Vietnam Airlines review: A321 business class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam Airlines review: A321 business class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City

I do believe that of all the hundreds of articles I’ve written here on over the years, this Vietnam Airlines review makes me the hungriest. I’m actually sitting at Gatwick Airport in London as I write this, having just eaten one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a good long time. I’m so stuffed that I couldn’t eat another bite, yet thinking back on all the great food I ate the day of this flight is making me crave fried rice and pork dumplings in a way I can’t physically understand.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that the food (both in the airport and on the plane) was better than the flight itself. If that’s all you need to know, then…well…thanks for reading, and I’ll be back again next week with another thrilling SANspotter airline review!

Singapore (SIN) – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN)
Monday, February 4, 2019
Aircraft: A321-231
Registration: VN-A608
Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes
Seat: 3G (business class)

Vietnam Airlines a321 side view
Vietnam Airlines A321 side view illustration by Hit me up if you need a high resolution JPG/PNG/PSD of this thing (as well as any other of my side view airliner illustrations). I’d be happy to oblige!
SIN-SGN route map
Our route from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City this evening.

Every once in a while I’m lucky enough to be on a flight so empty that getting video footage for it is super easy. Without giving too much away before you watch the video (or read the entire review below), I shared the business class cabin on this flight up to Ho Chi Mihn City with only one other person. That meant I was able to frolic about in a way I’m normally not able to when getting flight footage, so this video is loaded with lots of fun and different angles. I’m actually kind of surprised I didn’t get a stern talking to by the local police upon arrival…

This Vietnam Airlines review begins at the most amazing airport in the world (SIN)

Why is Changi Airport in Singapore so amazing? There are many reasons (the movie theater, wide variety of traffic, etc), but for me, it’s IACO code (SIN) tops them all. I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that the board of directors over at McCarran Field in Las Vegas are jealous as hell, and as far as I’m concerned, they’ve got every reason to be. It’s gotta be one of the coolest IACO codes of them all. Right behind FAT and FUK of course.

Curbside Singapore airport
Curbside here at SIN, and it sure doesn’t look like a very sinful place IMHO. Where are the stripper poles and vodka shots?
Singapore airport ticketing hall
The main ticketing hall. And if you’re curious, there are 41 people in this shot. I counted!
Vietnam Airlines check in Singapore airport
From 41 people in the last shot to but a few (waaay in the distance) in this one of the Vietnam Airlines check in desk means only one thing: I’m early.
SANspotter selfie Changi airport
The only nice thing about being so early is that it gave me ample time to pose for a selfie that made me look as if I was about to go in for a root canal. I was having fun, I promise!

The other really amazing thing about Changi Airport is the food courts. Before security or after, the food courts in this place are on another level. I had a full meal before checking in, and another one immediately after. I’ll spare you the pics (and details) since this is supposed to be a Vietnam Airlines review, but just know that it’s critically important to arrive at this airport hungry.

Singapore airport terminal interior
The scent of dumplings and stir fry is spectacularly strong in this joint. Up those escalators and to the left is the spot where I encountered the most magical pork dumplings of my life.

As if I didn’t already have enough to eat within two hours of arrival, I took advantage of the complimentary Plaza Premium lounge access that came as part of my Vietnam Airlines business class ticket. Note that all Priority Pass members (of which I am one) have access to this lounge anyway, but no matter. I’ll take any reason I can get into a lounge. And once inside, I somehow mustered the strength to shovel even more unneeded calories into my mouth.

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Roughly 30 minutes before boarding, I ripped myself away from the food went back down to the main departures level to wait for boarding.

SANspotter selfie SIN airport
The fact that security didn’t escort me out of the airport for throwing my GoPro up into the air over and over again is astounding actually. But maybe they’ve heard of me and are quite familiar with the things I do while I wait for flights? I’m not really sure, but finally nailing this shot made it worth the risk.
Vietnam Airlines a321 color
Why does this color remind me of a 1992 Buick LeSabre? I like it though! (The color, that is. Definitely not the LeSabre).
Singapore airport interior design
Speaking of colors that reminds me of things, tell me that these seats don’t make you think of a Braniff 727 interior from the early 70’s.

