New Plan: I’m Flying Vietnam Airlines Business Class & Cathay Dragon First Class!

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Travel

Earlier in the month I booked a review trip that would have me flying Ukraine International 777 business class from New York to Kiev, Air Belgium business class from Charleroi to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Airlines business class from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

I was so excited about all three portions of this trip. Air Belgium is a brand new airline, I had never flown Hong Kong Airlines before, and I’ve only flown Ukraine International on their 767, so I wanted to check out their upgraded 777 business class.

Unfortunately there was a major wrinkle in the trip when Air Belgium announced that they’d be postponing operations by over a month, meaning that my flight was canceled. Rather generously (at least for a startup airline) they offered to rebook me in Cathay Pacific business class, or offered to rebook me once their operations commenced. I definitely still want to fly Air Belgium, and frankly the thought of a business class flight on Cathay Pacific didn’t excite me that much.

I decided to get creative, and started looking at ways I could fly between Kiev and Hong Kong in the limited time that I had, given how tightly I planned this trip. I found something that I think you guys will really enjoy, which I’ve now booked. I’ll fly:

  • From Kiev to London in British Airways business class, which cost me 17,000 British Airways Avios
  • From London to Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai in Vietnam Airlines business class (with the first flight on the 787 and second flight on the A350), which cost me 80,000 Delta SkyMiles
  • From Shanghai to Hong Kong in Cathay Dragon first class, which cost me 30,000 British Airways Avios (Cathay Dragon is one of three airlines I’ve yet to fly in first class, so this will allow me to knock that out, given that I had to cancel my Cathay Dragon flight a couple of months ago because I got the flu

So that portion of the trip will now look as follows:

Meanwhile the entire trip now looks as follows:

Obviously this wasn’t what I had initially been planning. However, there’s inherently some risk when booking travel on startup airlines, so of course I was going to make the best of it. I’m happy I was able to make this work, as I’ve been wanting to try Vietnam Airlines (and now I’ll get to try both their 787 and A350), and after my Cathay Dragon flight I’ll only have two more airlines I need to review in first class (Kuwait Airways and Oman Air).

As far as Air Belgium goes, initially I had a ticket booked from Charleroi to Hong Kong in business class, and from Hong Kong to Charleroi in economy. As compensation for the cancelation they’ll book me roundtrip in business class on my choice of dates. Here’s to hoping they actually launch in June, as planned.

Stay tuned, as soon I’ll have reviews of Ukraine, Vietnam, Cathay Dragon, and Hong Kong Airlines!

(Featured image courtesy of Long Nguyen)

  1. Lucky, looking forward to your Vietnam Airlines review! Will be taking them this Fall from REP-HAN and curious to see what you say about them.

  2. Speaking of Air Belgium, maybe after you arrive in Hong Kong you fly Air Niugini from Hong Kong to Brisbane via Port Moresby, and then fly Qantas’s new 787 business class back to the states.

  3. You won’t really see any difference between KA First Class and what you’ve experienced on CX Business Class. Same seat. Service flow is a little different, but that’s about it.

  4. Also, maybe flying Air Algerie First Class from Montreal to Algiers to Brussels/Paris might be a good way of getting to Charleroi for Air Belgium. Knock another first class off your list.

  5. Yes Air Nui guini review would be grat.I flew with then from Manus-Port Moresby-Sin and the anouncemed the Fa made was was funniest i ever heard. Like she was stoned or totally drunk. The guy next to me was so furious.

  6. Enjoy Vietnam Air! Was able to get an extremely cheap fare from KUL-HAN-NRT a couple years ago in Biz with the HAN-NRT segment on the 789. I thought the cabin finishings were very stylish, the seats were great (reverse herringbone), service was top notch and thought the food was very well prepared, along with their unique signature cocktails that were quite tasty. For an “amentity light” 4.5hour redeye, it was a great overall experience for me on what is probably one of the lesser recognized products out there. Would certainly travel with them again for a longer journey.

    I will say, however, that I had a choice of connecting in either HAN or SGN and chose HAN hearing it was slightly better…but the airport was very simple and lacked an extensive amount of amenities to keep occupied with, there were confusing and unannounced gate changes, and the lounge was very basic and overcrowded. The pho station in the lounge was not very desirable that I actually went down to a terminal restaurant and got a great bahn mi and cafe sua da that was much better than anything the lounge buffet offered.

  7. Would love to try Air Niugini. Has anyone seen a good paid business class fare on them?

  8. @ Nick — Best I can tell Air Algerie doesn’t offer first class to Montreal. For that matter, best I can tell none of their A330s have first class, but rather just some regional flights have the forward cabin marketed as first class.

  9. @ Chris H — Sounds about right, thanks. My expectations aren’t terribly high, just trying to check that one off the list.

  10. Wasn’t it a Vietnam Airlines pilot that landed on an under construction runway a couple of days ago?

  11. Be advised that VNs A350 fleet has 2 configurations. The intra-asia ones have a similar business seat as Iberia and PE is only economy with extra legroom. Whereas Europe bound flights (CDG and FRA) have a slightly tweaked/upgraded version of their 787-9 Business class, so reverse herringbone (Just like finnair actually).

