The Philly Pho Fare: Trip Planning
Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge Terminal 4 SIN
Vietnam Airlines A321 Economy SIN-HAN
Qatar Airways B77W Business Class HAN-DOH
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class DOH-PHL
Aloft Philadelphia Downtown
The City of Brotherly Love
British Airways Business Class Lounge PHL
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class PHL-DOH
Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways Complimentary Doha Stopover Package (Westin Doha)
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge DOH
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Lounge HAN
Silk Air B737 Business Class HAN-SIN
My Qatar Airways flight from DOH-BKK-HAN was singularly uneventful, and I didn’t really see a point in rehashing old ground with another report.
I was, however, excited to be in Hanoi again (and this time, with significantly less rush…) because it would be my first time ever flying Silk Air’s business class product. It’s pretty staggering to think that for all the times I’ve tried SQ’s premium cabins, in my entire life I had yet to sit in the plush seats on their narrowbody subsidiary.
It’s funny how everything runs significantly smoother when you’re not in a blind panic. My Qatar Airlines flight taxied to an aerobridge, I had a short walk to immigration, cleared it in record time thanks to my APEC Business Travel Card, my bag was one of the first to pop out and within 20 minutes of landing I was standing at the Silkair counter waiting to check in.
There was a long line of passengers at the economy class counters. I’ve always wondered why more people don’t use online check-in, especially when there’s a special queue that lets you skip the line and drop your bags. It puzzled me even more given that the majority of people in the queue seemed to be youngish and shouldn’t find checking in online to be technologically difficult. Maybe there’s potential for Milelion Vietnam…
There were only a couple of businessmen ahead of me in the business class queue, one of whom was trying (unsuccessfully) to persuade the counter staff to give his colleague a free upgrade. I know Silkair technically isn’t Singapore Airlines, but you can bet their upgrade DNA will be exactly the same. I’m still amused by the number of posts on the SQ Flyertalk thread of people asking what their chances of being upgraded on Singapore Airlines are…
At check-in there was a prominent sign spelling out who did and did not have lounge access. I’m guessing they must have got their fair share of annoyed Star Gold members who booked SQ codeshares only to find out that Silkair isn’t part of Star Alliance.
Less than 30 minutes after entering the country, I had my passport stamped again, went through security (Vietnam airports seem to require you to remove your shoes for whatever reason) and made my way to the lounge.
Silkair does not have any dedicated lounges of its own. Instead, it uses contract lounges, and in Hanoi that comes in the form of the Vietnam Airlines business class lounge. I was confused at first about the lack of Vietnam Airlines branding on the lounge invite, because I saw “Nasco” and assumed it was a contract lounge. But apparently there’s some complex relationship between Nasco and Vietnam Airlines where Nasco manages their ground services or something.
You’ll see signs for the lounge on the first floor of the airport. This lounge indeed serves a lot of airlines (but isn’t the only lounge- Qatar for example uses a different provider).
Up the escalator to the second floor…
And you’ll be greeted by a bevy of beautiful cardboard standees.Aeroflot lady looks like she’s ready to do a cavity search. In Soviet Russia, cavity search YOU!
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, but I think for all intents and purposes HCMC is supposed to be the “flagship” lounge for Vietnam Airlines. I need to be upfront that I didn’t have very high expectations heading into the Hanoi one. Vietnam Airlines might be a Skytrax 4 Star Airline, but as any seasoned traveler will tell you Skytrax ratings are more or less the toilet paper of the aviation world.
My boarding pass was scanned and I was granted access to the lounge. The white panels behind the admissions desk are supposed to form a lotus, by the way.
The lounge has a surprising amount of natural light and a heck of a lot of seating. High ceilings completed the feeling of spaciousness.
I found these safari chairs to be the most comfortable for lounging because of the way the chair conforms to your body shape. They’re not great for working though.
I thought the trellis running throughout the lounge was a nice design touch.
A selection of (mostly Vietnamese) newspapers and magazines was available.
The lounge overlooks the departure concourse and was a short walk from where Silkair would be departing from today.
There’s actually a sizable business centre in the lounge with numerous computer terminals. I’ve said this before in my Qatar Airways lounge review, but I don’t “get” why we still need to have these in the 21st century. Seems like a waste of space if anything. Most people would be happy with a printing corner and a couple of desktops in case your laptop dies.
The Wi-Fi in the lounge was incredibly fast, easily the fastest I’d seen in any lounge anywhere in the world. I lost my Speedtest screenshot so you’ll have to take my word for it.
I got excited when I saw this room, thinking that they had an in-lounge spa. The truth turned out to be a bit more pedestrian, in the form of three well-used, no headcover massage chairs.
In a corner near the bathroom I found the most disorganized sleeping area you’ll ever see.
Also near the bathrooms is the lounge’s bar.
I didn’t actually see anyone manning it, but a limited selection of hard liquors and wines was available. You’d have thought the French would leave their love for champagne behind…
One thing I will say about the lounge is that the buffet selection was extensive.
I’m guessing this was meant to be the Western selection (well, at least 2 out of 3)
And this the Asian selection. Get a load of the pork on the right. It’s pork with Kiwi fruit. You heard me right.
The other options were a strange mix of everything else. It was kitchen sink stuff.
The best thing since…
My mum says I’m not an adventurous eater. To her, I’d like to present the following plate of spaghetti, fried rice and pork with kiwi fruit.
There were quite a few fridges carrying the usual sodas, as well as small bottles of water which you could take to go on the plane.
The coffee available was a strange mix of cheap instant and fancy machine.
Oh, one last thing. The showers are locker room stuff. Like literally. There are metal lockers the kind you find in gyms in the corner of the showering room. Two cubicles are available, and lets just say if you go in expecting a Cathay Pacific cabana you’re going to be slightly disappointed.
It’s not going to win lounge of the year anytime soon, but I found the Vietnam Airlines lounge to be a perfectly passable place to spend the 90 minutes before boarding started. Its buffet goes for quantity over quality, the showers could best be described as “locker room chic” and there’s no champagne, but blazing fast Wi-Fi, great views of the tarmac and friendly staff make it a pleasant experience.