Review: Vietnam Airlines Business Class 787 London To Ho Chi Minh City

Filed Under: Other Airlines

After spending a night at the Sheraton Skyline Heathrow, I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 at around 9AM, plenty early for my 11:10AM flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Airlines check-in was located in Zone G, at the very right of the terminal.

Vietnam Airlines check-in London Heathrow

The check-in process took a surprisingly long time, given that there was only one person ahead of me. They seemed to be having some issues with their ticket, so it took over 20 minutes until I was helped. Once it was my turn I was quickly issued my boarding passes all the way to Shanghai.

Vietnam Airlines check-in London Heathrow

Security was quick. While Vietnam Airlines uses the SkyTeam Lounge, I decided to skip it, given that I’ve reviewed it before. I love just wandering around Terminal 4, given the unique airlines that operate out of there. Check out this beautiful Gulf Air A330, for example.

Gulf Air A330 London Heathrow

The Vietnam Airlines flight was departing from gate 11, so I headed there. Interestingly right in front of the gate they had three immigration officers and a money sniffing dog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a money sniffing dog at an airport before (at least not knowingly), and that search was specific to our gate. Is currency smuggling a big issue on flights to/from Vietnam, or do they just select flights at random?

Vietnam Airlines departure gate London Heathrow

While my boarding pass indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 10:10AM, in reality boarding only started at 10:35AM, with business class passengers being called first.

Vietnam Airlines 787 London Heathrow

Vietnam Airlines 50
London (LHR) – Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
Saturday, May 5
Depart: 11:10AM
Arrive: 5:20AM (+1 day)
Duration: 12hr10min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 6K (Business Class)

I boarded through the second set of doors on the 787, where I was pointed left into the business class cabin. Vietnam Airlines’ 787 business class cabin consists of a total of 28 seats, spread across seven rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. There were no bins in the center section of the plane (just the intrusion in the first few rows from the pilot crew rest), which made the cabin feel more spacious.

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class cabin

The cabin looked pretty cookie-cutter, aside from the fact that Vietnam Airlines chose brown finishes for their seats.

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class cabin

I had assigned myself seat 6K, the window seat on the right side in the second to last row.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat 787

Since the 787 is a bit narrower than the 777, reverse herringbone seats on the plane also feel a bit narrower, in my experience.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat 787

Vietnam Airlines business class seat 787

To the right of the seat was a reading light, entertainment control, seat controls, USB outlet, and headphone jack.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat & entertainment controls

To the side of that was an exposed storage compartment with a hook, where the headphones were located.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat storage compartment

When you recline the seat into the bed, the ottoman becomes part of it. There was some room underneath the ottoman, which was great for storing shoes during the flight.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat ottoman

The tray table could be extended from the console to the right of the seat, and could be folded over in half.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat tray table

Underneath that was a small storage area, the 110v outlet, and the literature pocket.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat power outlet & literature pocket

To the left of the seat was an armrest that could be raised and lowered. I always like to have this up whenever possible, but some airlines require it to be lowered for takeoff and landing.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat armrest

To the side of that was the seat’s only enclosed storage compartment, which was still quite small.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat storage compartment

One fantastic feature of these seats was that they had individual air nozzles, which far too many airlines don’t have. Unfortunately the center seats don’t have these, though, given the lack of overhead bins.

Vietnam Airlines business class seat air nozzles

Reverse herringbone seats are among my favorite business class seats, so all around this was a solid setup, especially since each seat had two air nozzles.

Waiting at my seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket. This was quite underwhelming — while the pillow was thick, it was small, and the blanket was thin and scratchy. Bedding can make such a huge difference in terms of the business class experience, and it’s one area where Vietnam Airlines disappoints.

Vietnam Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat were slippers.

Vietnam Airlines business class slippers

Then there was an amenity kit with Acca Kappa products. The kit had eyeshades, socks, earplugs, a comb, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, moisturizer, and service stickers.

Vietnam Airlines business class amenity kit

Also at the seat were headphones, which were low quality. They hurt my ears, and the sound quality wasn’t very good.

Vietnam Airlines business class headphones

Just a moment after settling in, I was offered a cold towel by one of the flight attendants.

Vietnam Airlines business class warm towel

A few minutes later I was asked whether I wanted something to drink. It’s nice that they offer drinks of choice, rather than only offering a limited selection. I asked for a glass of champagne, which was served in a proper champagne flute.

Vietnam Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

Over the next several minutes the business class cabin continued to fill up. A couple of hours before the flight only half of the business class seats showed as occupied, though by the time the door closed there were only seven empty seats in business class.

About 20 minutes after boarding started, one of the flight attendants distributed the menu and drink list. That was followed by offering a selection of magazines and newspapers.

