I have reviewed this flight both in writing and video format! Be sure to see my video review below.
Vietnam Airlines fly more than five times a day between the two major Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (yes, I refer to it as Saigon too!). They are in direct competition with Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet who operate a fleet of modern A321neo aircraft. I originally booked a ticket with VietJet for August 5th, but once I got to Hanoi I decided I really wanted to stay an extra night so I phoned up VietJet and they said I would have to cancel and rebook if I wanted to change my date of travel.
Not wanting to book another full revenue ticket, I looked into other options. I could see that Vietnam Airlines operated the route with widebody aircraft such as the B787, A350 and A330 so checked out prices. Being so late in advance, however, I decided to skip this option due to it being too expensive. Just as I was about to give up, I remembered that Vietnam Airlines are, of course, partners with Air France! I fired up my Flying Blue account and searched for availability and right there was a stack of award flights for 11,500 Flying Blue miles and £8.
I originally wanted to book the flight in business class but Air France had no availability so seeing as I didn’t would have had to cancel and rebook on VietJet anyway, I decided to choose Vietnam’s A350.
I arrived at Hanoi International Airport two days after arriving on my China Southern flight. The Vietnam Airlines’ domestic departures level at Hanoi is relatively small but was split between destinations instead of just having one big set of queues for everyone. Seeing as their were so many flights to Ho Chi Minh that day, I ended up in a long queue and after 20 minutes of waiting, I was finally able to check-in and drop my bag.
I asked the woman at check in for a window seat which she was happy to give but the only seat she said was available was 36A. I checked the seat map online and saw that the aircraft had a premium economy cabin. Knowing that no premium economy product was sold on this route, I asked if I could sit there but I was told that the cabin was reserved for SkyTeam elites.
A little disappointed that I was SO far back, I headed through security to find that FlightRadar24 was showing my flight as a B787 instead of an A350 – another setback. I had already missed Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 product on my flight to Taipei because of an aircraft change to a Cathay Dragon A330 so was eager to make this one.
After walking around the small domestic area after security I ended up taking a seat and booking some more award flights!
Boarding started on time and still not knowing which aircraft I was on, I headed down to gate 10 where we boarded a bus which took us to the international stands to board our aircraft.
By the name of this review I’m sure you have guessed what’s coming next: I stepped out of the bus to see the stunning Airbus A350 boarding for my flight to Saigon.
I walked around the aircraft for a while seeing as I would have had to wait on the stairs anyway. It was fun being able to freely take pictures of the aircraft from the tarmac!
I boarded as one of the last passengers through the front door and walked all the way through the aircraft to find my seat.
Unfortunately, the aviation gods dealt me a bad hand and the seats 36 B and C were both nabbed. We pushed back soon after I got onboard and took off straight away to an amazing rainbow which appeared soon after we hit the skies.
Vietnam Airlines’ A350 economy class is set up in a 3-3-3 configuration.
Economy class is set up in two cabins from rows 16-43.
Each seat offers 32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width.
The aircraft feels super modern and you can definitely tell the plane is new. Each seat is equipped with a personal IFE screen which was overwhelmingly large.
Below the screen is a USB plug which was great as I love to see USB plugs on long-haul aircraft.
The IFE system has a selection of films, TV shows, games, maps and music. I wasn’t able to try any of the video or audio out because headphones aren’t given out on this short flight.
I ended up put the map on the screen and watched as we made our way to Saigon.
Around 30 minutes after departure, the cabin crew made their way through the cabin offering out breakfast. I was expecting a hot breakfast option but the crew simply gave out boxes of crackers.
The drinks trolley followed and I asked for a coffee which they said they didn’t have. I then asked for some orange juice and was told that all they had was coke and water. This was a weird choice seeing as it was very early in the morning and I ended the breakfast still feeling very hungry.
For the rest of the flight I sat back and watched the views as we approached Saigon. The approach is simply stunning as you go over an enormous area of densely packed housing! You can watch the whole takeoff and landing below.
We landed in Saigon on-time and taxied to stand to complete my first flight with Vietnam Airlines.
Overall, I thought the flight’s service offering was poor. For such a busy route, I would have hoped Vietnam Airlines could offer more in the way of food and drink. In terms of the aircraft, I was super impressed. The A350 is super modern and the cabin is more spacious than on other Asian carriers. I hope to try out the business class product next!