Vietnam Airlines A321 business class first impressions

Before going any further, now would be a really good time to put your expectations in check. This Vietnam Airlines review is focused squarely on the A321 short haul (regional) business class product. That means that any hope you have of reading about the latest and most technically advanced flat beds needs to be doused with a healthy dose of reality. Like, immediately. You’ll get to see that stuff next week in my Vietnam Airlines A350-900 review, but for now, get ready for the recliners.

Vietnam Airlines gate agent
She likely wouldn’t have let me on if I mentioned the LeSabre thing out loud. Because nobody likes 1992 LeSabres.
Vietnam Airlines a321 boarding door
Under certain lighting conditions, the color of these Vietnam Airlines planes look blue – and not green. The hell?
Vietnam Airlines a321 business class
Vietnam Airlines A321 business class cabin. Not too shabby for a regional business class product!
Vietnam Airlines review
Seat 3G over there by the window is mine this evening. You ever stop and wonder how many people have sat in your airplane seat before you? This information exists somewhere, and the stats freak in me needs to see it. Badly.
Vietnam Airlines a321 business class seats
Those of you who take airplane pictures and write trip reports yourself can appreciate the beauty of a clean seat shot taken during the boarding process. There’s not a single hairy leg in this one. #golfclap
Vietnam Airlines boarding process
A more typical example of what it’s like to try and get pics during the boarding process. But do I like those pink shoes though! She’s killing me in the shoe game, that’s for darn sure.

Hot towels were distributed while at the gate, as were the usual drink orders.

Vietnam Airlines business class hot towel
Sorry for the gross used hot towel pic, but there was no way I was going to waste a moment of blissful steaminess trying to get pictures before using it! One must act fast when it comes to dealing with hot towels, because it’s not fun if it doesn’t give you third degree burns.

Based on the large group of people waiting in the gate area to board this flight, I had assumed it was going to be a full load up in business class tonight. However, just as it was with my EVA Air A321 business class experience from ICN to TPE two years ago, I found myself pretty much alone once the boarding door was closed.

Vietnam Airlines a321 saftey card
If you can’t read Vietnamese, it says “Careful, the hot towels are hot AF!”
Vietnam Airlines a321 saftey card pictures
Chatting up hot guys is not apparently allowed on Vietnam Airlines.

I don’t know very much about flight attendants, but it’s pretty easy to recognize the fact that empty cabins make them really happy. The two nice ladies working the business class cabin this evening were two of the happiest and most relaxed flight attendants I’ve ever seen, and I had a pretty good feeling this was going to be a really positive Vietnam Airlines review as we started pushing off the gate.

Departing Singapore airport
“Leaving SIN behind” is a really good caption for this, isn’t it? Sometimes I even impress myself. Anyway, the full departure sequence can be seen in the video if you’re interested…

Oh my God. More food!

Within minutes of departing Singapore, I could hear the clatter of dishes and silverware coming from the galley. And then I started to smell something cooking. This is normally the kind of thing that would make me do a little happy dance in my head (but never with my body because I’ve got no moves), but today all I could do was hold my head in shame for what was about to happen.

There were two meal options on this evening’s flight up to SGN: Vietnamese or something western. I wasn’t even remotely hungry enough to be curious about which each consisted of, so I went with the Vietnamese option with a shrug. Whatever. It’s highly likely I wouldn’t have eaten anything at all if I wasn’t SANspotter (the nerdy trip report guy), but I needed the content for this blog and my YouTube channel so I had no choice. It wouldn’t be a proper Vietnam Airlines review without it!

Vietnam Airlines flight attendant
One of these days the turbulence is going to be just right and I’m going to get some really epic pics of a flight attendant dumping a full meal in my lap. I’ll bet she’s smiling because she knows she could do it if she really wanted to…
Vietnam Airlines business class food
Pork of some kind. It was really good – enough so that I ate all of it even though I promised myself two hours ago back at the airport that I would consume no more calories on this day.
SANspotter selfie Vietnam Airlines
The look on her face leads me to believe that she had vowed right then and there to never (ever) visit

Was it the best business class meal I’ve ever had? Not by a long shot. It was basically a glorified economy class meal if I’m being honest, but the personalized attention from the flight attendants made it something really special.

