Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Vietnam Airlines London to Ho Chi Minh City, for some R 'n R, and an urban break

Vietnam Airlines VN50 
London Heathrow (LHR) – Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon (SGN)
Monday, January 02, 2016 
Depart: 12:00 noon
Arrive: 06:25am (03 January 2016)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 
Seat: 3D (Business Class)


After our frantic four week visit to London, Cornwall and Tromsø in Norway, we thought we deserved a break so booked 5 nights in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) on our return to Sydney.

We would be back on a 787-9 for this flight, our second experience of the Vietnam Airlines product.

Our flight departure time was changed almost without us noticing it, so instead of a 2:45pm departure, we were now scheduled to depart at midday.

I hate rushing at an airport and prefer to arrive early and spend some time relaxing in the lounge before hand. So that nearly 3 hour change in departure, meant we needed to leave our Fulham accommodation closer to 8:30am and travel at rush hour rather than after 10am. Then I remembered we were leaving on Sunday. Not even London has a rush hour on Sunday. However our plans changed from getting up at a reasonable time to pack, to packing the night before.

Commencing the process of relaxation - Bloody Marys - and they were not the last consumed in the Skyteam Lounge before boarding.
Our trip to Heathrow Terminal 4 by minicab - actually a van - was uneventful and we made good time.

Next stop the Skyteam Lounge, which I have previously posted about.

We wandered down to the gate as soon as our flight was called, and negotiated our way to the priority queue, and onto the plane. Unlike our previous pre-Christmas flight, apparently now on the 2nd of January, it was definitely a Christmas flight:

A blue and white Christmas apparently, although who ever made the seasonal video did not get the colour theme memo.
Flight attendants overall on this flight seemed a little more upbeat than our last flight with Vietnam Airlines - or maybe I was just more willing to be demanding in my requests for service.

Other than the addition of Christmas decorations the cabin was the same as our previous 787 flight VN51 HCMC to London. 




The seating plan was the same as on our previous 787 flight from Vietnam. Reverse herringbone in a 1-2-1 configuration of the popular Zodiac Cirrus seat. My partner Mickaeli thought the pitch was a little tight, and indeed if you had your seat in any type of recline, getting out without returning it to the takeoff and landing position was difficult - even when you lowered the  arm rest.

Arm Rest that can be lowered, with small storage area on the right, deep enough for an iPad. When the seat is reclined, it can be difficult to get out of the seat, even when the arm rest is lowered.













Seat controls were clear and simple, and did their job well.
Amenity kits co-branded with Charriol were in contrast to the blue Chopard ones distributed on the Sydney to HCMC journey. Contents were pretty much the same but different branding. We were in the same seats as our outward journey for our 10 hour 40 minute flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

Charriol co-branded amenity packs - in contrast to the Chopard amenities on the SYD to HCMC leg. Brown socks already on my feet. Yes that is my first glass of champagne in the upper right - served in a wine glass.



I love these kinds of flights. 10 hours gives you time to have a drink, really enjoy a meal, settle down to a movie, and then have a good sleep.

Vietnam Airlines don't distribute pyjama's to their Business Class passengers, but fortunately we had packed our black Virgin Australia ones, so I slipped into them once we were in the air. They do however supply slippers as well as socks - which make me feel much better about foot hygiene when visiting the bathrooms.

Menu's were distributed, and our orders - including for breakfast were taken before takeoff. I always find this a little weird. It's like telling cook what you want for dinner tomorrow night (I'm kidding, like I have staff!).

Business Class Menu cover - with just a hint of Lotus petal.
Choice of two entrée (starter) and five Main courses (entree)


I always mean to order the asian option, but then I worry that in my addled state, I will slurp and spill noodle juice all down my front - so I stick with the western omelette.

Not too specific about the Champagne and wines, and refills were done in the galley, so I never did get to find out what the champagne was. It tasted fine, although not noteworthy.

I ordered the foie gras (the French colonials handed on some great traditions to the Vietnamese).

