- Introduction: A Whirlwind Aeroplan Adventure
- How To Redeem Aeroplan Points Like A Pro
- Review: SAS Lounge Chicago Airport (ORD)
- Review: Austrian Business Class 777 (ORD-VIE)
- Review: Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere
- Review: SKY Lounge Vienna Airport (VIE)
- Review: Austrian Senator Lounge Vienna Airport (VIE)
- Review: Austrian Business Class A320 (VIE-FCO)
- Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- Review: Gulf Air Business Class A321LR (FCO-BAH)
- Review: Gulf Air Lounge Bahrain Airport (BAH)
- Review: Bahrain Airport Hotel (Priority Pass)
- New Bahrain Airport Terminal: What A Nifty Hub!
- Review: Gulf Air Business Class 787-9 (BAH-SIN)
- Review: Singapore Airlines SilverKris Business Lounge T3 (SIN)
- Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class 787 (SIN-SGN)
- Review: Le Saigonnais Business Lounge Ho Chi Minh City Airport (SGN)
- Review: Bamboo Airways Business Class A321neo (SGN-HAN)
- Review: VATC Sleep Pods Hanoi Airport (HAN)
- Review: Song Hong Business Lounge Hanoi Airport (HAN)
- Review: Bamboo Airways Business Class 787 (HAN-FRA)
- Review: Sheraton Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
- Review: Lufthansa Business Lounge Frankfurt (FRA)
- Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Frankfurt (FRA)
- Review: Air Canada Business Class 777 (FRA-YYZ)
- Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Toronto Transborder (YYZ)
- Review: Air Canada Business Class 787 (YYZ-MIA)
To kick off the return portion of my whirlwind Aeroplan adventure, I flew Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787-9 business class from Hanoi to Frankfurt. I’m a weird person — I get an indescribable thrill out of flying new long haul airlines for the first time, and I definitely had that feeling as I boarded my Bamboo Airways flight.
So, how was Bamboo Airways’ 787 business class? While there’s definitely some easy room for improvement, it impressed me for the most part. The seats were comfortable, the food was quite good, and the crew was well intentioned and friendly. However, there’s significant room for improvement with Wi-Fi, bedding, drinks, and the crew’s communication. Let’s get into the review…
In this post:
How I booked my Bamboo Airways business class ticket
I booked my Bamboo Airways business class ticket using points (you’ve gotta love how many unique airline partners Aeroplan has!). Specifically, for the return portion of my ticket I redeemed 87,500 Air Canada Aeroplan points to fly from Hanoi to Frankfurt to Toronto to Miami, all in business class.
For more details on how I booked that, see my post about how to redeem Aeroplan points like a pro. Aeroplan points are easy to come by, as the program is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. On top of that, there’s the Aeroplan® Credit Card (review) in the United States, which is phenomenal.
Specific to the Bamboo Airways portion of my trip, here’s the flight I took:
1/09 QH73 Hanoi to Frankfurt departing 9:40AM arriving 5:15PM
The day prior I had flown Bamboo Airways’ A321neo business class from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi as part of my outbound journey.
Bamboo Airways business class check-in & boarding
I arrived at Bamboo Airways’ Hanoi Airport Terminal 2 check-in counter at around 6:30AM. There was quite a line at check-in, with a healthy mix of German tourists and Vietnamese travelers. As is pretty normal on flights from Vietnam, people were checking a lot of bags and boxes.
I was checked in within about 15 minutes, and I then used the Song Hong Business Lounge, which I reviewed in a previous installment. Boarding was scheduled for 9:10AM, just 30 minutes before departure. The flight was departing from gate 20, the very last gate in the terminal.
My flight would be operated by VN-A818, a roughly three year old Boeing 787-9. My goodness, the exterior of the plane was filthy. I’m kind of on the fence about Bamboo Airways’ livery. Is it just me? There are elements I like, though I’m not sure I love the green on fuselage and tail combined with the baby blue on the engines.
Rather bizarrely, there was no one at the gate prior to 9AM, and the gate showed a Vietnam Airlines departure to Bangkok for later in the day.
