was automatically downgraded, and this was within days of my flight. So, I jumped on the phone with Chase, and they could not figure it out.
The agent spent 25 minutes trying to figure out what was happening. He tried calling Vietnam Airlines and said he could not reach them. He then offered to call me back; I accepted his offer but never received a callback. I am still waiting, Chase, if you read this.
Later, I went online to see if I could find anything out and noticed the fare class was still “Z,” which means Business Class. Even though “Economy” was written on the ticket, it was very confusing! So I logged in on the Vietnam Airlines web Flight Manager and found this listed as Business Class.
Fortunately, everything worked out at the airport, although it was a stress I did not need. One thing I will say is that I was disappointed with the Chase Ultimate Rewards customer service. On the one hand, the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is an excellent tool for booking flights; however, I think the customer service side of the platform can use improvements.
The Ground Experience
Two words come to mind describing my ground experience here: “Chaotic and Stressful.” We had just gotten off our Japan Airlines flight from Hokkaido. First, we needed to transfer from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2, where we ate, and then from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 to check into my flight.
Overall, this was a nightmare. The bus between terminals was overcrowded with huge queues, and even on the bus, there were far too many people too much luggage, and the bus made a sharp, difficult turn that nearly sent a few people flying. I think the next time around; I will be paying for the monorail.
Once in Haneda Terminal 3, finding the Vietnam Airlines check-in takes time. It is located on the upper level at the far left North and west lanes, L & M, at Tokyo Haneda.
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Check-In
The check-in was super-fast, and I used the dedicated check-in for Sky Priority, which was empty. The agents were magnificent, and it was one of the best check-in experiences I have ever had. The process was seamless.
The agents asked if Frankfurt was my final destination. I told her I was connecting to a Singapore Airlines SQ26 flight from Frankfurt to New York JFK. Then I asked if they could tag my bags all the way to New York. After showing them my itinerary and reservation, the agents researched the routing and connection procedure.
She replied she could do it but wanted to double-confirm with her supervisor, which took about a minute. I was so happy with this news. One of my biggest fears with this routing was that I would have to enter Germany to pick up my bags and transit, then check in for Singapore Airlines. There was too much potential for problems and delays.
The agent again asked if I was going to enter Germany. I told her that as long as the bags transferred, there was no reason for me to enter Germany. Finally, I was handed two boarding passes and two tags on the last ticket. I must say in my opinion that Vietnam Airlines has beautiful boarding passes with some awesome colors. Unfortunately, this would become a problem later before my Singapore flight. I inadvertently dropped my ticket and baggage tags while going through security in Frankfurt between concourses.
The agent told me I had access to the ANA lounge before departure. However, with boarding scheduled to begin in 30 minutes, it would be a fleeting visit at best.
The ANA Lounge and Boarding
I don’t have much to say about the ANA Lounge at Haneda Terminal 3 since I spent a total of 7 minutes here. Although the security line today wasn’t too long at Haneda, it took me about ten minutes to enter through Security and cross Immigration. Plus, the flight was leaving from gate 105, which is about as far away as it gets in terminal 3, and it took about 10 minutes to get there.
As I headed to the gate, I stuck my head in the lounge for a few minutes as I passed it by. Unfortunately, this is the second time I have somehow managed to miss this lounge in Tokyo. But hopefully, one day, I will manage to visit and do a proper review. That said, it looks like a fun, if crowded, place to visit, which also has excellent views of the air traffic at the airport.
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Boarding
After my long walk, I managed to get to the gate just as the boarding with Zone 1 Business Class and Sky Priority passengers was starting. Boarding started on time at 3:45 p.m. I was through in a flash and heading to the plane.
It was fantastic to view the plane going down, as the walk was rather long at the end of Gate 105 – the beautiful Blue, Yellow, and White planes of Vietnam Airlines. When I got on board, I was surprised to see only one other person on board! Generally, this never happens to me, and I was surprised to see it.
Upon boarding, I was greeted with a smile, and each crew member offered to help me with my baggage. I only gave them one piece (some art I was hand-carrying to the USA). And I did the rest myself. A nice touch was the flight attendant personally showing me to my seat.
They immediately offered to stow my bag in the upper bin. This was repeated on my second flight, and I realized that it is customary in the Business Class cabin to assist all passengers with their luggage. On this flight, the cabin was only about a third full, with many empty spaces.