I know I should at the very least feel guilty about the force feeding of geese, but it's still delicious.

Soup, salad and foie gras came on one tray. Service on this flight was brusque, but observant. Rarely was there pro-active service, but all requests were met in a timely manner, and with grace and mostly a smile - and at worst a concentrated look.

Having experience this attitude on the way over, I felt much more comfortable with it, knowing that a smile and finger pointing to my glass would get me a quick refill.

Sorry - I downed the Broccoli and Potato cream soup pretty quickly, and obviously before I took this photo of the foie gras and sourdough. It was after 1pm, and I was hungry.
I'm allergic to fish, and the pig cheek just sounded too much, so it was either the chicken thigh and fried rice or the beef. In my experience, its pretty hard to get a good piece of steak in the sky, but in this case it was not bad, although well past the medium rare I would have preferred.

The steak - a fillet I think, was fine - mainly due to the sauce. - although I am not sure it was actually horseradish.  Beans with sultanas, tomato and potatoes were on the good side of OK.
I watched a couple of episodes of American Horror Story - Hotel on my iPad, but my heart wasn't really in it. The in-flight entertainment selection was limited but diverse. I mean, there was not a lot of options, but a lot of categories including new release films and some recent and old classics. The entertainment catalogue as you would expect was skewed towards asian tastes.  You can have a look at their current selection and get the idea. I didn't use their noise cancelling headphones, because I now am the proud owner of a pair of Bose in-ear Quiet Comfort 20 headphones (thank you Father [Mickaeli] Christmas!).

OK time for an afternoon/evening nap. Since the entertainment wasn't doing it for me, it was time for rest, so on with the eye shades, in with the earplugs, and recline the seat.

I slept for 3 to 4 hours, and when I woke up we were over India about here:

One view from the flight screen

And another. It just cycled through the views as is normal.
Not much else to report really. I tried to sleep some more, but finally gave up, asked for more champagne, and read for a while.

About 2 hours out of Saigon, that old reliable the breakfast omlette was served.

To avoid that last rush hour for the toilet, I changed out of my Pyjamas and into a pair of light pants and T-shirt ready for our arrival in Saigon.

Although shorts are what I would prefer, most Asian men wear long pants as shorts are at the immodest end of acceptable. Our exposure to the actual 34ºC (93ºF) heat of Saigon would be transitory while we were going from airport to carpark, given that we would be largely moving from air-conditioned aircraft to air-conditioned airport, to air-conditioned hotel car, to air-conditioned hotel. Anyway, I always feel more appropriately dressed when arriving at a fine hotel in long pants, rather than shorts. I also have a psychological block about wearing shorts on planes. I've done it, but I don't feel comfortable about talking about it, so don't ask.

We landed pretty close to the expected arrival time of 6:25am, and our bags came out fairly promptly.  Immigration was pretty efficient, so we were in the hotel car in under an hour, and on our way to our second visit to the Intercontinental Saigon - and probably a long wait before our room would be ready.

2PAX Wisdom

The 787 is a lovely plane. I love the higher pressure, as I never feel as fatigued on these newer aircraft - including the A380 as I do on older aircraft with lower pressure.

The plane itself was under a year old, and looked clean and fresh. I like the reverse herringbone seats - but I, and especially my partner found the pitch a little tight, especially when trying to exit the seat when in any form of recline.

Service on this flight was better than on our previous incoming flight - although that might have been because I had got used to asking for what I needed, instead of just expecting pro-active service.

So - good to very good hard product, and once you know how to manage it, solidly good service, but not pro-active.

Catering was on the good side of average, and a lot better than much I have experienced in business class (Jet Airways, I'm talking about you!) Drinks were OK despite 'mystery champagne' and no published wine list.

Direct aisle access is wonderful, but the apartness you feel as a couple because of that large console between the middle seats - even though you are  facing into each other, does not make for an intimate flying experience when accompanied by a partner (like the otherwise abominable BA business class does). I'm sure there are better implementations of the reverse herringbone that I have yet to experience.

More stories from this trip





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