Just moments before boarding was scheduled to start, gate agents showed up, and monitors were updated.
Boarding started at 9:20AM, though was poorly coordinated. While boarding passes were scanned, at the bottom of the jet bridge we were told the crew wasn’t ready yet, and we had to wait for 15 minutes before we could board.
Bamboo Airways 787-9 business class cabin & seats
I boarded through the forward door, where I was greeted by the crew, and turned right into business class. The business class cabin consisted of 26 reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, and this took up the entire space between the first and second set of doors.
While brown isn’t my favorite color, I at least found some aspects of the seat finishes and textures to be interesting, so I appreciated the thought that went into the design.
What immediately stood out to me about the cabin were the orchids on the forward and rear bulkheads, and the framed pictures (including the carrier’s “More Than Just A Flight” slogan, which is used everywhere, including in the announcements).
Bamboo Airways has Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seats in business class, which are the most common reverse herringbone seats out there. When you’ve flown one, you’ve flown them all, aside from some minor differences (for example, I found that Bamboo Airways had great seat padding). I assigned myself seat 19A, the window seat in the last row of the cabin on the left side.
These reverse herringbone seats have two compartments along the side of the seat. One is small and not very deep, and is a good place to put a pair or glasses or a phone. The other one is a bit deeper, and has an entertainment controller, the headphone jack, and an AC and USB power outlet.
The seat controls were on a monitor underneath the storage compartments, and were easy to use.
Underneath this area was a small exposed storage area, where you could place a bottle of water or some headphones.
The tray table extended from underneath the entertainment monitor, and you have to fold over one side to fully extend it.
Part of what makes these seats so efficient in terms of space utilization is that the footwell is to the side of the seat in front. These reverse herringbone seats have decently sized footwells — they’re not particularly spacious, but they’re also not as tight as in some staggered configurations.
Along the aisle-side of the seat was an armrest that could be raised or lowered, also with a storage compartment.
Unfortunately Bamboo Airways doesn’t have individual air nozzles on its Boeing 787s, but rather there are just reading lights in the overhead console.
All-in-all, this is a solid business class hard product. It’s not the most cutting edge seats nowadays, but it’s a competitive one.
Bamboo Airways business class amenities
What are amenities like in Bamboo Airways business class? Not that great, unfortunately. Waiting at each seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket, which were subpar. The pillow was tiny (the same size as an economy pillow), while the blanket was scratchy and thin.
There were also headphones waiting at each seat, which I found to be quite uncomfortable.
About 20 minutes after boarding started, pre-departure drinks were served, and the choices were described as lemon juice, hot tea, or water. I selected the first option (though I’m not sure it was purely lemon juice?), and that came with a warm towel.
Each business class passenger was also offered an amenity kit, which came in a cool Bamboo Airways bag. The amenity kit had quite a few products, including body lotion, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, a shaving kit, a dental kit, earplugs, a comb, socks, eyeshades, and service stickers. As you can see, that’s quite a few items, though they didn’t necessarily seem that high quality.
Each business class passenger was also offered slippers (there were no pajamas).
Bamboo Airways 787-9 departure from Hanoi
I was surprised by how full the flight was, as all but five business class seats were occupied, and economy was pretty full too. As someone who loves boarding music, I couldn’t help but laugh and kind of dig Bamboo Airways’ choice. The airline was just playing ABBA’s “Happy New Year” on repeat.
I’ve been listening to this nonstop since then on repeat (even as I write this review), and it’s kind of addictive. It’s also an unintentionally hilarious choice, since the first words of the song are “no more champagne,” and Bamboo Airways doesn’t serve champagne!
Boarding took some time, and at 10:05AM the Dutch captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 12hr35min, and our imminent departure. A moment later the main cabin door closed, and several minutes after that we began our pushback.
At this point the safety video was screened. It was pretty good, I thought, given on how few planes this is shown (Bamboo Airways’ narrow body jets don’t have screens, so have manual safety demos).
We had a pretty quick taxi, and by 10:25AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 11R.
We had a smooth climb out, and the seatbelt sign was turned off about five minutes after takeoff.
