What it’s really like to fly business class

Kristine Tarbert
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

It’s the elusive curtain at the front of the plane most people will rarely get the chance to take a peek behind.

Sometimes you might get to walk through business class on your way to the back of the plane, but given the price generally associated with it, especially on international routes, it’s not something the average person can afford.

I was lucky enough to be invited to fly from Sydney to Vietnam in business class with Vietnam Airlines, and to help you work out if you ever want to fork out the cash or points for an upgrade, here’s everything you need to know.

We flew business class to Vietnam. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

The service

The airline is the national flag carrier of Vietnam, doing an average of 400 flights per day, which include 29 international destinations.

It’s received a global 4-Star certification from APEX, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, after passengers rated their overall flight experience, as well as rating seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage and entertainment.

Unfortunately our flight from Sydney to Hanoi started off with a slight hiccup, specifically a seven-hour delay. But we were kept really well informed about any developments, and given that we were flying business class, we didn’t have to wait it out in the terminal. Instead we made ourselves comfortable in the Sky Priority lounge. Plenty of food and drinks, comfortable chairs, bean bags, and quiet made the wait very bearable.

Vietnam Airlines has a 4-star rating. Photo: Supplied/Vietnam Airlines

After boarding and being shown to my seat (4G and 1A for myself), the flight attendants were there straight away with a refreshing beverage. The passionfruit juice was amazing! You could grab a paper to read as well and were given a food and drinks menu before crew came around to take your order. It was also really lovely to have the cabin manager come up to each individual passenger to welcome us on board and also apologise for the flight delay personally.

The staff were really accomodating with everything. The check-in process and going through security as priority was always relatively quick and painless. Staff were also happy for me to move seats – to a window for example – if something was available. And made sure to check I had everything I needed for a comfortable flight.

Passionfruit juice before take off was delicious. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

The food

Due to the delay before the first flight dinner did turn into breakfast, which was a little strange. But the food was delicious. Fair warning, don’t eat too much at the lounge before, because you’ll need room on the plane.

I enjoyed a dinner of stir-fried egg noodles with chicken thigh, possibly one of the best meals above 34,000ft I’ve ever had. Other options included stir-fried beef fillet and steamed rice, deep-fried sea cod, with rice and egg, or pan-fried lamb loin and potato. The entre/appetizer before that was tomato soup and salad, and a choice between smoked salmon and chicken, or tuna, salmon and scollop.

And just in case you weren’t full enough after all that. Next up came the dessert – plenty of treats and cakes to choose from, and a cheese and fruit platter.

Stir-fried egg noodle and chicken for dinner and a fruit and cheese platter. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

For breakfast on the return flight, the food was equally delicious. Bircher muesli, a bacon and egg frittata and a chocolate and coconut danish had me completely refreshed after the eight-hour journey home. Of course, having everything served on a tiny white table cloth is also a nice touch.

And it turns out the food is only set to get better, as Vietnam airlines has collaborated with renowned Australian-Vietnamese Chef Luke Nguyen. His refresh of the business class menu, to reflect the cuisine and vibrant culture of Vietnam, will come into force in early 2019 as well as the introduction of a new delicious menu of signature cocktails.

Breakfast of muesli, a frittata, and a danish. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

The seats

Absolutely nothing compares to being able to lie completely flat while flying. After years and years of travelling economy it was a welcome change. Although generally I am quite lucky because I’m short. So legroom is never an issue. But sleep was always uncomfortable at best, severely lacking at worst.

The business class seats had the complete lay flat option for sleeping. If you were sitting up we discovered a lumbar support and massage function you could move up and down you back to make the trip even more comfortable. The TV screen was big enough, but the headphones were pretty basic.

But sleep was the main aim of the game.

The pillows were fluffy, the blankets warm, and they will always have more to give you. As we were waking up after six hours or so I actually glanced at the passenger next to me and he had amassed five pillows and three blankets.

I’d never sat in seat 1A before. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle
The seats turned into a flatbed for sleeping. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

The lounges

The great thing about travelling business class is having access to the lounges while you wait for departure. Think buffet food, drinks, showers, and comfortable chairs, and rooms for snoozing.

In Sydney the Sky Lounge was where we ended up spending about six hours due to our delay. Luckily the food was good, although the meals didn’t change between lunch and dinner. Then again most people don’t spend that long in a lounge. There were plenty of drinks, and there was a room with beanbags great for some quiet reading.

Sky Lounge in Sydney, and the Lotus Lounge in Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

But the standout was the Lotus Lounge in Vietnam, specifically the one at Hanoi airport. There was so much space and we found a room with massage chairs, so I spent a good 20 minutes relaxing and getting knots out of my back.

The lotus lounge in Ho Chi Minh had the best spread when it came to food. The buffet had a make-your-own Pho station, as did all of them in Vietnam, but there was so much fresh fruit as well as cold meats, cheeses, croissants.

Lotus Lounge in Hanoi was the standout. Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle

Some room for improvement

Overall the experience of getting to travel in business class was amazing. And really there were only a few things I noticed in terms of areas of improvement.

For example the plane we flew on was a relatively new Dreamliner, but I felt like the business seats had been brought across from an older model as they were already pretty well worn. The seat cushions were a little flat and I did lay a blanket down underneath to make it a little more comfortable.

There was also no separate leg rest on the chair so you couldn’t just raise your legs when sitting up.  And when watching TV, the headphones could potentially be upgraded (I’ve been in business class once before and the headphones they provided were Bose noise-cancelling ones, perfect for watching and sleeping).

The airline however is already looking at product enhancements, including new pyjamas, blankets and bed linen, which will be introduced on long-haul routes to the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and Russia.

Yahoo Lifestyle was a guest of Vietnam Airlines.

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