We travelled to various locations of Northern and Southern Vietnam between December 25, 2019 and January 5, 2020. During these 12 days we fell in love with the country – the landscapes, the people, the culture and the flavours. We have already written about Vietnamese cuisine and you can read about it in our blog ‘Flavours of Vietnam’. We covered Tam Coc, Halong Bay and Hanoi in Northern Vietnam from December 25 to 31 and then travelled to Ninh Thuan, Phan Thiet and Saigon in Southern Vietnam from December 31 to January 5, for the rest of the trip.
While we love travelling in trains and travelling through beautiful Vietnam in an overnight train was quite a tempting option for us, we had to let it go due to the paucity of time. The best option thus, was flying. Next, because of the complexity of our itinerary, we had to choose between flying to Nha Trang or Saigon from Hanoi (more on this to come in the detailed blog on our Vietnam trip).
After weighing in on all pros and cons we decided to fly into Nha Trang. Next, we had to pick the airline. The airlines that operate direct flights between Hanoi and Nha Trang are Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Bamboo Airways. Each of these airlines have multiple flights plying through the day.
We had read a lot about the long check-in queues at the major Vietnamese airports. To avoid that we decided to book our tickets in Business Class. Vietjet Air does not have a Business Class in their flights, so they were out of the question. We were left with choosing between Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways.
While doing our research we came to know that Bamboo Airways had just started operations earlier in 2019, their tickets were also relatively cheaper when compared to Vietnam Airlines, their in-flight service was most admired by travellers, and finally, they were the most punctual airline in Vietnam (if you do extensive research on travelling in Vietnam you would know how infamous Vietnamese airlines are for delays). With this background we booked a 9:00 am flight with Bamboo Airways.
Following is an account of the entire experience of flying with Bamboo Airways – from ticketing to baggage claim at the Nha Trang airport.
We have been following Bamboo Airways since we started planning for our Vietnam trip. Their app was already on our phones and we kept checking the prices every now and then. There was one issue though, the Bamboo Airways app and website said that they do not accept payment from credit cards issued outside of Vietnam. It was already mid-August; we had just returned from our Meghalaya trip and we were getting impatient as we were yet to book the ticket to fly between Hanoi and Nha Trang. By then both our flights in (into Hanoi with Thai Airways) and out (out of Saigon with Malinda Air) of Vietnam were already book – we usually book our flights 8-10 months in advance.
Bamboo Airways has a very active Facebook Page and Shabbir decided to ask them if there was any work around with the payment. They were prompt in their response but regretted that they are still not accepting payments from cards issued outside of Vietnam, but they also confirmed that they are working on it and will start accepting payments from international cards from November.
It was the morning of August 26th and Shabbir was a little impatient that we had not yet booked our flight. He decided to just try booking once and see the failure message as that would reassure him that other people from around the world were also unable to make the booking like us. While we wanted to book Bamboo Business, for this trial we went ahead with a normal economy booking. We used our international Amex card just to be on the safe side and to our surprise the payment went through and our ticket was booked. We went ahead and dropped a message on the FB Page that our booking went through without a Vietnamese credit card and that we wanted to upgrade to Bamboo Business. They responded promptly that they were happy that we could complete our booking and informed that a representative will be in touch with us regarding the upgrade.
We soon received an email from a Bamboo Airways representative with the details on the differential amount that we needed to pay for the upgrade. The representative also informed that we need not pay the remaining amount right away and can pay it during check-in at the airport. We ultimately did not wait to pay at check-in but paid in early December using the same Amex card. This time too, we faced no issues.
Cancellation of flights booked much in advance is a common thing, something we are accustomed to. What matters is, how the airline manages the cancellation, communicates to the passengers and accommodates them in other flights. We were informed via email from Bamboo Airways on October 17th that our 9:00am flight got cancelled and Bamboo Airways gave us an option to pick either of their newly introduced 10:30am or 5:30pm flights. A simple reply on the email allowed us to book ourselves on the 10:30am flight. After the harrowing experience that we had with Thai AirAsia cancelling our flight last year, this was a very pleasing experience. We were quite happy with the change in timing from 9:00am to 10:30am as that allowed us to grab some breakfast at our hotel before leaving for the airport.
Check-in and Security Check
Soon it was December 31st and we were on our way to the airport after a wonderful trip in North Vietnam covering Tam Coc, Hanoi and Halong Bay. We reached the airport and spotted the bright green logo of Bamboo Airways. Bamboo Business passengers have a dedicated checkin counter lined with a blue carpet. Upon reaching the counter we were greeted by a representative standing at the front of the counter and the other representative sitting behind it. The person standing at the counter helped us with the luggage and assisted with the documents. Within a few minutes our boarding passes were ready.
