After immersing myself in the Bamboo Airways 787 business class experience from London to Hanoi, I completed a second flight with the Vietnamese airline from Hanoi to Singapore.
This time, I was on the Airbus A321 aircraft, which is a considerably smaller and older plane within Bamboo Airways’s fleet.
This short-haul flight offers a much more compact business class experience instead of lie-flat seats, but I was still curious to see how Bamboo Airways’s regional product holds up to its long-haul routes.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Booking
Bamboo Airways uses the Airbus A321-200 on select domestic and short-haul routes across Asia. It’s accompanied by the similar but slightly smaller Airbus A320-200, as well as newer-generation A320neo and A321neo aircraft, within the airline’s regional fleet.
While the airline continues to modernize its fleet with newer aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A321-200 will likely still play a role in serving regional routes for the foreseeable future, until it’s eventually phased out in favour of newer A321neos.
This flight was a part of the “Asia 3” Aeroplan sweet spot booking that I had made, which cost 87,500 points for business class flights from Newark–London–Hanoi–Singapore. I then added a stopover for an additional 5,000 points in London, for a total cost of 92,500 Aeroplan points.
This sweet spot allows you to travel from North America to Asia with partner airlines for just 87,500 points. You can fly up to 11,000 miles in distance, which lets you take the long way around via Europe or the Middle East to get to Asia.
It’s a prime example of leveraging the power of Miles & Points to unlock a premium travel experience, and is indeed one of the most attractive options when redeeming Aeroplan points.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Ground Experience
Unfortunately, international transit in Hanoi is still more painful than it needs to be.
You need your airline’s representative to meet you at the transit desk and process your boarding pass through a very manual process. In my case, it was the kind that involves a Bamboo Airways staff member WhatsApping their colleagues a picture of my passport.
After a while, our group of transiting Bamboo Airways passengers was sorted out. We were then led upstairs to the security queue, after which we found ourselves airside.
International business class passengers with Bamboo Airways have access to the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Business Class Lounge. However, by the time I made it through, boarding for my flight to Singapore was fast approaching, so I didn’t have a chance to pop in and headed straight to the gate.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Cabin
Stepping into the business class cabin, I noticed that there are just eight business class seats in a 2–2 configuration across two rows.
The Bamboo Airways regional business class cabin is a standard business class product, similar to what you might find on many airlines in North America. The cabin interior is relatively plain and unassuming, featuring a traditional grey colour scheme with dark blue leather upholstered chairs.
In terms of seat selection, couples travelling together have the option to choose any pair of seats in the cabin. Solo travellers can choose freely between aisle and window seats, depending on their general preference.
One of the first things I noticed? This has to be the tightest amount of legroom I’ve ever seen in a business class cabin.
I was initially assigned Seat 2A in the second row, but the crew – very much aware of the minimal legroom in Row 2 – kindly invited to move to the first row to enjoy some additional space.
However, since I had a seat mate next to me, I decided to move back to Row 2 after the meal service for more space to work comfortably.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Seat
The seat design on Bamboo Airways A321 business class is functional and provides a reasonable level of comfort, but isn’t too much worth writing home about otherwise.
Between each seat is a console with a surface space, just large enough to place your phone or a drink.
The literature pocket was conveniently placed on the wall opposite from the seat, as we were seated in the bulkhead row.
However, for passengers in the second row, the literature pocket can be found on the back of the seat in front of them.
The armrest on the aisle side of the seat is equipped with a set of three seat controls and the tray table. When deployed, the tray can be folded out into its full size.
As you can see, the seats onboard the regional business class cabin are very worn-out. The airline could indeed benefit from replacing these tired A321s with newer A321neos as soon as possible, in order to deliver a more consistent regional business class experience.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Amenities
A few moments after boarding, a crew member offered me a towel and a choice of pre-departure beverage. This time, I opted for a glass of orange juice.
There was no amenity kit of any sort on this short-haul business class flight, nor were there any physical menus. During the flight, we were offered a bottle of water.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Meal Service
As we hit cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the flight attendant came by with a tablet to take our orders.
The menu read as follows:
- 1 of 7
- 2 of 7
- 3 of 7
- 4 of 7
- 5 of 7
- 6 of 7
- 7 of 7
I decided to go with the Asian meal among the two options available, which included a three-course Western or Vietnamese–Asian meal.
The meal service began with a beautifully presented appetizer of lemongrass grilled chicken skewers, accompanied by salad rolls and Asian green salad.
I thought this appetizer was quite creative, with a lemongrass grilled chicken skewer and spicy sauce nestled inside a hollowed-out cucumber slice. The flavours of the lemongrass and the spices were well balanced, providing a tantalizing start to the meal.
Then it was time for the main course, which featured a bed of egg noodles stir-fried with an assortment of vegetables, accompanied by succulent prawns bathed in oyster sauce.
This dish was also quite tasty, and I enjoyed slurping up the noodles. The oyster sauce brought a rich and salty flavour, which paired well with the seafood.
Compared to the appetizer, the main course lacked a bit of creativity, although it was still well-executed with good flavour.
I also sipped on a crisp glass of the New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which nicely accentuated the flavours of the food.
For dessert, I snacked on a sweet soup made with longan and lotus seed. This was a delightful blend of sweetness and nuttiness, typical flavours of South East Asia-style desserts, of which I’m particularly fond.
I decided to make my way back to Row 2 at this point, giving me more room to spread out and get some work done.
Additionally, I decided to indulge in another Vietnamese iced coffee, which happened to be my third of the day, following my two helpings onboard Bamboo Airways 787 business class from London to Hanoi.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Entertainment
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any in-flight Wi-Fi on this regional business class flight. Instead, there was a “Bamboo Sky” Wi-Fi option, which was intended to serve as a substitute.
However, when attempting to access the entertainment options, I found that the movies, documentaries, and music tabs were entirely empty, and the only available option was games.
Without any other option, I took advantage of the uninterrupted time during my three-hour flight to get some work done, and then napped for a little bit. The time passed by swiftly, and before I knew it, we began our approach to Singapore.
Bamboo Airways A321 Business Class – Restrooms
The restrooms onboard are by no means remarkable, but there’s a good amount of counter space. I thought the faux flowers were a nice touch, as they added a touch of character.
Additionally, there’s a fold-down table located above the toilet, which is ideal for placing small personal items while freshening up.
Bamboo Airways leaves something to be desired in terms of its regional business class hard product on the Airbus A321.
While the seats were functional, I found that they fell short in terms of modern standards, and the amenities offered on this short-haul flight were limited. In particular, Wi-Fi should be a top-priority investment for the airline.
Despite these shortcomings, the service onboard is polished with a crew that’s eager to assist with any needs you might have. Additionally, the meal service delivered a couple of tasty dishes that were full of flavour and creativity.
Based on this experience, the short-haul business class product is in need of improvement if Bamboo Airways wants to compete with other major airlines in the region.
Indeed, it’s my understanding that Bamboo Airways’s Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft should at least offer a much-improved hard product compared to the older A320-200s and A321-200s.
Otherwise, I’d be inclined to look elsewhere to more established full-service airlines or a low-cost carrier with an attractive fare when I’m flying around South East Asia.