Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1727 posts, RR: 9 Posted (2 months 4 weeks ago) and read 7661 times:
Vietnam Airlines Trip Report
Here is going to be a series of reports on various Skyteam members, and my selection today involves a less popular breed with limited trip reports here. The purpose of this trip is to finish my second (and sadly last) Yangon error first class fare tickets. I actually spent more money getting to Yangon including the overnight accommodation, than the first class ticket itself. Anyway, it is still a bargain even though the choice of carriers limits to mostly second rated airlines. I am also thankful that I book this trip for traveling in February before Delta severely cuts back on the amount of elite qualifying and bonus miles given to these Skyteam partners. If you ask me, Delta does not really want you to fly Sky Team at all, but that is another topic at another time!
Vietnam Airlines is one of the newest Skyteam members, and uses mostly Airbus narrowbodies on its regional network linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with its Asian cities, except South Korea and Japan. Someone did a trip report on its Australian flights lately, and I wonder how its short haul flights compare. I honestly do not have much expectation so the travel day ended up okay with no excitement and no disappointment.
February 19, 2013
VN 593 Hong Kong to Hanoi Lv1430 Arr1530 Airbus A321-200 VN-A325
This ticket was part of my ANA ticket from the USA back to Vietnam, so I have to call VN to get seat assignments. The call to VN Hong Kong office is not too painful.
I choose to use the airport check-in today because I am using a separate ticket from Hanoi to Yangon, and the Airport Express station staffs may not be able to handle these separate tickets. My decision proves to be correct, as there are many phone calls between the Vietnam Airlines desk and Hong Kong Express station desks. Cathay Pacific is the handling agent (no surprise, as CX codeshares with VN on its Vietnamese flights), but the staffs were definitely overwhelmed, and it took over twenty minutes to check me in. The agent apologized about the constant interrupting phone calls and the amount of time to deal with a unfamiliar country and Myanmar’s visa on arrival program. Vietnam Airlines has its own supervisor but he seems to be working under his own pace, and does not actually help much with the whole ground process. He is there, but not there.
Check-in area D (Vietnam Airlines) – busy day
As expected, Vietnam Airlines uses the network of Plaza Premium lounge here at HKG, along most secondary airlines with not too frequent schedules. VN usually sends passengers to the Plaza Premium Lounge at Gate 1, which is definitely the nicer lounge, and my recommendation for all future VN passengers. However, since VN 593 would park at gate 31 today, I figured I should use the closer lounge near gate 36, also known as the Traveler Lounge, and the main lounge used by El Al.
El Al reserved area
This Traveler’s lounge is definitely a disappointment with really unhappy staffs that are all having a bad day. The lounge is already pretty small but many areas are blocked off for airline crews and El Al passengers. Beverage and food are all self-service and there is the popular Hong Kong Fish Ball Noodle soup counter. Hot food included a fish dish, vegetarian samosa, vegetables, and cream of mushroom soup, along with sandwiches, mini pastries, a small salad bar, and cheese. The only saving grace is the availability of Vitamin Water, which I am quite fond of these days. Most importantly, there is no in-house bathroom, and you have to walk outside to the common bathrooms. There are resting rooms, but they are all closed for staff use and storage. In general, this lounge is definitely not up to standard and I will recommend priority pass members to use the lounge near Gate 1.
The inbound A321 arrived slightly late from Hanoi, and I caught a shot of it.
Gate 31 was our gate this afternoon, and VN-A325 was getting ready for the return flight back to Hanoi!
Boarding began at 2:10pm and CX staffs were great as usual, and priority boarding was strictly reinforced. Business class had ten passengers today, but since there was a large party, I was not able to get a good cabin shot. Just a few shot of the bulkhead seats, before my neighbor arrived!
Shot of business class cabin (after landing at Hanoi)
The seats are typical regional business class seats used by major Asian and US carriers. It features headrest and legrest, and the legroom is more generous than most US carriers. It seems to be between 42 and 45 inches, and China Airlines features more legroom though on 737-800s. For a two hours flight, this seat is more than sufficient, but for a five hours from Seoul to Hanoi, it may be pushing it a bit, but better than US carriers.
Two F/As were greeting passengers, and there were local Hong Kong papers (Economic Daily – Chinese, and South China Morning Post – HK’s major English paper), Wall Street Journal, and Vietnamese papers in the entry area for all passengers to browse. The F/As came around with a second round after everyone settled in the back. The F/As were friendly and polite. Pre-takeoff beverage of orange juice, apple juice, or water was offered, as well as some cold towels.
Door was closed early at 2:26pm despite a pretty full load (10J and 134Y) this afternoon. Both our pilots were non-Vietnamese, as they spoke flawless English. They might be Australians. Anyway, flying time was a short an hour and thirty-six minutes, and our cruising attitude was 36,000feet. The routing took us over along the coast of China, passing the Quiongzhou Strait before turning towards Nanning, China, and then taking a right turn heading to Hanoi.
