As part of Vietnam Airlines’ major fleet and service upgrade, the carrier announced the launch of its new Boeing 787-9 non-stop Dreamliner service to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Earlier this month, Breaking Travel News reporter Alice McKeown flew to Vietnam on the new aircraft. Here are her thoughts.
As of the September 2015, Vietnam Airlines retired the B777 on the London-Hanoi route, replacing it with the brand new B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
All five of Vietnam Airlines’ five weekly non-stop services between Heathrow and Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh City are now operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, making it the first airline to operate the aircraft non-stop between south-east Asia and Europe.
Vietnam Airlines operates three non-stop flights per week to Hanoi, departing Heathrow at 14:45 on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, and arriving in Hanoi at 07:45 the next morning.
Two non-stop flights also operate each week between Heathrow and Ho Chi Minh City, leaving at 14:45 on Wednesday and Saturday, arriving in Ho Chi Minh at 08:25 the next morning.
The airline will increase frequency to six flights per week, before introducing a daily service for summer 2016, to meet demand.
There has been a lot of fanfare around the new B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which is designed to designed to fly farther, with ‘more passengers and cargo’ than its predecessor the B777, but using 20 per cent less fuel, and with 20 per cent fewer emissions.
The Vietnam Airlines Dreamliner has 274 seats, configured in Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy cabins.
The aircraft has raised the standards of a commercial passenger flight experience, offering more space and legroom, improved on-demand in-flight entertainment systems, larger windows which can be dimmed, modern LED lighting, higher levels of humidity, lower air cabin pressure, and a smoother, quieter ride.
I flew Business Class between Hanoi and London Heathrow, and have never looked forward to a long-haul flight more.
Business Class passengers have access to the VIP lounge at Hanoi airport, a cavernous area decked out in different shades of beige, with fiercely-cool air conditioning.
Collect a blanket as you pass Go.
Visitors have access to free Wi-Fi, showers and, of course, the complimentary bar.
The self-serve buffet greets guests in the centre of the room, but the quality of the food was disappointing; spring rolls were cold, stale and bland, and the only available hot option was instant noodles.
Stick to drinks instead.
Business Class passengers enter the plane via a separate gangway, and the first thing you notice is just how clean the Dreamliner is.
The plane smells of new.
Surfaces are spotless, the carpets pristine, windows gleam.
It’s not often you ride a plane when it has only a handful of journeys under its belt, and from a cleanliness point of view, it’s reassuringly pleasant.
Business Class only has 28 seats, configured in a herringbone 1-2-1 layout across seven rows.
I was seat 7A, by the window right at the back.
Each seat in Business is spacious and designed to maximise flyers’ privacy.
The single rows on the outside are angled towards the windows, while the two rows in the middle are pointed away from each other to increase personal space.
Making unwanted eye contact is actually very difficult, so the design works.
The seats are fantastic - elegantly designed, spacious, comfortable, and with the all-important option of reclining fully-flat.
When sat upright, there was almost too much space for my legs - they had to really stretch to be fully supported by the ottoman.
Each seat comes with a 15.4 inch HD entertainment touchscreen, which can also be operated by a remote next to the headrest.
The screen is adjustable and pops right out, allowing you to recline fully flat and still enjoy your film. Surprisingly, the choice of films was poor; none were cinema recent releases, and all were hard-coded with Vietnamese subs which couldn’t be removed.
Service throughout the flight was attentive and courteous; from the first ‘welcome drink’ offered, through to disembarking.
Passengers are provided with a meal and drinks menu upon being seated; the cocktail selection is excellent, and the negroni I ordered to start the flight was generously measured.
The first meal is served forty minutes after take-off, with passengers able to choose from a Vietnamese or western -inspired three-course menu.
I opted for the smoked salmon roll with mango salsa, followed by Hue beef noodle soup.
The meals were tasty and filling, and all served in reassuringly weighty ceramic bowls.
I then ‘bedded-down’ for the next eight hours until my next in-flight meal (you can use the handy ‘wake me for meals’ sticker provided), and this is where the Business Class seats really come into their own.
Reclining fully flat and with the help of an eye mask and ear plugs, I slept like a baby, something which is a real treat for a long-haul flight.
It’s not often you can say flying long haul is a pleasure, but with Vietnam Airlines’ Business Class, it really is.
First-class design, elevated comfort, and top-drawer service ensure the 11 hour journey is stress-free and pleasant, setting you up perfectly for your day’s activities on arrival.
Return fares from Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi currently start from £441 or £525 per person respectively, inclusive of taxes.
For more information, visit the official website for more information.