Airline review: Vietnam Airlines business class, Sydney to Hanoi

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Hanoi

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Lotusmiles and SkyTeam

CLASS

Business Class, seat 2K

DURATION

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Eight hours 55 mins

FREQUENCY

Vietnam Airlines departs Sydney on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays

THE SEAT

Business class has a 1-2-1 seating layout, accommodating 28 passengers at the "pointy end". (There is no first class, while premium economy is behind business class.) Window seat 2K, angled towards the window, has a small shelf and is sufficiently roomy although tall or bulky travellers might feel a little constrained. The seat folds full-flat for sleeping. Exploration reveals plenty of storage nooks and pockets (as well as overhead bins), a power point that takes Australian plugs, fixed footrests and digitally controlled window "fader" (no physical shutter).

BAGGAGE

Checked baggage allowance is 30 kilograms, plus two hand-carry items to 14 kilograms total. Bonus allowances are available for premium-level Lotusmiles and SkyTeam members.

COMFORT

The seat folds flat (with a small mid-point gap) but no mattress is provided. Headsets, pillow, blanket, slippers and amenities kit arrive promptly. A small pop-up screen in the aisle armrest provides minimal privacy.

ENTERTAINMENT

A large (40.6-centimetre) HD screen, easily navigated with touch and remote controls, delivers a disappointingly bland and limited selection of English-language (read, Hollywood) mainstream movies — rom-coms, action and cartoons — with little to challenge or enlighten. Virtually no art house or European offerings. The Vietnamese movies seem resolutely patriotic and/or romantic. Meanwhile, the international music menu is brilliantly eclectic, ranging from country, Brahms, Sia, Elvis, Patti Smith and Duke Ellington to Hendrix live and Kings of Leon.

SERVICE

Pushback is precisely on time (3.15pm) and the cabin service throughout the flight is cheerful and attentive yet never intrusive. Meal plates are removed promptly.

FOOD

The pre-flight drink, champagne (Heidsieck Monopole) arrives in a wine glass rather than a flute, but of the four Vietnamese aperitifs on offer, the Song Hong (Red River) concoction of Campari, orange juice and dry martini is so good it demands a follow-up. The four wines — two reds, two whites — are all French. (The florid wine list notes veer towards the Pythonesque: the Macon Peronne 2014 chardonnay, for example, reads more like a weather report than a tasting indicator.) My first meal, late lunch, starts with a delicious mushroom soup and is followed by an equally fine wok-fried snapper with fried rice. The pre-arrival "refreshment" supper of grilled beef fillet is also excellent. Should none of this suit your palate, the menu discreetly advises, "instant noodles are available on request".

ONE MORE THING

A convenient, well-timed and well-priced flight. No bells-and-whistles bragging, just good service and a prompt arrival. I sampled premium economy (ex-Ho Chi Minh City) on a similar VN aircraft for the return flight to Sydney and similar, solid, kudos applies there.

THE VERDICT

Overall, a very comfortable flight with more than satisfying food and drink, and "no-complaints" seating-sleeping arrangements. Given the anaemic movie options (at least in English), bring a good book.

Our rating out of five: ★★★★

Tested by John Borthwick who flew as a guest of Vietnam Airlines and Amiana on the Bay resort, Nha Trang.

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