Video Report:Vietnam Airlines VN523 - Shanghai - HCMC - A350-900 - Business Class Background
The day we land in Shanghai, we needed to get to Ho Chi Minh City by the evening, where we would meet with my wife's family who would be travelling separately from Shijiazhuang via Xiamen on Heibei Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.
We had a few options and the most economical one was with Xiamen Airlines, via Xiamen (meant that we would meet the family in Xiamen and then be on the same flight to HCMC). But this option would mean that we would need to transfer to Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) and then we would we also have to encounter another 1 stop flight to HCMC, all this after a 11 hour flight to Shanghai. This was costing us £170 per head.
The other more direct option was with Vietnam Airlines, via Pudong (PVG) and would be a more direct option. However, the price of this ticket was at £288 per head! However we were getting a one way business class ticket for £315, and that looked tempting.
After a bit more digging around, I was able to get a business class ticket for nearer to £300. this was with Tripsta.co.uk.
After further deliberation we went ahead with this option.
So this would be my first trip on a Vietnam Airlines flight, that too on their brand new A350-900, in Business Class! So was excited and looking forward to this.
Rechecked on Monday morning and a quick call to the Vietnam Airlines office confirmed everything I wanted to know. I was able to pre-book my seats and also add my Delta SkyMiles to the booking. A very helpful agent over at Vietnam Airlines office managed to secure us 3A and 4A.
This series of trip reports will be split into 5 reports:
1. BA to Shanghai (WTP)
2. Vietnam Airlines from Shanghai to HCMC (in Business)
3. Domestic Vietnam in VietJet
4. China Southern from Hanoi to Shanghai via Guangzhou.
5. And finally our return back to London from Shanghai on BA (Club World)
Thanks to GCMaps, route map of the entire trip and this part of the report
Shanghai Airport - underground route linking T1 and T2Vietnam Airlines - VN523
Route: PVG - SGN
Flight Reg:VN-A889; Delivered to Vietnam Airlines on Dec 2015
Aircraft Type: Airbus 350-900
Flight time: 15:25 - 19:00 (16:57 - 19:56 )
Actual flight time: 3Hr 59min
Distance: 1703 Miles
Load: Full in all classes
10 Feb 2018
My Log book: 1st Flight on Vietnam Airlines/ 1st flight on Airbus 350-900 / 150th Total overall flight
Day before the flight, I tried to check in on line before departing from London, but it looked like it was not possible. Web check in was only available from certain airports (Shanghai not included) and if you were eligible, you would get a unique link sent to email which can be used to check in online. Seems like a very privileged option
On the day, check in was painfully slow. They seemed to have 2 business class counters but was hardly moving.
When we finally reached the counter we realised that it was only for Hanoi. And Vietnam airlines had separate counters for Ho chi Minh. Oops.
There wasn't anyone at the Ho chi Minh check in counter and it was quick. Been told that the incoming flight was delayed by an hour so we were expecting a similar delay to our flight too.
Check in gates at Shanghai
Standing at the wrong gate
Now the right one
Immigration took a while but security was comparatively quick. On the whole from the time we entered the airport to duty free it took around an hour.
We headed to the plaza premium lounge near gate 77.
Airside at Shanghai
Heading to the lounge
Was pretty decent lounge. Good views of the apron and taxiway. Got a glimpse of our aircraft arriving.
They had a very good range of food but beverages was mediocre. Not too many alcohol choices.
No 77 Lounge - Plaza Premium at Shanghai
View from the lounge
F&B On offer
Live noodles counter
There is our ride, just arriving from SGN
As expected, the boarding had been delayed and we were called to board at around 4 pm.
We were parked at a remote stand and we were all bussed together.
Heading towards our boarding gate
Bus to the aircraft
Neighbours at Shanghai
At first sight, the A350 is majestic and elegant and her curves look even more pronounced in Vietnam colours. Advantage of remote stand is you get magnificent views of the aircraft you're about to fly on.
Boarding the aircraft:
Our cabin was full and it looked like so was the rest of the aircraft.
First impressions were as I had expected. I had read lot of positive feedback of Vietnam business class especially on their A350. Their cabin looked calm and peaceful and I really liked their understated colours.
The business class seating/cabin was a definite step above the recently concluded trip on BA. Extremely likable layout - great mix of comfort, space and privacy. All seats have direct aisle access.
Entering the cabin
The seats were very comfortable for seating and as a flat bed.
Vietnam Airlines A350-900 Seating
generous personal space and a very sturdy table
More views of the seat
Service during welcome was warm and cordial and nothing over-the-top. Welcome drinks followed by a hot towel run.
We disembarked an hour late and expected to reach Ho chi Minh an hour later than scheduled arrival. So marks deducted on on-time performance.
During take-off as the engines spooled, this is when I realised how quiet this aircraft was. I thought the whale jet was quiet, but this is on a different league all together. I could hear myself whisper during take-off! Proof of this on my video report.
Bye Bye Shanghai
After take off
I have always been a Boeing fan boy. But with the A380 and now the A350 it's hard not to like new Airbus aircrafts. These 2 are simply magnificent and truly a great engineering marvel.
Once airborne drinks and food service commenced. The FA individually took orders from each passenger then the table was laid.
Food overall tasted great and the presentation was fantastic too. Topped it off with a super spicy bloody Mary.
Menu for this flight
Lovely presentation and tasted equally good
Started watching transformers 5. If they had made it less of a story and more just slam bang action it would've better. Half way through it lost my interest and the superb flatbed invited me to snooze.
Regarding the IFE very slick and responsive unit. Easy to use. Higher definition too. Not too many choices of movies which I think can be improved upon. But the noise cancellation headphones were superb. Once again completely in a different league to BA which had a constant whining noise throughout playback.
Wonderful high definition screens
Looked flimsy but worked well
Next thing I knew it was 30 minutes to landing and a hot towel service ensued.
Toilets were spotless throughout this flight
Once again landing was effortless and we landed predictably an hour late.
Remote stand once again. In spite of that we were out of the airport in 22 minutes! We got bussed separately, first in queue for immigration and our bags were the first to arrive as we approached the belt.
Thanks for a great flight
Bus to the terminal
HCMC -> Heading towards immigration
Ours was the third, 4th and 6th bag out of the belt Verdict
Overall very impressive offering by Vietnam airlines. Their hard product on their A350 is comparable with the best. They lack a bit of finesse In service but nothing drastic. They could also improve upon their IFE offering (Choice of movies). It once again not a deal breaker.
Would definitely like to travel in Vietnam airlines again, hopefully in the near future.
So with this we have finally arrived in Vietnam. Stay tuned for our trip to the North of Vietnam and our way back.
Hope you liked the series so far, more coming soon.
Saigon Airport Arrivals