Since R/W25L was used today, taxing time was short, and we took off at 2:38pm, and it was a typical overcast day here in Hong Kong. Seat belt sign was quickly turned off at 2:43pm, and the F/A first passed out the menus, which were definitely heavily used (but they did not collect them right the way, so I took it home). Here were the pictures (in case they took them back):
Beverage and meal orders were then taken, and the service commenced with a fresh linen to cover our tables. I really love the lotus design. At least something unique!
Then everything was served at once, together with our choice of beverage. There was no wine list, despite printed menus, just in case if everyone wants to ask me regarding choice of wines.
Fresh vegetables with smoked salmon
Seafood Dijon Casserole, pasta capellini angel hair, grilled red pepper, and blanched broccoli
Pan-fried beef tenderloin with bulgogi sauce, Korean steamed rice, sautéed cabbage, and mushroom
Sautéed pork loin strips with Kung Pao sauce, fried rice with egg, cooked choysum and bell pepper
Lemon Meringue tart
The meal was actually quite nice and better than expected. The seafood casserole I had featured a mix of salmon and white fish, along with tiny shrimps. I was not fond of hot smoked salmon, so I did not touch it. However, the lemon meringue tart was quite nice. There was also a selection of bread rolls including French rolls, sesame rows, dark rolls, and garlic bread. Tea and coffee was offered towards the end of the meal, and then there was another round of hot towel to finish the meal service.
Reading materials from Vietnam Airlines
And Sky Map – no short subject video was shown, presuming our short flight
There were two flight attendants serving business class passengers, so the service was efficient and polite. I could not say the service was bad, but I felt that there was a lack of personal touch. The F/As were very shy and their limited English speaking ability really prohibited them from providing that personal touch.
Descent soon began at 2:45pm Vietnamese local time (an hour behind Hong Kong), and we landed on R/W11R at 3:14pm, and parked at a bus position three minutes later. Given the light rain outside, I was not looking forward for the run to the bus. However, I am glad that Vietnam Airlines provides a separate bus (well van) for business class passengers, which made this arrival experience a bit less stressful.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1727 posts, RR: 9 Reply 1, posted (2 months 4 weeks ago) and read 7662 times:
VN 957 Hanoi to Yangon Lv1635 Arr1810 Fokker 70 VN-A504
Obviously I have to get my boarding pass here at Hanoi airport, and thankfully there was no wait. My connecting time is over a little bit over an hour, and the staffs were happy that that I did not check in any bags. When I bought this ticket on line, I was offered the chances to block two empty seats or to upgrade to business class through optiontown. Since this flight is operated by a mono-class Fokker 70, there is no upgrade, but I decide to see if I can get an empty seat next to me. For $12, it is okay, considered this one way ticket costs me $300+. The optiontown told me that it went through two days prior to flight, and I wondered what would happen at the airport. Since VN staffs speak limited English, I am curious on how this thing will play out.
In the end, it worked out fine. The check-in staff actually recognized my Delta Diamond/Elite Plus status immediately, wrote me a lounge invitation card, and then moved me to the bulkhead rows. I got three seats to myself (well one of the cockpit staffs rested at 1C for thirty minutes during flight). Anyway, the blocked seats made the sardine experience of flying Fokker 70 a bit more tolerable.
Hanoi airport was pretty compact, and there were two airline lounges – one used by Vietnam Airlines, Skyteam carriers, and Dragonair, and the other one used by other airlines. They were possibly all run by the same company.
Here is the Vietnam Airlines lounge:
There is free wifi, along with some light snacks and noodle dishes. There were plenty of juices, bottled waters, and canned soft drinks. Nothing fancy, but good enough! The lounge was very quiet at this time of the day, so the experience was very pleasant. The best aspect is the great runway and apron view, and I only wish the weather is better.
Boarding took place at Gate 7, and as expected, it was another bus gate. We were parked at spot 14 today, and with a light load, everything went smoothly. For those who were interested, there was a separate Sky Priority lane.
The most unpleasant part is perhaps the actual boarding. Vietnam Airlines installs stairs on its Fokker 70, so it will not require the airport to provide extra stairs. Good for airline but there is no cover. We had to wait in the rain to board the plane. A very unpleasant experience! Despite the rain, I manage a picture of this cute Fokker 70 (only two with VN now).
Unique oval shaped window of Fokker 70 – rainy day
My seat 1E
Seat 1C & 1D
Legroom shot – very tight
To my surprise, there were three F/As serving on this small Fokker plane.
Refreshing towels/napkins were given prior to takeoff
Door was closed early at 4:31pm and we pushed back from stand two minutes later. We took off from R/W11R at 4:39pm flight for an hour and forty-five minutes flight to Yangon. Both pilots were Vietnamese but did not provide any en-route information, and there was no in-flight entertainment on Fokker 70s, so no Sky map.