The Vietnam Airlines Business Class Cabin and Seats
Vietnam Airlines business class cabin on this B789 is spacious and airy. The color pallet has many white, greenish-tan, and beige finishes. I think it’s one of the oddest color schemes I’ve seen in a business-class cabin, making it look older than it really is.
The central part of the cabin has higher luggage bins, giving the rear half of the cabin an extraordinarily open and airy feel. Meanwhile, the forward area has lower bins, giving it a more constricted feel than the middle.
Sadly, the aircraft’s interior looked pretty dated and could use cleaning or thorough retrofitting. However, my second flight from Hanoi to Frankfurt was even worse.
The front of the cabin has three TV screens displaying our flight route to Hanoi.
The Vietnam Airlines business class cabin has two restrooms. One is located at the front, and one is in the middle/rear of the cabin. One is slightly more spacious than the other, and I preferred the side restroom over the forward bathroom.
There is not much difference between rooms. Both have a folding table and a live plant flower display. Neither one has any supplemental amenities beyond the Germetic soap and lotion.
As far as I could tell, apart from size, the only difference is that the side restroom has an LED light along its panel.
I was seated in 4K, which is a window seat. I had specifically chosen this seat due to the excellent window alignment in row 4. The seat gave me great views of the engine and two full windows with no breaks.
If you’re right-handed – the side table is well positioned for use with a mouse. On the downside there is an odd bump-up here, and working is somewhat awkward. This side of the plane is less ideal if you’re left handed.
A wide table on the side that pulls out from a latch. The folded table comes out in two halves and folds out longitudinally.
The seat has a decent amount of storage space and cubbies. You can store shoes in the footwell, while some charging and wire storage is behind the magazine slot. Also, on the opposite side of the seat, there is a deep storage well that can be popped up and opened by pressing a button.
Connectivity and IFE screen
In terms of connectivity and power, there is a USB and headphones jack next to seat controls; headphones are mounted within a storage cubby. However, a power port is above the storage, below the tray table, and around the corner.
A large 18” TV is in the back of the seat in front of you and can be operated by touchscreen or the controls. While on the left side by the aisle, there is a coat hook. The seat is rounded off with two air vents and lights. Interestingly, as I inventoried the seat functions, I could not find a mirror anywhere.
If the seat feels familiar, don’t be surprised. It is the same one that is used by a wide range of airlines. These include KLM, Delta Airlines, and Air France. I’ve flown it many times. It is one of the most common in the skies.
The seat comes with a Pillow and Blanket, both yellow colored; It also comes with yellow-colored Vietnam Airlines slippers. Cool color, for sure.
One point I need to bring up about the seat and the cabin, in general, is that I noticed that the cleaning isn’t the best. The cabin definitely looks worn and in need of proper maintenance. The plane was showing its age. This was the case on this flight as well as my next flight.
The pullout seat controls can be found on the upper table side. They feature the usual functions: Upright, Relaxed, Lounge, and Bed. In addition, you have other various seat functions, including reclines and movements.
Overall, I found the range of functions very limited and basic for a business-class seat.
The Vietnam Airlines Business Class Amenity Kit
I was not expecting much from the Vietnam Airlines Business Class amenity kit by Parfums Charriol. Surprisingly, I found this Amenity Kit to have several useful items and one odd one. The kit case felt cheaply made like it was made for a specific budget. The contents were of inconsistent quality and usefulness. However, there were a few handy items, like the special folding comb/brush.
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Amenity Kit Contents
- Moisturizing Lotion
- Lip balm
- The folding dual comb and brush is probably the most useful item in my book; this was cool!
- Eye Mask
- Comfort socks
- Two stickers were very odd: on one side was a “Wake Me Up for Service” sticker, and on the other was a “Wake Me Up for Duty-Free” sticker. I wonder how many people use either.
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Inflight Entertainment & Wi-Fi
The IFE was ancient, so much so the headphones had triple-prong socket, meaning you can’t use your own. On the plus side, I found the selection of IFE, especially movies, very extensive. Vietnam Airlines excels at this as well, on par with Delta Airlines. Once up and running, I found the audio quality excellent, especially for movies.
