Vietnam Airlines flight review: Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh City (LHR to SGN)

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Vietnam Airlines

The growth in direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines is a sign of Vietnam’s economic lift-off but how does the experience measure up?

For decades after its founding in 1956, Vietnam Airlines was a fringe player, its wings clipped, so to speak, by the country’s socio-economic and political turmoil. Now, though, this airline is really going places in more ways than one.

Having launched its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft for UK routes last September, it now flies three times a week from Heathrow to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the only airline flying direct between the two countries. Such is the demand it’s even planning a daily service from summer.

The carrier is upping its techie credentials, too: check-in over WiFi is coming soon to all Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services from Heathrow, along with automated check-in kiosks at terminal four.

UK-Vietnamese trade is booming, thanks to recent tax incentives, low wages and a young, highly skilled workforce. But does this newfound economic zeal extend to the national airline? Director stepped aboard a spanking new Dreamliner to find out.

Check-in

On this weekday mid-morning, being one of the 10.4 million passengers handled annually by Heathrow terminal four was a breeze. As press, we couldn’t use the online system, but we weren’t hampered at all and the generous 40kg business- class luggage allowance raised spirits. The lounge offered all the usual amenities, plus 20-minute Clarins facials to anyone who, unlike me, thought to book in advance. 9/10

Boarding 

It’s hard to recall a simpler passage from
terminal to seat. The walk to the gate took just 10 minutes, and the ultra-speedy, efficient and friendly desk staff – the courtesy exuded by this airport‘s employees in recent years has alchemised the Heathrow experience – had us aboard within seconds. 8/10

The seat

Vietnam Airlines

The business-class cabins on the B787-9 Dreamliners feature 28 ‘Zodiac Cirrus III’, fully flat-sliding seats in a one-two-one herringbone configuration providing both aisle access and privacy. The sight of the 42-inch seat pitch, 15.4-inch TVs with HD touchscreens, personal mini-bars and noise-cancelling headsets gave me confidence 12 hours would pass swiftly. 9/10 

In-flight experience

Vietnam Airlines

The Dreamliner’s modern LED lighting, high humidity, clean air and lower cabin pressure make its ambience conducive to a comfortable journey. The entertainment menu offered a blend of international, classic and Vietnamese movies, plus games and a 3D route map. Storage and legroom were impressive, as were the crew’s demeanour and appearance. The Charriol amenities kit, two inflight magazines and abundant food options – crab cakes with smoked garlic sauce and spinach being the highlight – enhanced the experience. 9/10

Arrival

Vietnam Airlines

We landed right on time, just before 6am, and a small queue saw us through immigration. Baggage reclaim is stress free when your plane is among the first in, and the private transfer offered by our hosts – standard with top hotels in this part of the world – offered a reminder of how sharp and attentive Asian service is at its best. 8/10

Verdict

Minor ticket-related bureaucracy aside, this was an experience befitting the carrier of what may become the next Asian tiger economy 43/50

Vietnam Airlines Details 

Vietnam Airlines flight VN50 from Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam Airlines offers direct economy-class returns from Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi from £441 or £525 respectively, including taxes (business-class fares start from £1,859 or £1,862).

vietnamairlines.com
@FlyVNA

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About author

Lysanne Currie

Lysanne Currie

Lysanne Currie is an editor, writer and digital content creator. Her first job was at Melody Maker and she then spent over 10 years in teenage magazines working from sub editor on 19 Magazine to editorial director of Hachette’s Teen Group. Her previous roles include group editor and head of content publishing for Director Publications and editorial director at BSkyB overseeing Sky’s entertainment, sports and digital magazines. Lysanne lives in London with her music promoter partner and a four year old Jack Russell.

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