Review: Vietnam Airlines Business Class A350 Ho Chi Minh City To Shanghai

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Vietnam Airlines 522
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) – Shanghai (PVG)
Sunday, May 6
Depart: 7:40AM
Arrive: 12:40PM
Duration: 4hr
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Seat: 6A (Business Class)

I was looking forward to the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of Vietnam Airlines’ 787 and A350. I boarded through the forward door of the plane, and turned right into the business class cabin. Vietnam Airlines has two A350 configurations — one version features reverse herringbone seats (the same as on the 787), which is primarily used for longhaul flights, and the other version features a staggered configuration, which is primarily used for flights within Asia.

I thought based on the seatmap that my flight would have reverse herringbone seats, but it ended up having the staggered configuration instead.

This version of Vietnam’s A350s have a total of 29 staggered seats, spread across eight rows. I love how spacious the A350 cabin feels, thanks to the lack of overhead bins in the center section, combined with the width of the cabin.


Vietnam Airlines A350 business class cabin


Vietnam Airlines A350 business class cabin

As you can tell based on the pictures, center seats were staggered differently in each row, and were all equidistant from one another — this wasn’t one of those staggered configurations with honeymoon seats in the center section (where two seats are really close to one another, and ideal if traveling with someone).


Vietnam Airlines business class seats A350

Then along the windows there were two types of seats. Seats in odd numbered rows were closer to the aisle, and more exposed. Personally this wouldn’t be my preference if traveling in this configuration.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat A350


Vietnam Airlines business class seat A350

The seats in even numbered rows were further from the aisle, and there was a console along the aisle, giving you more of a sense of privacy.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat A350


Vietnam Airlines business class seat A350

The personal television and ottoman were right by the window, next to the seat in front.


Vietnam Airlines A350 business class seat

The ottoman was spacious, and you could even place your shoes beneath the ottoman during the flight.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat ottoman

The tray table folded out from the side of the ottoman, with a latch holding it in place.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat tray table

The console to the side of the seat had a reading light, a literature pocket, and a water bottle holder.


Vietnam Airlines A350 business class seat counter

Also in this area were the seat and entertainment controls.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat & entertainment controls

Beneath that was an armrest, as well as a small storage compartment with the headphones and a USB outlet.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat armrest

Underneath that was the 110v outlet.


Vietnam Airlines business class seat power outlet

I love the A350’s modern seatbelt sign displays, though I was frustrated that Vietnam Airlines chose not to install individual air nozzles on the A350, as the 787 does have them.


Vietnam Airlines A350 overhead consoles

Already waiting at the seat on boarding were headphones, which I found to be fairly low quality.


Vietnam Airlines business class headphones

There was also a pillow and blanket. For a shorthaul flight the bedding was fine, though it’s the same bedding they offer on longhaul flights, where I consider that bedding to be subpar.


Vietnam Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Within about five minutes of settling in I was offered a cold towel.


Vietnam Airlines business class cold towel

Then a few minutes later I was offered a selection of pre-departure drinks, with the choice between champagne, orange juice, apple juice, or water. I selected a glass of champagne.


Vietnam Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

About 20 minutes after boarding menus for the flight were distributed, as well as immigration cards for China.


Vietnam Airlines business class menu

At 7:45AM the main cabin door closed (20 of the 29 business class seats were occupied), and around that time the crew came through the cabin to take drink and meal orders. The flight attendant who took my order was friendly, introduced herself by name, and told me the flight time would be 3hr30min. A couple of minutes later the safety video was screened.

At 7:50AM we began our pushback, and a few minutes after that we began our taxi.


Vietnam Airlines A321

Our taxi was very short, and took only a couple of minutes. I’d note that each business class seat had a shoulder strap that you were supposed to wear for takeoff, but the crew didn’t enforce this. For that matter, the crew seemed quite lax when it came to safety, as I saw several “violations” (like reclined seats and bags where they weren’t supposed to be) and the crew didn’t do anything.


Taxiing SGN

The moment that the safety video finished we started rocketing down runway 25L for our flight to Shanghai.


Taking off SGN

What a beautiful wing, eh?


Taking off SGN


View after takeoff from SGN

We had great views of sprawling Ho Chi Minh City on the climb out.


View after takeoff from SGN

We hit a bit of turbulence a few minutes after takeoff as we climbed through the initial layer of clouds, but it got smooth after that, and the seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff.


View after takeoff from SGN

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection, which was similar to the selection on the previous flight. There were about 85 movies, as well as a few sitcoms.


Vietnam Airlines entertainment selection


Vietnam Airlines entertainment selection


Vietnam Airlines entertainment selection


Vietnam Airlines entertainment selection


Vietnam Airlines entertainment selection

I also checked out the airshow for the flight.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

While many airlines have tail cameras on the A350 (which I love), unfortunately Vietnam Airlines elected not to install this feature on their A350s.

The meal service began about 20 minutes after takeoff. The breakfast menu read as follows:

The drink menu read as follows (it was much more limited than on my previous longhaul flight):

First I was brought a tablecloth.


Vietnam Airlines business class table setting

Then the entire meal was served on a single tray.


Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast

For the main course I ordered the braised beef in bulgogi sauce with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables. There were three main course options. I don’t eat pork, and the rice congee with fish and eel didn’t sound terribly appealing to me, so this was the obvious choice. I was happy with my selection, as the dish was tasty.


Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — main course

I did find it interesting that there were no western breakfast options. That didn’t bother me since I would have chosen this dish either way, but I’ve almost always found there to be a western breakfast option when flying within Asia, even on flights wholly within a country.

The sides consisted of fresh fruit, as well as some yogurt with fruit compote.


Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — yogurt and fresh fruit

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose a chocolate pastry.


Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — pastry

I already had enough coffee, so just had some water to drink.

The meal service was quickly cleared, within an hour of takeoff. The food was good, though at the same time the presentation was simple, as everything was served on a single tray. In my case that worked, since it meant I could get a little nap in before landing.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory. There was one lavatory in front of the cabin, and then two behind the cabin, but they were shared with premium economy. The lavatories were perfectly alright, and didn’t have any special amenities.


Vietnam Airlines A350 lavatory

By the time I reclined my seat for a nap we were just passing Hong Kong.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

I only slept for around an hour, and when I woke up we were starting our descent.


Airshow enroute to Shanghai

At this point the crew came through the cabin with glasses of water and warm towels. While the crew may have been lax when it came to safety, they were very friendly and attentive throughout the flight.


Vietnam business class water and towel before landing

As we began our descent I enjoyed the views out the window. Vietnam’s entertainment system is not only turned off for taxi and takeoff, but also for descent, so there’s not much else to do.


View approaching Shanghai

While it looked like a beautiful day when we started our descent, visibility was greatly reduced at lower altitudes, and it was raining in Shanghai.


View approaching Shanghai


View approaching Shanghai


View approaching Shanghai

We touched down on runway 16L at 12:25PM.


Landing PVG


Taxiing PVG

Unfortunately due to the rain I couldn’t really take pictures out the window. However, I still snapped a picture of the below plane, which I’d love to fly. Bonus points to anyone who can identify it. 😉


Taxiing PVG

We had a very long taxi to Terminal 2 at Pudong Airport, and ended up arriving at our gate at 12:40PM. I bid farewell to the crew, and was excited for the last portion of my journey for the day, from Shanghai to Hong Kong on Cathay Dragon. Little did I know the transit would be a complete PITA, though.

Vietnam Airlines A350 business class bottom line

There’s a big variance when it comes to the quality of intra-Asia flights. Some flights are operated by planes that feature recliner seats similar to what you’d find in first class on a domestic US flight, while others feature fully flat beds. So this flight was great in the sense that I got a fully flat bed on a 3hr30min flight.

In general Vietnam Airlines’ A350 business class is a great product for such a short flight. The food was good and service was friendly, and I even got a little nap in. While this crew was a bit lax with safety, I thought they were generally friendlier than on the previous flight.

All things considered I thought Vietnam Airlines offered a solid yet forgettable experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again, but also wouldn’t seek them out.

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Comments

  1. Mahan Air Airbus A340-600. Still one of the rare sitings of A340-600s outside SAA, Lufthansa, Virgin and Iberia.

  2. Mahan must have a very irregular schedule because a Mahan plane is almost always sitting there in the middle of the field at PVG.

  3. @UGC That was what I thought until I see a flag close to the cockpit window. EVA air does not place any flag there.

  4. looks like the same seat as TG’s A350 (except for the color). Flew that recently and was disappointed by the total lack of storage around the seat

  5. W5 (aka Mahan) A340-600. Loved the tripreport, VN seems such a great airline to fly with!

  6. The “bulgogi” entree seemed a bit odd to me. Bulgogi is not braised, and the beef should be sliced thinly, not cubed. There is a large Korean ex-pat community in Vietnam, so I suppose that is why there is pseudo-Korean meal option (on a route to PVG?).

    “While this crew was a bit lax with safety, I thought they were generally friendlier than on the previous flight.” Would Lucky make such a statement so nonchalantly if he were reviewing TAAG Angola? Also, does he keep halal?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-11/bratwurst-nation-turning-away-from-pork-as-veggie-palates-evolve

    “Another big influence on demand is the change in German demographics and eating habits after the arrival of about 1 million refugees. Most of the people who sought asylum came from Muslim countries where they don’t eat pork for religious reasons, including Syria and Afghanistan. That boosted sales of lamb, mutton and goat to an eight-year high in 2016, according to Euromonitor. More public canteens and schools have also been removing pork from menus.”

    Savor the taste of the caliphate.

  7. Lucky at least you ate the Asian option, unlike Matthew of Live and Let’s Fly who only does steaks and omelettes.

  8. I believe most the modern airbus aircraft are featured with tail cameras, it’s a matter of whether the airline choose to put it in the entertainment system

  9. The option you had, white rice with beef, is a common “Western option” on many intra-Asia flights when there is no “real Western option”. It’s called “Asianized Western food”, similar to Americanized Asian food like fortune cookies and sweet and sour fried chicken.

    If you order a steak or burger patty at any normal family restaurant in Japan, white rice and miso soup will usually be served together as well, although it’s considered by many Japanese to be “home-style Western dishes”.

  10. @cargocult: That’s why is described as “Braised beef in bulgogi sauce”. Not just “Bulgogi”

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