Vietnam Airlines A350-900 business class review Ho Chi Minh to Seoul

Vietnam Airlines A350-900 business class review Ho Chi Minh to Seoul

The more I travel, the more I learn really annoying things about myself. Most annoying of all is my natural tendency to get over-excited while booking trips and choosing flights which I will totally regret later, and this Vietnam Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh to Seoul is a perfect example of that.

The responsible part of my brain did it’s best to stop me from making an irrational decision. “Hey buddy…you realize that this flight departs at like midnight, right? You’re normally dozing off by 9pm, so…are you really sure this is a good idea?”

My over-confident response: “Pshhhhh! I got this. I’m a hard core travel blogger yo, and hard core travel bloggers fly A350 business class!”

Not amused, Responsible Brain replied with: “Yeah, but…it arrives in Seoul at 6 ****ing AM. You know just as well as I do that you’re gonna be hating life for not getting any sleep. Worse yet, I’ve got to listen to you complain as you struggle to figure out what to do until you can check into the hotel that afternoon. For the love of all that is holy, don’t…”


I didn’t even let him finish before smashing that “purchase now” button with a sinister grin not unlike Calvin used to have when plotting a water balloon ambush against Hobbes.

Evil Calvin water balloon

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN) – Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
Monday, February 4, 2019
Aircraft: A350-941
Registration: VN-A888
Duration: 4 hours 15 minutes
Seat: 5A (business class)

Vietnam Airlines A350-900 side view
Vietnam Airlines A350-900 side view illustration by High resolution JPG/PNG/PSD versions are available, so let me know!
SGN-ICN route map
Our route from Ho Chi Minh City to Seoul tonight.

Believe it or not, up until I put the video for this flight together a few days ago, I thought for sure that I didn’t have enough content for it and that it was going to be a painfully short 3-minute disaster. As I eluded to in the introduction of this review, this was a difficult red eye flight without many of normally decent opportunities that come with international business class.

First order of business: checking out the Lotus Lounge

My arrival from Singapore on Vietnam Airlines flight number 654 was perfectly on time, which gave me just over 3 hours here at terminal 2 at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN). I quickly realized that I was in for a very long wait just minutes after stepping off that plane, because this terminal isn’t very large and there aren’t very many quiet nooks and crannies to find exile in.

Ho Chi Minh Airport shopping
It’s a good thing my backpack was already bursting at the seams, because I would have been hard pressed to not pick up a souvenir or two (or three or ten) as I walked around like the dazed and confused tourist I was. I need to find the lounge quick before I buy something I’m going to regret later…

Thankfully all Vietnam Airlines business class passengers have access to the Lotus Lounge, which is located on the upper level near gate 22. Based on how small and overcrowded the main terminal was, I wasn’t expecting much. But who am I to turn down a complimentary lounge visit?

Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge SGN
The main entrance to the Lotus Lounge. Nothing says “please come in, there’s lots of alcohol!” quite like a conveniently parked wheelchair ready and waiting outside.
Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge Ho Chi Minh Airport
Ok, I’m impressed! This is really nice, and the bonus is that there aren’t tempting souvenir stands to suck my wallet (and good sense) dry.
Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge
Yes, you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing. That self serve food bar wraps around the wall, and extends all the way to the far end on the other side. Of all the times in my life that I’m actually *not* hungry…
Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge food
Oh just kill me now. The food looked incredible, yet I was too full to want to try any of it. That says a lot considering I’m normally hungry enough to eat a cement truck at any given moment.

Long story short, I was completely blown away with the Lotus Lounge and how large and spacious it is. The amount of food available was impressive as well, which ended up being the most frustrating part of the experience for me since I had been inhaling embarrassingly large quantities of food all day and I wasn’t even the slightest bit hungry. It would have killed me not to eat something though, so I went with two wedges of watermelon and a small glass of water. The meal of champions!

SANspotter selfie Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge
Living the dream with my watermelon wedges and a small glass of water. #loungefail

Huge props to Vietnam Airlines and the Ho Chi Minh Airport for putting together such an impressive business class lounge. They better watch out though, because I’m going to arrive voraciously hungry the next time I visit.

My first introduction to Vietnam Airlines A350 business class

I meandered back out into the main terminal approximately 30 minutes before boarding started, only to realize that there was nowhere to sit and I’d have to pace around a bit. That’s perfectly fine by me actually, as I like to get the blood flowing before a long flight anyway. On top of that, it was getting late and walking around would prevent me from curling up in the fetal position and sleeping like a polar bear for 16 hours.