That said, the IFE has its downside. You could not watch a movie uninterrupted. Every time an announcement was made, the system reset, which, as you can imagine, is massively irritating. Furthermore, as I explored the IFE, I noticed tons of areas that needed improvement or were unpolished from a technical standpoint. Someone needs to go through and fix all the technicalities, including:
- Tons of spelling or grammar mistakes
- Some buttons and sections didn’t even work
That said, I found the flight map to be excellent and comprehensive.
Your Vietnam Airlines business class seat comes with its own brand of noise-canceling headphones. These came hanging in the seat storage cubby and are packaged with ear covers, which is excellent!
There is a paper pouch that has new ear covers for the headphones, and the user must put these on. I found them highly effective, producing great audio on the IFE and a very DIM plane noise in the background.
The Wi-Fi situation On Vietnam Airlines is unacceptable. There is none! Ultimately, it is my fault for not researching this better. Had i known I would definitely looked at booking another route.
I cannot get work done in this day and age without working Wi-Fi on a flight. I also paid nearly $1.5k for the ticket, which is pretty ludicrous for a plane without Wi-Fi in Business Class in 2023. While I should have been better prepared, I also wanted to try this product anyway, so that I would have planned differently.
We pushed off the gate on time, but the axing took forever, about 30 minutes or so. At one point, I was worried we would arrive late in Hanoi due to the taxiing. Fortunately, we landed early, and I could make my scheduled business call. The takeoff was of the screaming variety, and no sooner had we taken off from the NE-SW Runway 22 to the Southwest. Then, the aircraft plane curved in various directions before finally orienting to the west toward Korea. Our route would take us over Korea, Eastern China, and Vietnam.
Even though this was a daytime flight, the cabin was dimmed dark for the entire flight. However, some passengers tried to brighten their windows selectively, but these were forced dark later in the flight. I spent most of my time working, even with no Wi-Fi, so the lighting situation was not a big deal for me. Later into the flight, I noticed as we were heading into the setting sun it shone through the blue-tinted windows and gave the whole cabin a stunning blue glow.
The crew provided excellent service on the flight, but it was not refined and felt rushed. Everything was served quickly, and in many cases, meals were offered before I was even done with them. While the crew was good, I felt they needed more training on meeting passengers’ needs.
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Meal Service
On this flight, I felt like there were many flight attendants – four – serving the Business Class cabin. Honestly, this is more than I’ve seen on most cabins of this size. While the crew was friendly, they were rushed and mal-coordinated, especially when it came to delivering the meal service. On several occasions, items were delivered before I finished the previous menu item.
Also, some parts of the service did not make sense at all. Like how snacks, fruit, and dessert are served. On the flip side, I got tons of coffee refills, and the lead flight attendant recommended areas to visit in Vietnam.
Pre-departure drinks were served within ten minutes of boarding; I was offered a choice of Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Champagne, and Water. I went for the apple this time, which was then served with a small Vietnam Airlines coaster.
Also, Warm towels were distributed (first round), and newspapers were distributed as needed. Every business class passenger was offered one.
Finally, prior to departure a Flight Attendant also walked around distributing newspapers for the flight.
Post Departure Service
No sooner than we were airborne, the post-departure service began with another round of warm towels. The nuts were offered in a cold bowl alongside a small appetizer course.
Next came the Hello Vietnam! Welcome drink; this concoction was both sour and sweet and a beautiful orange color. Although it tasted a little bitter, I rather liked it personally. However, I can easily see why some people wouldn’t and find it tasted like medicine. Overall, the service was very personalized.
Before takeoff, the flight attendant came around and distributed the menus. These were tagged for the flight in English, Vietnamese, and Japanese. Then, before the doors closed, a purser came around and took everyone’s order. This process was so fast and rushed I didn’t even have a chance to look at the menu before I was asked to order! Despite this, the Purser was amiable and explained the options on the menu to me.
Today, I had the choice between a Japanese Course and an Asian/Western option. Heading out of Japan, I selected a Japanese menu.
About 20 minutes after takeoff, the food bombardment commenced. Twice, I was asked if I wanted to move to the next course before actually finishing the first. The crew could definitely be more observant and actually looking at what is happening on your plate.
Comically, in a somewhat surreal experience, before I finished the first part of the main course (I still had half a plate to eat), it was taken away by a different flight attendant without saying a word. The main meal was served as two courses or parts.
Main Course Items: Part One
- Assorted Japanese Delicacies – enjoyed all the dishes presented.