In-flight service began shortly after takeoff. A light hot meal was served along with a full array of non-alcoholic beverage. There was a choice of meal – Beef with noodles or Fish with rice! There was no separate pre-dinner beverage service. The meal cart just rolled out, and then a beverage cart followed. The purser later came around with a tea and coffee service. In-flight service was completed by 5:11pm, and the F/As disappeared for the rest of the flight till the top of descent. Typical economy class service and nothing more and nothing less!
Here was the meal, which was actually quite delicious. I appreciated the warmed bread rolls.
Vietnam Airlines branded plastic cup with lotus
Hot tea with lemon
Beautiful day to fly
Fokker 70 is quite rare plane here in Asia or anywhere else except Europe. The legroom is definitely tight, but for a less than two hours flight and one third full, it is an okay ride.
Unique wing shot
Cabin shot after arrival
Decent began at 5:33pm Yangon’s local time (Yangon is thirty minutes behind Hanoi), and we landed on R/W21 at 5:54pm. It was another bus gate, and the van was the more traditional kind. Nonetheless, the light load made life a bit easier, and there was no walking involved. I went straight to the Visa On Arrival desk and things ran smoothly.
In conclusion, Vietnam Airlines ia an average airline, and is perhaps not as well run as other premium Asian airlines. Nonetheless, it provides a decent on board experience, and the Hanoi to Yangon flight was definitely over-priced, but for a route with no competition, it is expected. If its price is cheap enough, I don’t mind flying it to Australia from Asia or even to Europe in business class. Transit at HAN and SGN is a bit strange, but in the end, it is okay if you are flying premium. I am glad to fly another new airline in 2013 – the fourth one this year, and happy to experience before I decide to stop flying Delta next year. Flying Fokker 70 is an interesting experience, and for a short flight, it adds a bit spice to the typical mix of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320s.
The next installation will hopefully be more interesting.
planiac787 From India, joined May 2012, 217 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (2 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 6860 times:
Nice report mate!
It sure is nice seeing a VN report..Good Job..
They seem to have a good product but I am anxiously waiting to see what there long haul product looks like
I think they have a fantastic livery and i hope they keep flying high!
Be the change you want to see in the world- M.K.Gandhi
EL-AL From Israel, joined Oct 2001, 1119 posts, RR: 5 Reply 5, posted (2 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6192 times:
Thank you for nice trip report.
Quoting Carfield (Thread starter): The most unpleasant part is perhaps the actual boarding. Vietnam Airlines installs stairs on its Fokker 70, so it will not require the airport to provide extra stairs. Good for airline but there is no cover. We had to wait in the rain to board the plane. A very unpleasant experience! Despite the rain, I manage a picture of this cute Fokker 70 (only two with VN now).
Not professional at all, especially considering the wet climate in Vietnam.
Quoting Carfield (Reply 1): In-flight service was completed by 5:11pm, and the F/As disappeared for the rest of the flight till the top of descent. Typical economy class service and nothing more and nothing less!
Well, you did write that flying C you wouldn't mind flying VN again, I do not understand how. Paying C fare and getting Y product is something that will keep me away from an airline for good (in spite of the rare plane).
I wrote it myself on my VN report 2 years ago - that if Vietnam airlines want to became a major airline in an area hosts some of the best airlines in the world, both VN air Vietnam's 2 main airports has a lot of work to do.
Thank you for shearing, it was a great read.
"In our country, those who do not believe in miracles are irrational" - David Ben Gurion.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1727 posts, RR: 9 Reply 6, posted (2 months 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 5261 times:
Thanks for all your comments.
Jonathan... the Hanoi to Yangon flight is a mono cabin (all coach) and I paid Y, so I was not surprised that there was no additional service. The full fare economy ticket is pretty expensive but given Vietnam Airlines has a monopoly over it, and it is not a profitable route (I can't imagine making much money with 30 passengers even in that price). Service can be better but in economy these days, it was pretty nice to get a hot meal, a full beverage, and tea and coffee in a two hours flight.
Vietnam Airlines in general offers some bargain premium fares, so if the price is right, I don't think I mind flying it up front. Plus it has a cooperation deal with optiontown for last minute upgrade to business class or seat blocking service.
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 2512 posts, RR: 14 Reply 10, posted (2 months 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2759 times:
Nice report Carfield. Back in 2003 I flew HKG-HAN, but was on a *A RTW ticket so went with TG via BKK. The VN service looks pretty good. NIce as well to get an interesring hop on the F70 over to RGN. Thanks for posting!
globalflyer From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 800 posts, RR: 2 Reply 11, posted (2 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 2477 times:
Really great TR Carfield! VN really has risen as a top carrier in the region in my opinion. Funny to see the LY pax and crews roped off in areas! Wonder if they must pay extra for that service? It is nice to see a proper JCL seat on a regional flight on a narrowbody jet instead of the dreaded 3x3 with middle empty. The VN Lounge in HAN looks quite nice as well! Yes I love those Fokkers! They are great jets! Thanks for sharing! Cheers, Will
Landing on every Continent almost on an annual basis!