Vietnam Airlines business class menu & drink list

At 11:10AM the main cabin door closed, and then moments later the crew came through the cabin to take meal orders. They asked what I wanted to drink after takeoff, what I wanted for my appetizer, what I wanted for my main course, and if I wanted coffee or tea after the meal. Those are a lot of decisions to make at once. 😉

At 11:15AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened.

As we began our taxi the captain announced our flight time of 11hr45min. The entire cockpit crew seemed to actually be Vietnamese. I only mention this because I know the airline historically has tons of ex-pats pilots, so I’m not sure if that’s slowly changing, or if I just got one of the Vietnamese crews.

We were departing from runway 9R, which is a long ways from Terminal 4.

Taxiing Heathrow Airport

Virgin Atlantic  787 Heathrow Airport

Malaysia A350 Heathrow Airport

Once we got to runway 9R we were number three for takeoff, behind a British Airways A320 and British Airways 747.

Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport

British Airways 747 Heathrow Airport

By 11:30AM we were cleared for takeoff.

Taking off Heathrow Airport

We had a smooth climb out, and about 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.

View after takeoff from Heathrow 

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class cabin after takeoff

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection, called Lotustar. The selection was pretty average — there were 35 new release movies, and then a couple of dozen other movies.

Vietnam Airlines business class entertainment selection

Vietnam Airlines business class entertainment selection

The TV show selection was more limited, though.

Vietnam Airlines business class entertainment selection

I also checked out the airshow for our flight.

Vietnam Airlines airshow

Unfortunately Vietnam Airlines doesn’t have Wi-Fi on their 787s.

Service was very quick to get started after takeoff. The lunch menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Just 15 minutes after takeoff I was brought a tablecloth and a cold towel.

Vietnam Airlines business class table setting & warm towel

While I was brought a tablecloth so quickly after takeoff, it was then another 25 minutes until I was brought anything else. Rather than first doing a round of drinks with nuts or snack mix, I was immediately brought the first course (which seems a bit strange on such a long flight).

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — appetizer, salad, and soup

For the appetizer I selected the smoked salmon with fennel salad, which was alright.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — smoked salmon with fennel salad

Then there was a salad of mixed greens, and an asparagus and courgette soup. Both of those were good.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — fresh vegetable salad and asparagus and courgette soup

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — bread

Since the menu specifically highlighted the signature cocktails I ordered the “Hello Vietnam,” with Campari, orange juice, and Sprite. Okay, it didn’t look quite as nice as on the menu, but I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It was too sweet for my liking, though I should have known that based on the description.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — signature cocktail

15 minutes after being served the appetizer I was brought the main course. There were four choices for the main course (many airlines only have three), and I selected the crab cakes with smoked garlic sauce and baby spinach. The dish wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good, I thought.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — crab cakes with smoked garlic sauce and baby spinach

As soon as my main course was cleared, one of the flight attendants stopped by my seat with a tray that had some cheese on it, and asked if I wanted any. I asked for a little of each, so was served the below.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — cheese plate

After that a flight attendant stopped by with a tray that had a selection of fresh fruit, though I passed.

Then 10 minutes later she stopped by with a tray of desserts, including small cakes as well as honey and ginger ice cream with mango sauce.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — dessert options

I selected the ice cream, which was… not great. It was frozen solid, and certainly wasn’t as flavorful as you’d expect based on the description of honey and ginger. Furthermore, the side of mango sauce being served in a plastic container wasn’t exactly great presentation.

Vietnam Airlines business class lunch — ice cream

To finish off the meal I ordered a cappuccino. Unfortunately it was clearly powdered, so I just had a sip.

Vietnam Airlines business class coffee

At the conclusion of the meal I was offered a bottle of water.

Vietnam Airlines business class bottled water

My tray was completely cleared within 90 minutes of departure, with about 10hr15min remaining to Vietnam.

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

I haven’t said much about the service up until now. There were two guys and two ladies working business class, so the staffing levels were excellent. Service was highly personalized, and I always had my tray cleared within a moment of when I finished it, and was then brought my next course on my schedule. So they were efficient and were generally friendly, though I can’t say they were charming or polished.

There were no real niceties, the crew never really introduced themselves, I was never proactively offered water with the meal, etc. But the crew did their job, and overall they were decent.

The meal itself was fairly good. While it wasn’t the best airline meal ever, the quality was pretty good, and the meal was huge, with lots of choices. So I think regardless of what your preferences are, you’ll find something that you like.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory. There were two in front of the cabin, and while there were also two behind the cabin, they were intended for premium economy. The lavatories were standard 787 ones, and didn’t have much in the way of toiletries.

Vietnam Airlines business class lavatory 787

Vietnam Airlines business class lavatory amenities

After that I decided to get some rest. As I said above, this is definitely one of the narrower reverse herringbone seats out there, though it’s still generally a seat I love. Furthermore, I found the padding in the seat to be pretty bad, which isn’t usually an issue when you have good bedding, but that wasn’t the case here.