- Simmered Dish
- Vinegared Dish
Main Course Items: Part Two
- Miro Soup – Delicious
- Steamed Rice bowl
- Chose the Simmered Mackerel in Japanese style instead of the Braised Beer
Vietnam Airlines excelled when it came to presentation. I found it to be beautiful, making the meal look delicious.
Snacks & Dessert
Some snacks were offered midway through the flights. And while there was nothing special about the snacks themselves, the way they were presented was odd. First, two flight attendants walked around with a tray of options. One tray had many cheese options and some crackers.
The cheese plate was lovely, and I got first dibs; I also helped myself to a selection from the fruit plate. They also had a dessert tray with them. While the presentation was beautiful, I thought the execution was a bit impractical.
Things went south on the second serving, fortunately not to me but to a little girl seated in the seat across from me. The flight attendant lost her balance and spilled the entire tray on the girl. While I appreciate accidents do happen, it was an incredible, surreal experience that I’ve never seen in the skies. The bottom line is while a service like this is incredibly personal and beautiful, it is also highly impractical.
Mid Flight Snack
A mid-flight snack was offered to those who wanted it, and I asked for instant noodles. Sadly, this was not pho but a Thai Shrimp flavored Instant Ramen. But hey, I figured I would try it anyway. Especially after the flight attendant came by and showed me the case to confirm I wanted it, which I appreciated.
That is where the pleasant experience with this snack ended. Unfortunately, I felt pretty weak after this meal; it definitely isn’t the healthiest. So, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless you don’t care or are just looking to fall asleep.
Arrival at Hanoi HAN
35 minutes before landing, the pilot came over the intercom to announce our impending arrival. I was astonished to hear a strong British accent since the pilot had not spoken to us before. We ended up on the ground at 7:35 p.m., much earlier than scheduled; however, we were held up a little getting to the gate.
Once we arrived at the gate and disembarked, an agent was waiting right in front of the Aircraft, waiting to check and guide transfer passengers. All transfers are supposed to check in here. I did and was advised to go upstairs to the connecting flights’ transit area and also to the third floor for the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge.
This is also where you clear immigration and customs with several counters for Visa and Vietnam National Immigration and counters for Visa On Arrival issuance. Instead, I went through the small gate to an escalator heading upstairs. Here, a security agent checked my Passport and onward Boarding Pass.
The final hurdle is to head upstairs and clear security one last time. The security was fast but a bit more cumbersome than at other airports—many technology items needed to be removed and scanned separately. I was also screened for essential oils in my baggage.
Finally, through to the flight area, I headed to the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge before boarding my next Vietnam Airlines flight to Frankfurt.
Overall, this flight was good but not standout excellent. The service was full of smiles and friendly but lacked a polished edge. The seat is comfortable, although nothing to write home about since you have probably seen it on other airlines. While there were many positives to the flight, there were also some negatives.
The food was good, although some items were less than others. However, some odd service protocols and spelling mistakes leave much to be desired.
The biggest bugbear for me on these Vietnam Air flights is the lack of Wi-Fi. This is fundamentally unacceptable in today’s aviation market. Being unable to work on a long flight makes using the carrier for business trips very difficult.
On the flip side, the crew is outstanding and friendly. Arguably, some of the nicest I’ve encountered both on the ground and in the skies. And the IFE worked well, which I guess is one way to kill time with no Wi-Fi connection. That is why Vietnam Airlines could be a great choice if my intention were purely a leisurely travel experience in Business Class!
- Lovely service, which was all smiles!
- Excellent Check-in and Customer Service experience.
- Access to ANA Lounge was a plus.
- Quick, efficient boarding and helpful crew.
- Crew was smiling the whole time.
- IFE works pretty well and has a vast selection.
- The seat is comfortable, which you’ll find on many other airlines.
- Food was nice. It was a mixed bag, but the Japanese course was generally tasty and delicious.
- Prompt service and frequent.
- The flight was perfectly on time.
- Lack of Wi-Fi is the biggest problem for flying VN.
- Impractical service at times – for example, how snacks are served is just strange, and I saw the FA spill the entire tray over a passenger.
- Someone needs to check everything posted on the airline – spelling mistakes make this very strange.
- In general (and I also noticed this on my second flight), the service on Vietnam Airlines was friendly but not polished and very rushed.
- Plane needs better cleaning.