Vietnam Airlines A350
You know how it feels when you see an obnoxiously beautiful person and all you can do is stand motionless and stare with a really creepy look on your face? That was me at this moment. I may have even whispered “I love you” under my breath, but was too mesmerized to remember.
Ho Chi Minh Airport terminal
Unfortunately, I’m not quite well enough known to have random people invite me over to sit next to them. As a matter of fact, I’m still solidly the kind of person who makes people instinctively put thier bag on an empty chair as I walk up and say “sorry pal, it’s occupied.”
Vietnam Airlines A350-900
With nowhere else to go, I returned to the windows sporting my most pathetic “omg I wanna run away with u” face.

The fact that I was already standing when boarding was called meant that I was the first business class passenger through the gate tonight. Which is weird to me because in Asia, people seem to be more behaved during the boarding process and remain seated until their group is called. If this was somewhere in the US, I would have been trampled by everyone rushing the gate as soon as “families traveling with small children” were called.

A350 boarding door
The flight attendants probably heard SANspotter was coming and ran for their lives.
Vietnam Airlines A350 business class cabin
Vietnam Airlines A350-900 business class cabin. Quite nice actually, and a heck of a lot nicer than their A321 regional business class product I flew earlier in the day.
Vietnam Airlines A350 business class seat
Seat 5A is mine for this painfully short 4.5 hour red eye flight up to Seoul tonight. My apologies to Vietnam Airlines in advance for any drool spots I may leave behind as I’m sleeping.
Vietnam Airlines A350 business class pics
There are certainly worse places to spend the night. As a matter of fact, how cool would it be to remodel your bedroom to mimic Vietnam Airlines A350 business class? I’d need to find someone to serve food and pretend to be nice to me to complete the experience though…
Vietnam Airlines A350 business class pic
Yeah, the color scheme is solidly “1996 Packard Bell PC” but otherwise this is a really sharp looking business class cabin.
Vietnam Airlines A350 business class leg room
Believe it or not, leg and foot room would be kind of tight if you are a person “of size”. I may fantasize about being Dwayne Johnson every now and then, but not tonight my friends.
Vietnam Airlines pre departure drink
Just as I was taking pictures of my feet, a flight attendant strolled by with an assortment of pre-departure drinks. Thankfully, most flight attendants have seen it all and what appeared to be a weird white guy with a red shoe fetish probably didn’t even phase her in the slightest. At least I hope it didn’t.
Vietnam Airlines business class pre departure drink
It was green and very delicious. It was also damn near midnight and I was far too exhausted to even care what flavor it was.
Vietnam Airlines business class seat controls
I was also far too exhausted to even try and understand this control panel for the seat. My plan for after the meal service? Mash all the buttons at once with the palm of my hand and hope the seat ends up flat.
Vietnam Airlines business class amenity kit
The Vietnam Airlines business class amenity kit. I found a good use for everything in here tonight – except for the hand cream. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but I’ve never once felt an urge to lather up at any point during any flight I’ve ever taken in my life. I really don’t get it.
Vietnam Airlines business class menu
Menus were distributed while still parked at the gate. Oy vey. Everything looks delicious, but the responsible part of my brain spoke up again with a firm warning. “Don’t even think about it Scott – the latest system report reveals that we are in dire need of sleep. NOT more food!”
Vietnam Airlines business class headphones
I wonder if these will be loud enough to drown out the voices in my head?

In summary, the Vietnam Airlines A350 business class product is light years ahead of their A321 regional business class product (as it should be). These A350-900’s are the current flagship of the Vietnam Airlines fleet, so it seems only fitting that they feature their newest and most up to date business class offering.

Humble thoughts on the dinner service

To be perfectly honest, the combination of not being hungry in the slightest and feeling incredibly sleepy made the dinner service on tonight’s flight somewhat lackluster. That’s not to say that the cabin crew didn’t do an amazing job – because they did. Especially given the fact that this was a relatively short red eye flight and they knew that most passengers wanted to sleep as soon as possible.

