Vietnam Airlines 787 Dreamliner Sydney to Hanoi business class review
A comfortable food-filled lie-flat flight to Vietnam
Flight: VN 786
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Route: Sydney to Hanoi
Class: Business Class
Marc's Vietnam Airlines Rating:★★★★★☆
Unless you regularly travel to Vietnam, you'd be forgiven for not knowing much about its national carrier, Vietnam Airlines. What's also probably not known among many Australian travellers is that it was actually the first airline in the world to simultaneously fly both the 787-9 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350-9XWB. Vietnam Airlines now has 11 of the 787-9 Dreamliners with plans to add 8 larger 787-10s by the end of 2021.
The 787-9 we had for this flight was just over 3 years old and was a great example of a Dreamliner. We enjoyed a silky smooth take-off plus a comfortable flight with little jet lag.
This flight was part of a larger trip which included a mixture of economy and business class flights within Vietnam and another business class trip on the Dreamliner from Ho Chi Minh City back to Sydney.
I travelled as a guest of Vietnam Airlines for this flight, so didn't use points. If you did want to use points for a flight with Vietnam Airlines it can be tricky for Australians, as Vietnam Airlines is part of the SkyTeam alliance. There are no Australian airlines in the SkyTeam alliance, with the most well-known international airlines being Delta, Korean Air, Air France, Alitalia and KLM.
I did want to earn points from the flight though. After researching various SkyTeam programs, I settled on the Korean Air SKYPASS program because of the ability to book flights with all SkyTeam airlines online and the mix of non-alliance partners such as Emirates, Etihad and Japan Airlines.
Unfortunately because I opened my SKYPASS account after I took my flights, I was unable to credit my points. Instead I opened a Delta SkyMiles program so I could at least possibly use the points for Virgin Australia flights in the future. You could also consider the Alitalia MilleMiglia program which is also partnered with Virgin Australia.
If you're paying for tickets on this flight, prices were between $3,000 and $3,300 return when I searched for February 2019, which is one of the best times to visit Vietnam because of the lower average rainfall.
Lounge and boarding
Vietnam Airlines doesn't have a Lotus Lounge in Sydney, but business class travellers can relax in the SkyTeam lounge before departing. The lounge itself is located next door to the American Express lounge in Terminal 1 at Pier B.
The entrance to the SkyTeam lounge in Sydney
I found the SkyTeam lounge to be quiet, tidy and small with basic food and drink options. You can read about it in our full review.
Unfortunately our flight was delayed due to an unexpected medical emergency with one of the flight crew, so we had to hang out in the lounge for an extra six hours! Overall the delay wasn't too bad, with the lounge staying fairly quiet and without many other passengers in it for the duration of our stay. I was comfortable and fresh, if a little bored.
The seating area in the SkyTeam Sydney lounge
Eventually we boarded and were warmly greeted by the senior flight attendant, who personally came up to everyone in the business class cabin and apologised for the delay. We were given cold towels, a welcome drink and offered newspapers upon boarding.
Before long we had taken off very smoothly and relatively quietly, thanks to the Dreamliner.
The Vietnam Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner cabin is laid out in the holy grail of business class cabin layouts: a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone. This means that the middle seats are angled away from the windows and the window seats face the window. The benefit of this is increased privacy and direct aisle access for everyone.
The Vietnam Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner cabin. Source: Seatmaestro
This contrasts with other herringbone business class cabins such as Air New Zealand's Dreamliner, where some seats face each other and give you a view of other passengers' feet.
The reverse herringbone layout of the Vietnam Airlines 787-9
If you're travelling solo, stick to the window seats for more privacy and the ability to enjoy the larger windows and dimming settings on the Dreamliner. If travelling as a couple, I'd recommend the aisle seats so you can chat with each other easily. I was seated in the aisle in seat 4D.
If you're a solo traveller and get stuck in an aisle seat, it can be a little awkward during meal times because of the lack of a privacy screen. The configuration means you'll get a glimpse of your seatmate as you both eat, particularly if you sit close to the tray. While I knew my seatmate on this particular flight, I can only imagine the nightmares she had after watching me wolf down all three courses.
The cabin interior colour palette ranges from creams and whites to greens and soft yellows. While the design isn't as eye-catching as an Emirates or Etihad cabin, it was timeless and relaxing, which was especially important for our 10.30pm departure.
The seat on Vietnam Airlines' 787 Dreamliner is similar to what you'll expect on the likes of Cathay Pacific's business class. It has a footwell with an extra compartment below it where you can put your shoes, as I did. There are also a number of smaller storage compartments on either side of the seat.
