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Vietnam Airlines: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner business-class review

John O'Ceallaigh
The Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner business-class cabin

Vietnam Airlines operates the UK's only non-stop scheduled services to Vietnam, with daily flights available from London's Heathrow Terminal 4 to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. This is a review of a Vietnam Airlines business-class flight aboard a Boeing 787-9, flying from London to Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport. 

Pre-departure

Check-in for Vietnam Airlines flights from Heathrow Terminal 4 closes one hour before departure. One of the last to check in for my 11am flight when I arrived at the business-class check-in just before 10am, I was greeted immediately.

During the check-in process, an administrative complication with my Vietnam visa application was flagged up as a potential cause of concern but staff – efficient and knowledgeable – were able to sort the issue promptly, while also arranging for my baggage to be transferred upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport to my connecting flight with their partner airline Cambodia Angkor Air.

Fast-track clearance through security meant I was airside within minutes and I awaited boarding in the Terminal 4 SkyTeam lounge. Empty at that hour despite being shared by a number of airlines, it’s a comfortable if somewhat clinical space, finished plainly in whites and equipped with a business centre, showers and a small Clarins spa.

A basic breakfast buffet was available, which I rejected in favour of lunch service aboard the aircraft. Business-class passengers benefit from priority boarding.

The Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

The seat

Accommodating 28 people, the business-class cabin is laid out in a 1x2x1 herringbone configuration. Single seats on either side of the aircraft are tilted towards the windows so it’s possible to enjoy the view and remain more or less oblivious to fellow customers throughout the journey; interior seats are tilted inwards so couples face towards each other - although they’ll need to sit upright and move their seats forward to fully see each other.

With a 42” pitch, seats can be converted into a fully flat beds and are comfortable - although I struggle to sleep on aircraft I could rest easily. Limited storage space is available by the seat and a small counter provides additional capacity for reading material, laptop and sundries.

An international power point and USB ports by the seat means it’s possible to work for the duration of the flight. A simple amenity kit, with eye mask and ear plugs alongside toiletries, is provided.

The cabin accommodates up to 28 passengers in a 1x2x1 herringbone configuration

Food & drink

Lunch service began an hour after take off. From a choice of two starters, I began with a simple but tasty serving of smoked salmon salad and fennel; a rich asparagus and courgette soup and additional simple salad were also provided.

Surprisingly and disappointingly, none of the four dishes offered as a mains was Vietnamese. I queried the omission with a steward who explained it wasn’t possible as we were flying from London, an explanation I didn’t fully understand and one which made the inclusion of a Thai-style chicken dish seem doubly curious.

I instead chose a reasonably pleasant crab cake dish, served with a mild garlic sauce and baby spinach. Desserts – cheeses, fruit, miniature pastries and honey and ginger ice cream – were presented in succession for selection from trays.

Though a simplistic sweet option, the duo of pastries I chose were tasty; tea and coffee weren’t offered but were available on request.

A sample of dishes served to business-class passengers

Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Brut champagne was offered throughout the flight, alongside three signature cocktails, two French reds (Chateau Sigognac 2015 and Crozes-Hermitage 2015) and two European whites (Saint-Veran 2016 and Vina Albali 2016).  

Although snacks were also available on request our next meal was breakfast, served about two hours before landing. Yoghurt, cereal, fruit and bread was offered alongside either an omelette, a serving of cold meats and cheeses, or crayfish with noodles.

Service

There’s much room for improvement here. Team members didn’t properly introduce themselves during the flight and neglected those thoughtful little touches that frequent fliers will regularly encounter when flying with other business-class airlines.

I found it unusual, for example, to never be greeted by name or to be engaged with in any meaningful way. Staff didn’t check if drinks could be replenished and were slow to clear up detritus.

Though my impression of the cabin crew would be somewhat improved by a marginally more engaged team on my return flight to London, I was dismayed that there was little indication of sincere interest in passengers’ wellbeing or their enjoyment of the flight.  

Entertainment

Each seat incorporates a 15.4” HD touch screen. Though there were few new international film releases to choose from and a potentially useful video guide to Ho Chi Minh City was only available in Vietnamese, a fair selection of older films and a limited selection of TV shows, alongside audio books and albums, means there are enough entertainment options to cater to most tastes for the duration of a long-haul flight.

It’s worth stockpiling reading material or downloading media in advance of a return flight, however.

The business-class entertainment system

Post departure

Although there are no special provisions made post-departure for Vietnam Airlines business-class passengers, as first to depart the aircraft in the early hours of the morning we arrived to sparsely populated immigration desks.

Those completing their journey at Tan Son Nhat International Airport were processed quickly; after a minor delay, I was issued with a ticket for my connecting flight to Siem Reap and transferred through the airport without a hitch.

Price and how to book

Vietnam Airlines return business-class fares from London Heathrow Terminal 4 to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City start from £1,818 per person (return fares cost from £464 in economy class and £938 in premium economy).

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