Airline review: Vietnam Airlines economy

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-200.  Seat configuration on Vietnam Airlines' A330-200 fleet ranges from 242 to 256 seats in economy class, with 24 seats in business class. 


THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Golden Lotus. Passengers can also earn points towards other airline programs in the SkyTeam alliance.

CLASS

Economy class, seat 12G

DURATION

The scheduled flight time is eight hours, 30 minutes, but we arrive into Ho Chi Minh City 20 minutes early.

FREQUENCY

Flies once daily direct from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City. Also flies daily from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City.

THE SEAT

Economy seats are in a 2-4-2 layout, with my seat on a centre-row aisle. The seat pitch is 31 inches (79 centimetres) and seat width is 18 inches (46 centimetres).

BAGGAGE

Checked baggage allowance is 30 kilograms, with carry-on baggage limited to one piece up to seven kilograms.

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COMFORT

Planes feel larger when only half full, as on this flight. Cabin storage is roomy and I have two spare seats beside me, so I can stretch right out. There's a decent amount of leg room - my knees come up short of the seat in front - and good recline.

ENTERTAINMENT

Plugging in to plug out on this flight is a nostalgic experience, beginning with earphones I need to assemble, fitting the padded earpieces to the set myself. The selection of entertainment, which only partly resembles the printed guide in the seat pocket, is limited, with a predictable list of 25 Hollywood and Vietnamese movies and a playlist of mainstream albums - the likes of One Direction, Katy Perry and Elton John. The sound quality is high, making this the rare kind of flight on which I can hear every word of the movie.

SERVICE

The service is suitably Vietnamese, i.e. impeccable. It begins the moment of boarding when a flight attendant is crouched down cooing to a child passenger, and continues through to the regular trolley runs to keep our boredom at well-fed bay. The smiles fade a little as the hours roll on, but the professionalism remains.

FOOD

The menu is unimaginative, but prepared far better than the simple descriptions suggest - the beef is well spiced, and the Vietnamese rolls are bakery-fresh. Meals have two main options. For lunch there's braised beef or pan-fried fish in chilli bean sauce, with a square of tiramisu to sweeten the deal. A "refreshment" option turns out to be a complete dinner - a dry chicken thigh covered in a polenta and cheese crust. Wine selection is simplicity itself: red or white.

THE VERDICT

You don't fly with Vietnam Airlines for the wine and wide-screen experience. It's a utilitarian experience en route to a utilitarian country, but everything is serviceable, making for a perfectly comfortable journey without the bells and Wi-Fis of some airlines. It's also the only carrier offering direct flights into Vietnam from Australia. That alone makes it a likely choice.

Tested by Andrew Bain, who flew courtesy of World Expeditions.

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