The seat storage compartments and foot rest
The seat itself was soft and when fully reclined was comfortable enough for me to sleep for all but 3 hours of the 10-hour flight. The seat controls were clearly marked. While I didn't fiddle around with the individual settings, it was very simple to fully recline or bring the seat up at different times in the flight.
The lie-flat seat onboard the Vietnam Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner
I have short legs so the seat gave me ample amounts of leg room when in the take-off position. When fully flat the seat obviously doesn't give as much room, so my feet were touching the end of the footwell when I tried to sleep on my back.
The cabin was warm during the middle parts of the flight, making it a little uncomfortable when trying to sleep.
If you don't want to sleep, the entertainment options onboard were okay in the movie department, but weaker everywhere else. There were some TV options available, but I couldn't find any well-known shows, so you may want to bring a tablet if you're in the middle of a popular TV series.
The other downside to Vietnam Airlines' entertainment system is a slight lack of consistency. I was halfway through a movie when we landed in Hanoi, so I eagerly searched for it on my flight back to Sydney to complete it, but it was missing. There were a number of other movies instead.
The touch screen was very responsive and there was also the option to control it using a seat-side remote. The entertainment module came with a basic set of headphones, which were comfortable and did the job. Vietnam Airlines' entertainment offering is definitely no Emirates ICE, but for a 10-hour flight leaving at 10:30pm, it didn't really matter to me.
The entertainment screen
There were also a power outlet and USB charging slot on my chair and, along with the fold-out tray, this would make for an adequate workstation.
About 20 minutes into the flight, the crew came around for our orders. They were pleasant and friendly but my flight attendant wasn't really able to help me out when I asked for dish suggestions. Still, she was patient and polite with me as I fumbled through the choices.
The menu from the flight
For appetisers, I selected the tuna with smoked salmon and seared scallops. This came with a fresh salad, tomato soup and fresh warm bread rolls. It was a nice light dish to start the flight and a nice contrast to the more carb-heavy food in the SkyTeam lounge in Sydney.
The tuna, smoked salmon and seared scallop appetiser
I also ordered one of Vietnam Airlines' three signature cocktails for the flight, the Phan Thiet Red Dunes, which is a mix of rum, Campari and orange juice. It was refreshing and smooth.
The Phan Thiet Red Dunes signature cocktail
Next came my main course, the stir-fried beef fillet with ginger and onion sauce and steamed rice. The beef was tender and juicy, and the sauce was rich with hints of coriander and ginger. The vegetables were also crisp and succulent. Overall it was an enjoyable meal.
The stir-fried beef fillet with ginger and onion sauce with steamed rice
After this, fruit and cheese platters were wheeled out, plus our choice of small cakes or ice cream. At this point, after two courses and abusing the pancake machine in the SkyTeam lounge back in Sydney, I could only fit in a small cupcake before settling down to sleep.
After sleeping for about seven hours, it was time to eat a small breakfast before landing. Because of the aforementioned medical emergency which delayed our take off, this meal was actually a lunch instead of the breakfast Vietnam Airlines usually serves. This was out of the airline's control and luckily the meal I chose was delicious.
I had the pork and mango with fried rice. The pork was again tender and well cooked, while the sauce was flavourful with undertones of mango throughout. The fried rice was a great accompaniment and this meal was again served with fresh warm rolls and fresh fruit. This was definitely my favourite meal of the flight.
The stir-fried pork and mango with fried rice and egg
On my flight home from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney I had the opportunity to try Vietnam Airlines' breakfast service and chose a beef pho. This was probably one of the freshest tasting meals I've eaten while flying. It was flavourful and fragrant and was served with a basic yoghurt and muesli bowl and some fruit.
The beef pho served for breakfast on my flight back home from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney
Overall I thought the meals on board were great. I left the flight feeling stuffed and ready for a full day of exploring Hanoi.
We landed in Hanoi early in the morning. Thanks to the priority tags added to our bags in Sydney, our luggage was already waiting for us by the time we cleared the immigration queue.
The Points Finder Flight Rating: ★★★★★☆
This was a 5- out of 6-star experience. The flight was comfortable, the food was tasty and plentiful, while the cabin crew were friendly and professional. On the other hand, the knowledge and warmth of the cabin crew could be improved, as could the consistency of the entertainment options. Some well-known TV series and a slightly larger movie selection would go a long way. With that being said, this was an excellent flight experience to start a trip in Vietnam.
Disclosure: Marc Terrano travelled to Hanoi as a guest of Vietnam Airlines
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