My unexpected flight on Vietnam Airlines gave me a positive first impression of the Vietnamese flag carrier.
In case you missed my intro post, I wound up on this flight after I was denied boarding on VietJet for lack of a visa to Vietnam.
With only 90 minutes before departure, I found myself at the Vietnam Airlines ticketing counter. They were unable to process payment but advised me to book a flexible ticket on a later flight online and they would be able to rebook me on the flight imminently departing.
Booking complete, I waited a few moments for my reservation to ticket and was checked-in for my flight and given a bulkhead seat.
After spending 10 minutes in the Oman Air Lounge, my favorite Priority Pass Lounge in Bangkok, it was already time to board the flight.
> Read More: Oman Air Lounge Bangkok Review
The gate area was deserted: boarding was practically complete. An agent scanned my boarding pass and wished me a pleasant flight.
Vietnam Airlines 604
Bangkok (BKK) – Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
Friday, October 20
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 710 (Economy Class)
As I walked onboard, I was admittedly a bit dejected I had to buy an expensive last-minute due to a stupid visa issue. Had I booked a week in advance I could have secured business class for even cheaper. But why cry over spilled milk, even $200 worth of it?
At least I had the bulkhead (well, first row) of economy class to myself. There actually was not bulkhead, just a curtain separating the two cabins. Legroom was excellent.
Vietnam Airlines A321 Business + Economy Class
As I walked onboard, I took a couple pictures of the business class cabins. Seats were “real” business class seats with about 40″ of legroom and an adjustable footrest form the seat in front.
Economy Class was 3-3 and featured older, well-padded seats.
A moist towel was offered prior to takeoff:
Vietnam Airlines A321 Meal Service
Despite the short flight time in the middle of the afternoon, a snack was offered to all passengers. It included a cold-cut plate with meats, cheese, and condiments served with a warm roll and a side of sliced fruit.
I just had eaten lunch in the Oman Air Lounge, but appreciated the gesture.
As I stated in my preview post, the weather looked fine (just a few clouds) and we did not even really shake much as we began our initial descent into Ho Chi Minh City. But as we neared the runway for an on-time arrival, suddenly the engines accelerated and our gradual descent became a steep and rapid climb.
The captain soon provided an update:
Ladies and gentleman, you may have noticed that we had to abandon our landing due to poor weather in Ho Chi Minh City, It appears we are going to have to divert to a nearby airport. We have 20-mintues of fuel left and have we have been given permission to circle the airport for 15 more minutes. We apologize for any inconvenience.
That worried me. Not only did I have no transit visa to enter Vietnam, but I doubt Qatar would be very sympathetic on a $672 business class ticket to my late arrival.
Where Would We Land?
15 minutes later we left our holding pattern and began another rapid descent. We heard nothing further from the captain, making it anyone’s guess which airport we would land in.
With 30 seconds before landing, the captain simply said, “FAs, landing positions please.”
We touched down. I noticed a building with a Vietnam Airlines logo on it. Were we in Ho Chi Minh City?
No one ever said where we landed, but I confirmed it was indeed SGN as we pulled up to the terminal building.
I can’t blame Vietnam Airlines for the aborted landing, though I would have appreciated if the captain had kept us better informed. Overall, the short flight on Vietnam Airlines was quite nice. While paying the premium to fly Vietnam Airlines over Jet Star or VietJet may be difficult to justify, you get what you pay for in terms of onboard service, comfort, and especially the ability to transit without visa in Vietnam.