Index:

Vietnam Airlines flights don’t show up on all online booking engines. Often when they do, only full fare tickets are available. So I booked my Vietnam Airlines travel on their own website.

I found that one-way business class tickets were ~ US$155 all-in, or $30 more than the cheapest coach ticket available (and less than the price of coach booking through online travel agency sites).

Since I hold no Skyteam status, and I was checking bags on this two week trip, I decided that the extra $30 made sense.

The trip from downtown to the airport was quick, and I was dropped off at domestic check-in around 3:30pm for my 5:35pm flight to Danang (which, really, was way too early).

Check-in queues were busy but I only had to wait behind one person to be helped in business class.

Once checked-in, it was up to security — and that was a mess. There was an entire security hall teeming with passengers waiting to be screened. Fortunately there was one line for premium passengers, and my business class boarding pass got me access.

The lines were being enforced, too — several people ahead of me were turned away once they got to the front and they had to return to the back of the other lines (although it’s possible they tried to cut those lines, I saw many people doing that). Thinning out the ranks of the elite queue the line went even faster and I was through within 10 minutes while it looked as though other lines would have taken at least 3 times as long.

I headed through the terminal to the lounge, which was right beside the gate I’d be departing from.

Walking into the lounge, the staff recognized that the place was completely crowded — that there was simply no seating available — and so they escorted me through to the attached next lounge over which wasn’t furnished quite as nicely but that had pretty much the same food spread and was mostly empty. (It just wound up a decent quiet place to seat away from the gate, and with functional internet.)

The wrapped candies were surprisingly good, but I didn’t partake in any of the other food. I just sat for awhile, catching up on work, until it was time to board.

I was thrilled not to have been waiting at the gate, and walked out just as people queued up to board buses to depart for the aircraft.

Business class had a separate, uncrowded bus.

We arrived at our aircraft and would soon be on our way.

The seats were similar to what you’d get in US domestic first class, which was more than fine for an hour-long flight (coach would have been fine, too).

Pre-departure beverages were served along with hot towels.

The audio system reminded me of something from the 1990s.

Once everyone was on board, we had our safety announcement, and the plane pushed back. There wasn’t much of a delay before getting airborne, and once we hit our cruising altitude the flight attendants were up serving a snack.

It wasn’t great, wasn’t bad, just something to nosh on for the short flight and to not be hungry on arrival.

By the time the tray was cleared it was nearly time to begin our descent. The flight was smooth, and without delay, and soon enough I’d have my bags and be on my way to the resort.


  1. CW said,

    Gary, I don’t think I missed it, but did you ever explain how you got your visa for Vietnam? I think that would be of interest to a lot of readers.

  2. Gary said,

    @CW – you’re right, I didn’t explain it — I filled out the form and followed the process here:
    http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/content/visa-application-process

    I sent it to the Vietnamese Embassy in DC, along with a return pre-paid/addressed Fedex envelope and a money order for the fee and passport photo. They shipped my passport back with the visa.

  3. CW said,

    Haha, ok, if it was really that simple then my question looks pretty stupid. But I was under the impression that getting a visa for Vietnam required a host individual or entity that was native to Vietnam, and that that added substantial complexity to the process. Did I completely make that up?

  4. jfhscott said,

    @CW, I am familiar with the requirement for a “host”; when I went to Russia in 1993 and applied for a visa by myself, my tour operator furnished an invitation number to use with the application.

    But IIRS, when I applied for a Vietnam visa three years ago, they merely wanted me to identify where I would be staying and there was no need for an “invitation”.

  5. Gary said,

    @CW – I didn’t need a host in 2009 or this year

  6. Andrew said,

    We were in Vietnam in January and stayed a while at the Intercontinental in Danang. The hotel itself is a mix bag (stunning but unfinished) but they do have a lounge at the airport for guests. First time I’ve been to an airport hotel lounge. Surprisingly the lounge was pretty good.

  7. CW said,

    Thanks, all, for the clarification!

  8. seth t. said,

    Vietnam also operates a parallel visa-on-arrival scheme if you arrive at the major airports. Basically, you pay for an approval letter in advance via a travel agent or the like, present that on arrival, and obtain the visa. Search “vietnam visa on arrival” for ample references and information.

  9. Denis said,

    Gary,
    Out of curiosity:
    1) What aircraft was that?
    2) Where did you credit the miles to?
    Best,
    Denis

  10. Gary said,

    @denis – an A321, and the miles haven’t posted, I need to follow up on that…

  11. phil said,

    It’s Da Nang, not danang or Danang. Thanks!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Da_Nang_International_Airport

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