Bamboo Airways 787-9 entertainment & Wi-Fi
After takeoff I browsed Bamboo Airways’ entertainment selection. I had fairly low expectations, as I assumed the airline wouldn’t invest much in this system, given how few 787s it has. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The system was easy to use, and the entertainment selection was fairly good (not amazing, but not bad either).
There were dozens of movies and TV shows.
I’m not a big movie fan, but “Cougar Queen 2” made me wish I could speak Vietnamese, as the trailer looked hilarious.
I ended up watching a few episodes of “The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes.” At this point I’ve seen every episode, but exclusively on planes. It’s one of those shows.
I also enjoyed the map feature, and in particular the extent to which views could be customized.
Rather oddly, Bamboo Airways has Wi-Fi installed on its Boeing 787s, but as of now doesn’t seem to use it. The airline has a dedicated page for Bamboo Sky Internet, but I haven’t heard any reports of it actually being available. Hopefully that changes eventually, as this is a feature that many people would value.
Bamboo Airways business class lunch service
The meal service was quick to get started after takeoff. 15 minutes into the flight, I was presented with the menu and asked for my meal preference. To be clear, I wasn’t given a menu to keep for the flight, but rather the flight attendant showed me the menu and immediately asked which option I wanted. I asked to take a picture of the menu and drink list, and you can find that below.
35 minutes after takeoff I was served my first drink, with a ramekin of almonds. Bamboo Airways’ wine selection is very limited — there’s a white wine, a red wine, and no champagne.
The crew just brings out a glass and never brings the bottle into the cabin, even if you’re asking for a refill. I was curious as to what was being served, so I askd if I could see the bottle. The white wine was the M. Chapoutier 2020 Cotes du Rhone Belleruche. It was perfectly drinkable, though some more choices would have been nice.
The menu is a bit confusing in that it makes it seem like you can individually choose your appetizer, salad, and main course. However, instead you’re just asked which main course you want, and then they pair either the Asian or Western starters.
I chose the Asian option, so I got a starter consisting of lemongrass grilled chicken with salad rolls, and an Asian style green salad. The starter was quite good, and a selection of bread was offered with it. Bamboo Airways has to be one of the most heavily branded airlines in terms of its inflight product. There’s no question of which airline you’re flying when you look at your Bamboo Airways meal tray.
The main course was brought out around 10 minutes later. I selected the snapper rikyu-yaki with ginger rice and Japanese braised vegetables. I’d say the dish was pretty good, but not amazing. This was a fairly complex dish, and it’s hard to execute that perfectly on a plane.
About 1hr40min after takeoff, a trolley was rolled down the aisle, with a selection of fruit, cheese, and desserts. I love this kind of presentation, and the ability to choose what you’d like based on how it looks.
I asked for a selection of fruit and cheese, which was nicely plated.
To finish off the meal, I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee, which was tasty.
All-in-all, I thought the meal was quite good. It wasn’t ITA Airways or Turkish Airlines or Qatar Airways, but it was a tasty, filling meal.
Bamboo Airways 787-9 business class bed
After the meal service, I was more than ready for a nap, given that I didn’t get much sleep the night before. The seat was quite comfortable in bed mode thanks to the great padding.
Unfortunately the bedding left a lot to be desired. Bamboo Airways just has a thin, small, scratchy blanket, and pillows that are identical to what yo’d get in economy. How do I know that? Well, I asked for an extra pillow, and was informed there weren’t any extras in business class. However, I was offered one from economy. I’ll let you compare the two. It seems that business class just gets a branded pillowcase.
I ended up falling asleep just under 10hr20min from Frankfurt, as we were near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
I then woke up around 5hr35min from Frankfurt, near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Can I just point out how freaking fascinating I find routes to be sometimes? I suppose we were trying to stay to the south of some of the world’s tallest mountain ranges, while then also avoiding Afghanistan, hence the very circuitous routing.
While I tried to sleep for nearly five hours, it wasn’t great sleep, and I was often woken up. Why? A couple of reasons.
First of all, I really don’t like the Boeing 787’s window dimmers. Boeing 787s don’t have window shades but rather have dimmers, and I consistently find them to not be great. The below is a picture of the window shade in the fully dimmed mode while I was trying to sleep. Not great, eh?