Vietnam Airlines a321 review
Contemplating life from 37,000ft over Southeast Asia? Not really. I was thinking mostly about human stomachs and how amazingly stretchy they are.
Vietnam Airlines business class seat review
I’ll bet the view of the sunset was spectacular over there on the other side. I could have got up and moved to see it, but…that would have required getting up and moving and I was feeling far too lazy to make it happen.
SANspotter selfie Vietnam Airlines a321
“I could move over to watch the sunset but I don’t really wanna and, like, I really can’t believe I ate so much today because my stomach feels like it’s gonna burst OMG and I hope I’m getting enough footage for this trip report because, uh oh, that reminds me, I, like, need to take my car in for service when I get home because…” (Just the typical useless nonsense running through my brain at any given moment).

What would have made this Vietnam Airlines business class experience better?

Thinking of ways to improve a product is one of my favorite ways to write an airline review. No business class experience is perfect, and it’s really easy to be a critic from the relative safety of my keyboard. However, I also know how important it is to set realistic expectations, and it wouldn’t be fair to write this particular Vietnam Airlines review in a way that compares it against a flagship long haul business class product such as what is found on the Philippine Airlines 777-300ER.

That being said, I’m of the opinion that the business class seats on the Vietnam Airlines A321 are dated. I wouldn’t expect lie flat seats in a regional business class product (like what can be found in Starlux business class), but even something along the lines of what can be found in QANTAS 787-9 premium economy or Hawaiian Airlines A321neo first class would be a huge improvement.

sanspotter cleared for takeoff book

And to be fair, the regional business class products found on the Asiana A321 and EVA Air A321 aren’t any better. If anything, Vietnam Airlines A321 regional business class is competitive in Asia.

Arrival into Ho Chi Minh City

Wanna know a secret? I was feeling a little bit apprehensive about flying with Vietnam Airlines (and through SGN) before this flight. It was an airline I knew absolutely nothing about, and on top of that, there was a bit of mental baggage that I had to deal with as well…

Flying over Ho Chi Mihn
On the approach into Ho Chi Minh City, over what appears to be…uh…um…nothing I’ve ever seen before! Illuminated rice fields was the only thing I could think of, but that doesn’t make any sense. Does anyone know what these are?

I’ve heard a lot about Vietnam since I was a child, as my father and two uncles were drafted during the war (well before I was born). Thankfully my father got to stay in the US, but both uncles weren’t so lucky. Neither of them have ever talked to me about their experiences, but everything I’ve heard from other sources made it seem like Vietnam was hell on earth. And I’m sure it was for those who fought (on both sides).

Approach into SGN
So unfortunate that my first ever arrival into Vietnam was under complete darkness. This place has been on my bucket list for far too long, and this was not how I wanted to be introduced to it.

Seeing Vietnam with my own eyes for the first time (if only breifly) was surreal. As I stepped off the plane, I couldn’t help but to think what my uncles would have been feeling at that moment if they were here with me too. Worse yet, I tied to imagine what it must have felt like for all the freshly-drafted US Marines who arrived in Vietnam for the first time for the start of their tour of duty back in the 60’s. War is hell no doubt.

Anyway, enough about that. This is a Vietnam Airlines review after all, so I’ll try to end this on a happy and positive note. Which, now that I think about it, is a really easy thing to do. The people of Vietnam are so warm and generous. From the ground staff at SIN, to the flight attendants up in the air, and the ground staff at SGN, I was met with friendly smiles and “can do” attitudes from all.

Remote gate SGN airport
I tripped and fell down a full set of stairs on my first arrival into Australia many years ago (true story), so I had to pay extra special attention to make my first ever arrival into Vietnam as classy and dignified as possible.
Vietnam Airlines a321
See? It’s blue again! To be honest I didn’t even notice at the time – just being in Vietnam was enough of a mental distraction for me that I’m surprised that I even remembered to take the pics necessary to end this review. I can barely chew gum and walk at the same time, so I’m quite proud of myself thank you very much.

Finally, if you’re debating whether or not to fly Vietnam Airlines, all I can say is that you’d be a fool not to. This flight up from Singapore was darn near perfect, and I was especially convinced of how good this airline is after the amazing A350 segment that followed (SGN-ICN). You can read all about that one this time next week…

Comments (2)

  1. James B.

    March 21, 2019
    • SANspotter

      March 22, 2019

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