Unless you work logistics and are paid by the hour, being stuck in transit is painful. It’s nothing compared to a kidney stone, but still just as insufferable. Thankfully some inspired folk invented this thing called business class to make the best of a bad situation. A dose of luxury, a decent meal and the illusion of an open bar go a long way to enhancing the experience.
I recently flew from Sydney to Hanoi on a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Flight time came in at around 8 hours, 35 minutes and we flew through the night. It was my first business class flight and it wasn’t perfect, but certainly comfortable enough to catch some sleep. A Vietnam Airlines Business Class ticket begins with priority service at check-in and passport control, lounge access and priority boarding, along with priority baggage claim on the other end.
SkyTeam Sydney Lounge
Vietnam Airlines Business Class passengers have access to the SkyTeam Lounge at Sydney’s International airport. This lounge is shared with China Airlines, Delta, Garuda Indonesia and several others carriers. Business class passengers are welcome to bring a guest so long as they hold a valid boarding pass.
For dining, there’s a small buffet offering a limited selection of Asian dishes, pastries and desserts. The wine bar is heavily stocked with a variety of local beers, wines and popular spirits. The 12-year-old Canadian Club was a pleasant find. If it’s too early in the day for alcohol, there’s a coffee machine and a wide variety of soft drinks.
The SkyTeam Lounge offers free WiFi, while AC power outlets and USB charging can be found by the side of most lounge chairs. A large conference table stands at the centre of the room, and it also has built-in charging stations. Four Apple Mac terminals are located by the conference table.
One wall offers panoramic views out onto the tarmac while the opposite side features a living wall, with more than 60 different species of plants. Amenities include showers and toilets with modern décor. SkyTeam Lounge did not offer announcements over the PA. There are large TVs by the entrance to keep up with boarding times.
Vietnam Airlines 787 Dreamliner Business Class Seats
Seating is arranged in a 1-2-1 formation so that each passenger has aisle access. Business class seats are located at the nose of the plane with curtains separating business class passengers from the premium economy seating. The seats themselves are not very attractive, with an olive-coloured floral design that looks outdated. Thankfully, they are spacious and comfortable.
The familiar entertainment remote is complemented by an AC power outlet that supports Australian plugs, one USB port and a bright LED reading light. There’s a storage shelf with a bottle of water, a thin pocket for newspapers and menus and a place to hang your headphones. On the aisle side, the armrest opens to the tray table and another storage compartment. The TV folds out from the bay in front. Underneath the footrest is ample space suitable for storing your shoes. It’s where you will find a pillow and blanket.
The business class seat reclines to a full 180-degree lying position, completely sealing the gap between seat and footrest. Unfortunately, the bulging headrest doesn’t lie flat, meaning it obstructs the pillow. Also, it’s easy for the seat belt and any wired devices to become caught in the seating’s mechanisms during the electronic reclining process. Still, I had the best sleep that I’d ever had during a flight. There’s no window shutter; it’s replaced by a button that filters out the light with varying degrees of transparency.
The amenities kit included moisturiser, lip balm, comb, eye mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and earplugs. None of which are recognised brand name products.
Before take-off, the cabin crew offered a variety of newspapers. The personal 15.4-inch touchscreen included the usual selection of recently released films and several classics. The range of TV programming was underwhelming. There was nothing by HBO, Showtime or AMC like what you might find on other international or even some domestic flights, but instead, an abundance of Vietnamese cultural content.
Business Class Dining
When you’re comfortable, a crew member greets you with a glass of champagne. Refills are only a button-press away. The lengthy flight meant I experienced a meal for dinner and then another several hours later for breakfast. The business class dinner, or supper as they called it, consisted of an appetiser of Cajun chicken, olives, grilled zucchini and capsicum. For the main course, I selected the beef wrapped in lemongrass with rice noodles and garlic bread. Dessert was marble cheese mousse with a berry sauce.
The cocktail list was curated by a French chap who I’d never heard of. I didn’t much care for his offerings and decided to stick to the French wines and Vietnamese beers.
For breakfast, we were served a starter of mixed muesli and yogurt. The main course was a choice between Pho Bo – Vietnamese beef noodle soup, sticky rice with roast honey chicken or a Leek and Bacon fritter with grilled sausage. I quite enjoyed the honey chicken with sticky rice. Breakfast was accompanied by a selection of fruit, bread and croissants.
Nothing about VA’s dining feels cheap or even falls near the quality of usual airline food which is a significant win. Celebrity chef Luke Nguyen is said to be working on a new menu for Vietnam Airlines so things could only improve from here.
Vietnam Airlines Dreamliner Business Class doesn’t live up to the highs of some of its rivals. Still, you’re provided with a bed, aisle access to each and every seat, quality meals and service, along with enough space and privacy to do any actual business (should it come to that), so really what’s not to like? My only complaint was the TV offerings. I was really hoping to catch up on Billions or Better Call Saul. Instead, I settled on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Man of Many travelled to Vietnam as a guest of Vietnam Airlines.