Vietnam Airlines business class bed

I ended up sleeping for just under four hours, and woke up over Turkmenistan, with about 6hr20min remaining to Ho Chi Minh City.

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

When I woke up I decided to watch The Grinder, which I hadn’t seen before (well, at least not the version with the extra vowel). It was hilarious, and I ended up watching all four episodes.

Vietnam Airlines business class entertainment

At this point I rang the call button to ask if they had any snacks. They informed me that the only thing they had were sandwiches, so they brought me those. I can’t say they were especially appetizing.

Vietnam Airlines business class snack

I worked on my laptop for a couple of hours, and then 1hr50min before landing the cabin lights were turned up, as we were over Myanmar. At that point an announcement was also made that breakfast would start soon, and that we would be landing at 5:10AM.

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

Airshow enroute to Ho Chi Minh City

The breakfast menu read as follows:

Service began with tablecloths being distributed, along with orange juice and towels.

Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — orange juice and warm towel

About 75 minutes before landing I was served breakfast.

Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast

This included an omelet with chicken sausage and grilled mushrooms.

Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — omelet with chicken sausage and grilled mushrooms

There was also a side of fresh fruit, and some yogurt with fruit compote.

Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — yogurt and fresh fruit

Then there was a breadbasket with a few options — I selected a muffin.

Vietnam Airlines business class breakfast — muffin

The coffee wasn’t good at all, and was clearly powdered. Otherwise the breakfast was pretty good.

At around 4:30AM local time we began our descent. The descent was smooth, and about 10 minutes before landing the seatbelt sign was turned on and the crew prepared the cabin for landing. We had a smooth touchdown at 5:05AM, and a five minute taxi to our remote stand. There was a separate business class bus, so we didn’t have to wait long before being driven to the terminal.

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class bottom line

My Vietnam Airlines business class experience was solid. On the plus side, they have a good hard product, air nozzles at every seat, efficient and personalized service, solid food, and pretty good entertainment.

However, there are also some areas for improvement. While efficient, the service wasn’t very warm. That’s fairly minor, though. I think the biggest area for improvement is with the bedding, which seems like an easy fix for them to make, as it could make a great difference in terms of the seat comfort.

All around Vietnam Airlines is a solid option, given their usually excellent award availability and reasonable paid business class fares.

  1. It may be a “proper Champagne flute”, but am I the only only one on earth who highly prefers a Champagne coupe?

  2. This report makes me question if you still like flying around just for fun. Seems like a tedious 12h trip that would make me happy to have arrived where I wanted to be, but not make me excited to actually fly.

  3. You’re conclusion was “solid” but I agree that most of your comments bordered on mediocre or average at best. You generally have such colorful reviews that a bland one impacts the readers’ perception of the product quality.

  4. It probably would have been better if Vietnam Airlines introduced cuisine/wine from Vietnam! I love to see airlines introduce some of the comfort dishes from their culture (ie. Asiana – bibimbap, EVA – beef noodle soup, ANA – Ramen).

    @ Lucky Maybe an article idea for you: your favorite comfort food on planes? 🙂

  5. @ James – at least for USD it smells like the unique combination of its ink and paper. The plastic made currency ones from Canada and other countries probably don’t smell like much.

  6. I almost wish you had reviewed the Kiev to London flight…if only to let us know just how bad BA inter-European flights have become…


    I dunno, Lucky’s view seems to confirm what most other TRs say about this airline. A decent airline overall that could be much better with a few minor improvements here and there.

  7. Thanks for the review: I guess it’s not an airline I’ll go out of my way for.

    “On the plus side, they have a good hard product, air nozzles at every seat”

    I thought there were only air nozzles at window seats?

  8. According to my study most noted less than a 100 have been in someone’s g-string.

    What do you think money smells like.

  9. I’m so confused why the flag carrier of Vietnam didn’t cater a single Vietnamese dish. Not even Vietnamese coffee. And the Vietnamese cocktail is made up — Campari, seriously? While the food looked fine this was absolutely as boring and generic as it comes, much like the interior finishes.

  10. Interesting review, I was expecting better from the Airline for some reason.

    One point, you say at the end a positive is every seat having an air nozzle but earlier mention no overhead bins in the centre and so no air nozzles?

  11. Your report is inconsistent. Throughout the description of the F&B, you used negative adjectives such as “disappointing” and you kept complaining about powdered coffee yet in your conclusion you described the food as “solid.”

  12. “Is currency smuggling a big issue on flights to/from Vietnam, or do they just select flights at random?”
    Certainly not exclusive to Vietnam flights…customs target some destinations more than others..

