Flight: VN 722. Sydney/Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 2 August 2012
Class: Business. Seat: 4D. Aircraft: Airbus A330-200.
It’s always a pleasant surprise to be upgraded and this was no exception. Not having flown with Vietnam Airlines for many years, however (and never in their business class), I had no idea what to expect.
Once aboard, I find that my seat, 4D, is comfortable and the cabin is smart, tidy and trim. The aircraft seems new. The plane, an A330-200, is in fact about a year old – virtually new in airline terms. Vietnam Airlines also runs B777s on long-haul services but tends to use those more on European routes.
Once seated, I am welcomed with a choice of orange juice, water or Champagne. I choose the latter. Service is attentive throughout the flight, and pressing the flight service button brings an attendant to my seat within 30 seconds on both occasions.
The lunch menu offers two choices of starters and four choices of mains, plus salads, soup, assorted breads, fresh fruit, cheeses, cakes, chocolates and liqueurs – five courses in all.
For hors d’oeuvre, I choose smoked duck breast, Hungarian salami and grilled prawns. Then Zucchini parmesan soup, and as a main stir-fried beef with peppers, mushroom and egg noodles. Cutlery is stainless steel.
Difficult to match wine to that but reds seem the answer. Two reds are on offer, both French. Château Cailleteau Bergeron Premières Côtes de Blaye 2009 turns out to be a smooth yet powerful Bordeaux, good to start with and better by the glass. The other, Mercurey 2008 by Michel Picard, is a Pinot Noir, also well worth drinking. Best to have a glass or two of each.
‘Comfortably Numb’ is a track from the album ‘A Foot in the Door – the Best of Pink Floyd’, and I am soon listening to it on the in-flight entertainment headset. The seat does everything one expects, reclining at the touch of a button while the footrest adjusts at the touch of another button. I don’t put the seat into full recline because it’s a daylight flight and I’m browsing tracks from the music selection and contemplating whether to watch a film. The video screen pops up from under the right armrest and remains easy to watch when the tray table is deployed.
Business-class seating is configured 2x2x2 so every seat is either an aisle or a window. I have a centre aisle seat. Plenty of magazines and newspapers are available, including the Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, magazines like BRW and of course a selection of Vietnamese publications for those who want them.
I decide to watch The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep. The film can be stopped on demand – while one is tasting the Cognac VSOP for instance.
After the film I sample a few classical and rock soundtracks from the in-flight entertainment music selection, Beethoven’s septet in E-flat Major and then ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. The Mountain King is perfect as we head through a bit of turbulence over Brunei on the approach to Ho Chi Minh City. The turbulence (which is over faster than the Mountain King) is preceded by a “fasten seat belt” warning delivered in Vietnamese and in English. The announcement is at sensible volume – loud enough for you to take notice, but not so loud that it makes you half spring out of your seat. You’re meant to remain seated, after all.
Just as take off from Sydney was prompt, touchdown is ahead of schedule. We arrive at Ho Chi Minh City airport at 1605 local time – 10 minutes early.
In bidding us farewell, the cabin crew are as friendly as they were during the flight. So a pleasant, positive experience on a good flight where everything worked well.
Written by : Peter Needham