Second of all, there were two families with small kids in business class. I commend the parents for trying to keep their kids entertained, but that consisted of a toddler crawling up and down the aisle for much of the flight, and then a young child running up and down the aisle for much of the flight.
As a parent myself I’m not judging, and I saw the parents were trying and doing their best. But obviously that can also get in the way of rest for others. Fair enough.
Bamboo Airways 787-9 business class lavatory
Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787s have three lavatories in business class. There’s one in the front of the cabin, and then two in the galley behind the cabin. The lavatories were pretty no frills, aside from a large orchid in the forward one.
Bamboo Airways business class snack service
Once I woke up, I decided to order a snack. The only reason I knew there were even any snack options was because I took a picture of the menu, as otherwise there’s no real way to know. There are no snacks in the galley, but you can order instant noodles or sandwiches.
I ordered the vegan instant noodles, which were fine. The airline doesn’t exactly put a lot of effort into the presentation.
Bamboo Airways business class dinner service
About three hours prior to landing, the next meal service began. Or more accurately, at that point the cabin lights were turned on, and warm towels were distributed.
Below you can find the pre-landing meal menu, which was marketed as lunch (though I’m going to call it dinner).
To drink, I ordered a Pepsi Max, which was the only diet soda option.
The meal ended up being served around 2hr20min before landing, all on one tray. I once again chose the Asian option, which consisted of a seafood soup, lotus root salad with prawn, stir fried egg noodles with vegetables and prawn in oyster sauce, and blueberry mousse.
The meal was reasonably good. I enjoyed the starter, salad, and dessert, while I found the noodle and prawn dish to be quite bland.
Rather oddly, I was brought four warm towels with the second meal — two before the meal and two after. I’m not sure if this was due to lack of crew coordination or what, but that was a first for me.
Bamboo Airways business class service
I found service on this long haul Bamboo Airways flight to be well intentioned, but not particularly polished:
- While the one male flight attendant in business class had a good grasp of the English language, the rest of the crew spoke almost no English (let alone German — there were no German speakers); for example, one of the flight attendants didn’t understand what milk was (I asked for a coffee with milk), and it wasn’t until I showed her a picture of the menu on my phone that she understood what I meant
- There were aspects to the service that were charming, like crew members holding their hands over their hearts and bowing at several points during the flight, but the good service almost came in robotic moments
- Between meals, the crew was almost never in the cabin to see if anyone wanted anything, but they did respond to call buttons
- The service didn’t feel polished or personalized at times; for example, if a glass was empty, the crew wouldn’t offer another drink unless you specifically asked for it
So yeah, I’d put the service in the category of being well intentioned, but not necessarily great.
Bamboo Airways 787-9 arrival in Frankfurt
Around 40 minutes before landing, the captain was back on the PA to announce that we were 300 kilometers from Frankfurt, at 40,000 feet, and would be descending shortly. Moments later the crew already started collecting headsets, which seemed awfully early.
The sun was setting as we were descending, and it was a beautiful evening above the clouds.
While it was less pretty at lower altitudes, I was excited when I saw we were approaching runway 25R.
This has to be one of the most interesting runway setups out there, as the runway’s two other parallel runways (25L and 25C) are way closer to the terminal. So landing on 25R gives you an amazing areal view of the airport, including the runways and terminals.
We had a smooth touchdown at 4:45PM. The downside to landing on this runway is that it’s a really long taxi to the gate. It took us about 20 minutes to get to our gate at Terminal 2, where we pulled in next to a Japan Airlines 787.
From there I headed to the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport, where I’d be spending the night.
It was fun to be be able to fly Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787 on a long haul flight. The airline offers a pleasant experience, with comfortable seats, pretty good food, well intentioned service, and solid entertainment.
There are definitely areas for improvement, though, ranging from the bedding, to the lack of Wi-Fi, to the limited drink selection, to the service flow.
I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with Bamboo Airways again if the schedule and value worked for my needs.
What do you make of Bamboo Airways’ Boeing 787 business class?