    It is all to do with money laundering & the UK POCA (proceeds of crime act).
    In the Uk, if you have cash on you exceeding £1000, you can’t prove it is legitimate, where it came from and it is not from the proceeds of or intended to be used in the commission of crime, it can be confiscated.
    You are also required to declare £10,000 (or equivalent) and up to HMRC when leaving the UK. If not, it can be seized. Surprisingly common.

  13. @Aaron, what I want to know is why he wasted double avios by booking into European business class with BA from Kiev to London, seems to me to be a waste of 8,500 points when he could likely book into an exit row in economy with Oneworld status; it’s basically over $100 worth of points for a mediocre meal, everything else you get with business you’d get in economy with status

  14. @Lucky — I’ve noticed you often have the cheese course, and I’ve wondered if you usually eat all of it. I’m quite a large eater, but I’ve always been impressed with the size of your meals. Is that just for our benefit, or do you actually finish them?

  15. Currency smuggling is certainly not exclusive to Vietnam but it’s definitely a big problem there. On one of the episodes of “Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport” they featured a money sniffing dog targeting passengers boarding a flight to Vietnam as well, and mention that it’s a well-known problem with passengers headed there.

    Overall this experience sounds pretty mediocre…

  16. “Rather than first doing a round of drinks with nuts or snack mix, I was immediately brought the first course (which seems a bit strange on such a long flight).”

    That’s the same as Asiana on a 14+ hour trip JFK-ICN and ICN-JFK, both of which are mid-day departures. Never understood why they don’t do a separate beverage service first.

  17. I love it when Asian carriers have non seafood items. (Many are very seafood heavy)

    I have no idea why they didn’t put Vietnamese food on the menu. It’s one of the best cuisines on Earth. Pho or Bun Bo Hue. Cha Ca. Grilled beef salad. Lemon Grass. Banh Mi. Bahn xeo.

    As for alcohol and cocktails: people drink beer in Vietnam, almost nothing else. It is difficult to find wine or alcohol outside of the tourist or Western areas. Everybody drinks beer. Hence the Campari drink

  18. I would love you to compare Vietnam Airlines 787 and A350 since they have both. I tend to like the A350 more, but would love to see your perspective with Vietnam Airlines.

  19. I’m a frequent flyer in Vietnam Airlines (Platinum). Very few European airlines serve Vietnam, so the biggest advantage of VN is that it’s the often the most direct option to Europe. Service is a bit hit or miss (that’s the case across Vietnam), but in general it’s quite solid and gets you to your final destination faster than any other alternative. Premium Eco on the Dreamliner is also super comfortable and reasonably affordable. I’d say one of the best Premium Eco product out there. Unfortunately Premium Eco on the A350 is not quite as good. While they have many foreign pilots, they tend to fly the domestic and regional routes, while international flagship routes are usually reserved for senior Vietnamese crews. I’m always amazed by the quantity of alcohol the crew buys at the duty free before the flight to carry back home.

  20. “I would love you to compare Vietnam Airlines 787 and A350 since they have both. I tend to like the A350 more, but would love to see your perspective with Vietnam Airlines.”

    Given that the A350 has staggered seats and not reverse herringbone seats like the 787, and given that Lucky prefers the latter to the former, I’m guessing the 787 would be preferred by Lucky.

  21. May I suggest they’re not so much sniffing for money, but for traces of drugs on the cash.

    There is a huge problem with Vietnamese organised crime groups creating “cannabis factories” – the money has to then go somewhere!

  22. @Julia

    VN has reverse herringbone seats on their long haul A350s so mainly to CDG and FRA.
    It is true that they have staggered seats on their regional A350s though, so to ICN, HND, PEK, PVG etc…

  23. I wish you would have tried the wines or at least checked to make sure what was on the menu was what they were serving. I’d be curious to know if the champagne they served pre-departure, which you never commented on in terms of quality, is the same they serve post-departure as many airlines serve an inferior pre-departure champagne or sparkling wine.

    As for instant coffee, it seems like many airlines do this. Especially non-First World airlines. I wonder if it’s because they think passengers don’t trust the cleanliness of on-board coffee machines. Maybe you should travel with the best instant coffee you can find to make your own.

  24. That was an informative review even though there were way too many photos. (Is it really necessary to photograph the bottled water, for example?). I was astounded by the fact that the wood was almost wholly Western. Vietnamese cuisine is so good that I would choose Vietnam Airlines for a long haul over, say, British Air if I knew they were serving “local” food.

  25. @James
    Believe it or not the ‘money dogs’ are trained to smell the oil that human hands leave on banknotes. If there is a large number of notes the scent will be sufficiently strong to alert the dog. I have only ever seen them at Heathrow.

  26. Nice review… While I understand the negatives you mentioned, VNA has made huge changes since I moved to the country 6 years ago. For Vietnam, it’s absolutely high class. A lot of the issues stem from culture and other issues, but I think another year will see more improvements… Of course, I’m biased because I love Vietnam Airlines.

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