The representative in front of the counter said that as we are booked with Bamboo Business she would escort us to the Song Hong Premium Lounge where we could grab a bite and wait until boarding, when her colleague would come to escort us. She also helped us through the dedicated security check channel reserved for Business Class passengers. A look back at the serpentine queue at the other security check channels told us that we had made a good decision picking Bamboo Business.
Chatting through the 5 min walk from the security check to the lounge, we were taken to the air-side Song Hong Premium Lounge. We were shown a comfortable lounger to sit on while the representative completed the formalities. She soon came back to handover our passport and boarding pass and informed that at 10:15am her colleague would come and escort us for boarding.
The dedicated lounge for Bamboo Airways is still being setup so the airline has tied up with Song Hong Premium Lounge to allow its business class passengers to wait. But, entering the lounge, for once you do not feel that it is not a dedicated lounge of Bamboo Airways – from the décor to cushions, everything bears the Bamboo Airways colour or logo.
While we have had a good breakfast at our hotel, we decided to try out some of the Southeast Asian items that the lounge offered for the sake of this review. Song Hong Premium Lounge has a good spread of hot and cold items from Southeast Asian and Continental cuisines for breakfast. They also offered some hot beverages and a wide range of alcohol. Even though it was a bit early for drinking, Shabbir grabbed a glass of wine, justifying that we are on vacation and I went for a cup of cappuccino.
Boarding for our 10:30am flight was supposed to start at 10:00. It was already past 10:05am and we were getting a little impatient. While we were told that someone will come and escort us to the boarding gate, we didn’t see anyone coming until 10:10am. After this, we went and sat in the chairs closer to the gate of the Song Hong Premium Lounge, in case we need to make a run for the boarding gate, which was not only a floor below us, but quite a distance away.
At around 10:15am, we saw a Bamboo Airways employee walking towards the lounge. We were still not sure if she was coming for us. Once at the reception of the lounge she was shown to us and another elderly couple. She came up to us and said that she was here to escort us for the boarding.
Once at the boarding gate we saw that the boarding for the economy passengers was already completed. This was a great news for us as this meant that we will not have to be sitting in our seats while the other passengers board the plane and give those weird looks. We embarked onto the aircraft, stored our baggage in the over-head compartments and got comfortable in the cosy seats with our welcome drinks – I opted for watermelon juice and Shabbir went for a detox drink.
Bamboo Business Cabin
The aircraft that we were flying on was an Airbus A321neo with 8 business class seats in 2 rows of 2-2 configuration. The seats were quite cosy with decent quality upholstery. The seats also offered a lot customisation making it very comfortable to fly in.
There were just four of us flying in the business cabin – we had opted for seats 2A and 2C, and the elderly couple had opted for the seats 1D and 1F. The cabin also had two cabin crew servicing it so, we were made to feel more than comfortable.
After take-off and attaining cruising altitude, the cabin crew took the orders for our breakfast. We were not at all interested to grab any more food but, for the sake of this review we went for the non-veg sandwich. As this was a morning flight of less than two hours, they only had options for veg and non-veg sandwiches.
Our chicken sandwiches came with grilled chicken and fresh veggies on the side, along with a bowl of fresh fruits. Both of us also went for orange juice to go with the food. The presentation of the food was quite pleasing, and they tasted equally good.
After our trays were cleared the cabin crew asked us if we were interested to grab some cappuccino. Shabbir doesn’t really like pre-mix coffee in flights so answered in the negative, but I wanted to try it and asked for one for myself. To our surprise, the cabin crew came back with a hot cup of coffee, complete with a sprinkle of coffee powder on the top. It tasted good and Shabbir requested the cabin crew to get one for himself.
After this we were once again asked if we would like some juice, which we denied as we were full already.
Touchdown and Exit
After touchdown, as with most airlines, the business class passengers could disembark before the other passengers. We took the aero-bridge and went onto the baggage claim area. By the time we reached our designated belt our baggage had already arrived. That was quite a breeze – the entire process from touchdown to exiting the airport took us about 30mins.
We had the car to our resort in Ninh Thuan waiting for us and we embarked on the second half of our Vietnam trip.
We would be writing about our experiences travelling through Tam Coc, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Ninh Thuan, Phan Thiet and Saigon for the last 12 days in the upcoming blogs. Follow us on our Instagram and see the amazing photographs we captured in the picturesque locations of Vietnam and to get updates when we post the future blogs.
If you are visiting Vietnam and need any help booking hotels to stay in or looking for restaurant recommendations, itinerary suggestions, you can get in touch with us and we will help you with the bookings.