  12. When I flew Cathay Dragon I was excited about the food. They had a menu from Din Tai Fung and I enjoyed tasting the difference foods. Much better than the super fancy attempts at 1st class meals.

    The seat was the same as CX Business , service was good.

  13. It makes sense. Whilst the Cathay Pacific option would be nice for most travellers but you’re in the business of reviewing airlines and you’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific before. This way you get to review more airlines and hopefully review Air Belgium in the future.

  14. Lucky – in all seiousness, what is your long term plan with the blog? Most (if not all) products out there have been reviewed multiple times by multiple bloggers by now, and the marginal utility of doing any more reviews is minimal for most travelers. Would be interesting to have your insights on where will you take this awesome blog next!

  15. Good choices, looking forward to VN. Let us see if they are really that good as a lot of readers are lobbying loudly for them. Finally CathayDragon F. I am interested about the F is the same CX biz longhaul seat, so no need to be excited to. And if course the new PS C product..will it be like LOT?

  16. I’m so excited you are flying Cathay Dragon from Shanghai to Hong Kong as I’m doing that flight in June! (In business class though. 🙂

  17. Ben, for the upcoming Air Belgium trip, why don’t you try a mix of random & classic airlines? It’d be fun something like this:

    . Seattle – Beijing (Delta);
    . Beijing – Minsk (Air China);
    . Minsk – Charleroi (Belavia);
    . Charleroi – Hong Kong (Air Belgium);
    . Hong Kong – Port Moresby (Air Niugini);
    . Port Moresby – Brisbane (Virgin Australia);
    . Brisbane – Los Angeles – New York/JFK (Qantas).

    I doubt someone ever mixed Belarus and Papua New Guinea in a single trip! It’d be epic!!

    Think about it!

  18. @Pedro
    Instead of going from Port Moresby to Brisbane straight back to L.A, I think it would make more sense for Ben to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne to LA to fly on the new 787. Otherwise great and very interesting itinerary.

  19. Papua New Guinea native here, loving the Air Niugini inclusion Lucky! PX (Air Niugini) should have some cheap J fares if ticketed out of Port Moresby, not super cheap but decent anyhow. You might need to use a travel agent in POM city for that, I have contacts if you need them. Alternatively, Qantas owns a decent portion of PX so you can book most, if not all, PX flights as QF codeshares (much more expensive though) and earn your Oneworld miles etc, perhaps even credit to AS (not entirely sure but guess it should technically work). Also, make sure you read up on Port Moresby’s general safeness, certain parts of the city are definitely no-go zones and you should apply a liberal amount of “safety commonsense” when in the city. Looking forward to what you end up booking!

  20. Flew VN in J from MEL-SGN-CDG then LHR-SGN-MEL.

    They used to fly the a330s into MEL which were terrible – Angle flat, not much on the IFE
    a350 was great – Nothing ground breaking but definitely comfortable
    Dreamliner was my favourite – Comfortable seat

    Service was good (not great in comparison with other asian carriers) but expect to be served ALOT of food. English skills were variable but always happy to help.

  21. @Linda
    Yes, the aircraft landed on a Cam Ranh Airport runway under construction. The runway under construction was apparently not marked (painted), in which case would have said to the crew…”some thing wrong here” indicating an unusable runway. Also, there was no lit-up red X sign on the ends of the runway to warn crew the runway was not active ‘yet’. The tower did not warn the crew that there was a runway under construction and make sure you land on the “left/Right” runway….. Like wise the aircrew maybe did not look at their Notams about the new runway construction and to take more care.
    It seems like the fault lay with all parties, and maybe the only issue is some damage to the engines from building debris on the runway under construction. It was just as well, there was no construction equipment on the runway….

  22. Vietnam Airlines isn’t the bargain it was until quite recently: ex-BKK to CDG via SGN could be had for 45000 Baht ( USD 1300) in J , but in the past 12 months it has crept up and is now almost double that ( and no longer worth it relative to the others).
    It’s a good airline, comfortable, reliable, decent food ( without any pretentious tackiness ) and generally great crews. Just wish it hadn’t become expensive.

  23. @Mark Webber,

    There might be multiple bloggers out there but not all who read Lucky’s blog read (or prolly care) those other blogs.

  24. Been flying Vietnam Airlines regionally for over a dozen years. Never flown them transcontinental but the domestic product is great IMO. Worth it for me, because the product is so inexpensive when flying within the country and even regionally. New aircraft, great FA’s, on time flights. Vietjet and JetStar are the competitors in the domestic market. One ride with either of them and you’ll be back to V-A.

  25. Will be fascinated to hear what you think about Vietnam Airlines – their domestic business is a great way to travel within Vietnam (more from the small rate break between the economy fare pricing perspective than the actual product and service!). I’ve always wondered about their long haul stuff….

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