There was no snack or beverage service after departure, which was completely understandable. The flight attendants went straight for the dinner service, and despite a completely full business class cabin, were able to get everyone served in a very short amount of time. Once again, well done Vietnam Airlines!

business class appetizer
The appetizer: beef roll in piper lolot leaves and lemongrass salad. Man, I’ll tell you what – if I didn’t fly business class every now and then I’d be uncultured af. “Piper lolot leaves” is something I never would have Googled if I didn’t need to come up with caption ideas, so a big “thank you” goes out to Vietnam Airlines for helping me further my education!
business class dinner service
I’m not completely stupid though. “Braised beef ribs with dried lily buds and steamed rice” is something I didn’t even have to look up.
SANspotter selfie Vietnam Airlines
This is the point of the flight where Responsible Brain cursed at me and threatened to leave my body for good. “I’d like to see you try!” I snarked back, enjoying every bite of my over-indulgent midnight meal.

I kind of felt bad ordering a meal knowing that I wasn’t going to eat much of it, but…it’s kind of required of me as an airline reviewer / travel blogger. I suppose I could have made friends with the people next to me and asked them if I could take pictures of thier food, but I didn’t need to give them any more reason than they already had to think of me as a weirdo. They watched me take pics of the safety card for crying out loud, and likely told all their friends about it (while laughing hysterically) when they got home.

Sleeping in Vietnam Airlines A350 business class

There was only a bit over 3 hours of flying time remaining by the time the dinner service had been wrapped up, which was frustrating because I knew I needed at least 10 to reset my internal systems to the point where I wouldn’t be on the brink of hallucinating. Ah, the joys of crossing time zones every day for a week straight…

Sleeping in Vietnam Airlines A350 business class is pretty good actually – as long as you’ve got more than 3 hours to do it. The seat configuration is 1-2-1, which makes it easy for solo travelers and couples alike to get comfortable. The only problem is that the seats are slightly staggered (as it is in so many other business class cabins), so there are two kinds of window seats: the good kind (against the window), and the not so good kind (those against the aisle).

Sleeping in business class
If you ever wondered what it looks like to be hurling north towards Korea in Vietnam Airlines A350 business class in the middle of the night, here you go.

I had a “aisle” window seat, which made sleep slightly more difficult since I woke up nearly every time someone walked past. I’m a terribly light sleeper (no matter how tired I am), and I’ll wake up if someone so much as looks at me. I can only dream of sleeping like the dead.

Despite my frustrations, this was a perfect example of why I believe that the added cost of business class is worth it sometimes. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I appreciated the little bit I got.

Why is Vietnam Airlines not winning awards left and right?

The two Vietnam Airlines business class experiences I had on this day (this one up to Seoul and the previous one from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City) were nothing short of fantastic. The cabin crew on both flights were some of the friendliest and most helpful I’ve ever seen, the planes impeccable, and the food was pretty good too. Why aren’t they getting the recognition they so rightly deserve?

business class chocolates
On the descent into ICN now, with a box of Godiva chocolate as a parting gift from the cabin crew. If you’ve never experienced the joy of someone handing you chocolate within 15 seconds of waking up from deep slumber, you’re missing out on one of life’s special little moments. I may not have been able to fully comprehend what was happening at the time, but I had a feeling it might be special.

At the time of this writing, Vietnam Airlines does not yet fly to the United States. They have announced their intentions to do so several times already, and now that they’ve got 787s and A350s with an extremely competitive business class product, it’s only a matter of time.

ICN Airport Seoul Korea
Welcome to Korea! Heck, I was so tired that we could have arrived in Zimbabwe and I wouldn’t have even noticed.
end of business class flight
It’s 6am, I’m running on two hours of wishy-washy sleep, and it’s 28F outside the boarding door. He didn’t say anything, but I swear I heard Responsible Brain laughing his ass off as I stumbled to stand up straight.

The question is: does Vietnam Airlines have enough brand recognition in the US to build a network of successful routes out of LAX / SFO / JFK to Vietnam? I Don’t know. It’ll be a struggle in the beginning I’m sure, but it’s only a matter of time before others discover (just as I did) how good Vietnam Airlines really is. I wish them all the success in the world!

ICN airport arrival
My only hope now is to make it up this jet bridge and into the terminal before collapsing. Don’t be surprised to see a news headline someday that reads “Overzealous travel blogger neglects his inner voices” with a picture of me looking like a wasted pile of mush on a nondescript airport floor somewhere. If I gotta go, that’s exactly how I wanna do it!

Finally, to close out this review, I owe Responsible Brain a big fat stinkin’ apology. I’m sorry little buddy. One of these days I’m going to grow the hell up and start thinking things through before diving into uncomfortable stuff head first.

At least I had plenty of time to rest and prepare for my next flight, which you’ll get to read about soon…

Comments (3)

  1. Albert

    March 30, 2019
    • SANspotter

      March 31, 2019
      • Albert

        April 13, 2019

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