Back when Vietnam Airlines joined the SkyTeam alliance it seems that they ignored the common believe shared by most airlines that award inventory should be severely limited. They used revenue booking classes for both business and economy awards and, especially in business class, had very few limitations on the inventory. Alas, it seems that all good things must end some day. In the case of Vietnam Airlines that day appears to be March 31, 2013.
Starting in April the award buckets are changing. Currently business class awards book into J class and economy awards into U class. The new booking classes will be O for business class and X for economy. There are a few negatives which come from this change. Most notably, with the inventory now separate from revenue bookings Vietnam Airlines can more tightly control access to the seats. And, from what I can see in a few test scans of their inventory, they are tightening down pretty badly. I’m having trouble finding any seats from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore over the next several months, for example. And even where the inventory is still available it is more often than not in economy class, not business class, where the seats are showing.
Another negative of the change is that, by separating the awards into dedicated fare buckets, the ability is earn points on an award ticket is going to disappear. Sure, you shouldn’t have been able to in the first place but loopholes like that exist in a few places. This one is getting closed up.
I do see the X and O inventory still available in limited instances so it isn’t that Vietnam Airlines is hiding the inventory from the public GDS interfaces. That means the seats will still be open to searches and alerts through the interfaces I have on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. But with the limited inventory out there in the new buckets, I am rather saddened. Vietnam Airlines was a great option for getting around within southeast Asia as a SkyTeam partner. Seeing that award space drying up is no fun at all.