WIth daily Boeing 787 flights from Ho Chi Minh City to both Sydney and Melbourne, Australian travellers visiting old Saigon will find Vietnam Airlines' international business class Lotus Lounge awaiting their flight home.
All of the basics are covered including usable WiFi, working zones with power points, buffet dining and private shower suites, with a design that feels much more 'relaxed' than 'luxurious' but which is functional all the same.
Australian Business Traveller brings you this review following a recent visit to Vietnam.
Location & Impressions
After clearing passport control and security screening, take the lift or escalator up to level 3 and follow the 'Lotus Lounge' signage until you reach reception.
Once inside, high ceilings and plenty of greenery make the lounge feel both spacious and less airport-like... ... and although it's certainly not large enough to become lost in, a map at reception also helps you find whatever you're searching for: Boarding calls are announced here with several flight information screens also at-hand for keeping tabs on your departure. We appreciate that in addition to Vietnam Airlines flights, these screens also show departures for other airlines and codeshare flight numbers too – not always the case elsewhere but ideal in a lounge available to passengers of multiple airlines.
- Passengers flying in business class or first class (as offered) with Vietnam Airlines and its SkyTeam partners Aeroflot, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Korean Air and XiamenAir
- SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers when travelling with any of the SkyTeam airlines above
- Vietnam Airlines LotusMiles Gold cardholders prior to flights with Vietnam Airlines only
On presenting a Vietnam Airlines boarding pass and lounge invitation with our SkyTeam Elite Plus status attached, we were promptly admitted and didn't need to show our physical SkyTeam frequent flyer card.
An L-shaped buffet wing in the centre of the lounge provides self-serve food and drink, with a selection of spirits and red wine on the far left... ... chilled white wine and a Hungarian sparkling nearby (which tastes somewhat similar to sweet Astis like Riccadonna or Gabbiano)... ... along with non-alcoholic drinks which can be enjoyed as mixers or on their lonesome. However, as in Vietnam Airlines business class, there are no flutes in which to pour the sparkling wine – only typical white wine glasses that feature a much wider surface area when filled, which makes the sparkling go flat much more quickly.
As you continue to wander, you'll find an espresso machine (there's no barista coffee here), aside a pleasing array of fresh fruits... ... plus bread with chilled ingredients for making a sandwich, and also spring rolls – the latter of which looked incredibly tasty but disappointingly proved to be stone cold and a better fit for the rubbish bin than a dinner plate: The buffet continues with more substantial dishes over on the far corner... ... such as a noodle stir fry; beef stew with green peppercorn; baked chicken with potato and pumpkin and a fried rice dish. Of these, what we did taste was adequate without being overly flavourful, but unlike the spring rolls was at least served at a warm temperature. On the plus side, you won't need to balance your plate on your lap thanks to a dedicated dining area nearby: But because these tables are literally next to the buffet, they're also privy to a great deal of extra noise when the staff come past with their trolleys, keeping at bay any hint of a 'restaurant' vibe.
After a quick bite, getting work done before your flight is easy with a line of benches providing ample space for laptops and views out towards the tarmac... ... joined by AC power points underneath if you're in need of a recharge which accept USA-, Japanese- and European-style pins – so remember that travel adaptor if your portable devices all have Australian plugs: Some seats also have power points next to them for easier access... ... while there's a secluded business centre in the far corner of the lounge with computer facilities for those travelling without their own tech. Free wireless Internet is available throughout the lounge with our tests showing download speeds of 8.93-17.27Mbps and uploads of 45-48Mbps, with ping speeds always clocked at 3ms.
On the download side, that's about as fast as you'd expect from a home-based ADSL2+ or entry-level NBN fibre connection in Australia, although those upload speeds are significantly swifter and make it easy to send large files and email attachments before your flight, such as an image-heavy PowerPoint presentation.
With green 'living walls' throughout the lounge and Vietnam Airlines' Australia-bound flights departing in the evening, there's a good chance you'll spend more time here relaxing than working. With that in mind, you may prefer a cosy seat by the walls (above) or one with tarmac views (below)... ... with reading material available from near reception including a number of English-language titles: TVs throughout the lounge were also screening English-language content including movies and general entertainment... ... but if you go exploring, you'll also uncover a duo of massage chairs tucked away behind more greenery – one with tarmac views and another towards the centre, but both with ample privacy: Here's something we never thought we'd see in an airport lounge: on selected international flights, Vietnam Airlines allows travellers to bring their dogs on board, and so provides a dedicated 'pet area' which serves as its own private lounge for your furry friend: This isn't permitted on flights to Australia, however, so you're unlikely to hear any barking from this zone in the evenings prior to Vietnam Airlines' Australian flights.
Shower suites are also at-hand with the necessary amenities and towels provided: All things considered, Vietnam Airlines' Lotus Lounge is a relatively relaxing space to unwind before your flight with ample facilities for business travellers intent on working, but could do with some USB charging ports for smartphones which would avoid needing to use a travel adaptor.
Those shower suites above also proved clean during our visit but don't ooze 'luxury', nor do the buffet offerings – particularly the stone cold and inedible spring rolls.
But when it does come time to leave the lounge, consider doing so a few minutes before your flight is due to board, as there's the typical Australia-mandated 'liquid check' to complete at the boarding gate.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Ho Chi Minh City as a guest of Vietnam Airlines.