We were delighted to be invited to Vietnam Airlines inaugural Dreamliner launch from London Heathrow today. It gave us the opportunity to see the carrier’s new 787-9 up close and personal on stand at Terminal 4 before its flight back to Vietnam.
On the outside, Vietnam Airlines’ 787 has a fantastic colour to it, and the livery seems iridescent to a certain degree. This by far is one of the best 787 liveries out there right now.
On entering the L1 door, you are greeted by an impressive business class cabin featuring 28 of the Zodiac Cirrus III seats. The cabin features a neutral fern, moss and yellow colour scheme, and the seats feature a traditional vietnamese flower motif embroidered into the seats. The cabin, with its seven rows of 1 x 2 x 1 seating, ensures every passenger has aisle access.
Unlike some carriers, this seat model is fairly basic, and it doesn’t feature the door on the headphones cabinet, which acts as a divider for increased privacy in certain carriers. The hand controller also isn’t the high tech Panasonic ex3 system that most carriers offer.
That said, the hard product is solid, reliable, and proven. There is plenty comfort to go around. With ample storage for passengers, including side storage both by the seat itself and in the footwell.
There are also USB charging ports and power sockets in every seat, along with an impressive IFE Screen that like all cirrus seats, pops out at the touch of a button to face the passenger.
The bed when fully deployed is both comfortable and long enough to cater for even the tallest of passengers, and for added privacy the arm rest can be raised, to help aid sleep and reduce the chance of being woken by someone walking past the aisle.
The Business Class Big Picture
In premium economy, which is a step up from the carriers previous ‘economy comfort’ product, passengers will be blown away by not only the amount of personal space, but the deep recline and comfortable wide seats on offer.
Not happy with just 38″, passengers will experience an industry leading 42″ seat pitch in a 2 x 3 x 2 configuration. The seats feature a deep 7″ recline and a leg rest in every seat. Whilst bulkhead seats don’t have one, all other seats also have a fold down foot rest. These seats are well padded and would be easy to fall asleep in.
Each seat has a large, HD touchscreen that comes from the arm rest which means that passengers reclining their seats won’t interfere with your viewing pleasure. The screens are solid and unlike older generation seats, won’t have the issue of slowly falling to the floor as the flight progresses.
The cabin is very intimate, with only 35 seats in the cabin, and it also has two toilets dedicated to the premium economy passengers, situated at the front.
Premium Economy Big Picture
In economy, passengers, whilst in a tighter 3 x 3 x 3 configuration (pretty standard now) will also have a huge upgrade compared to the previous incarnation, which excellent 10.6 touchscreen IFE screens, a deeper 6″ recline and 32″ seat pitch.
The seats also benefit from USB charging, power outlets (two per 3 seats) and obviously the mood lighting, reduced cabin pressure and state-of-the-art-play-with-the-window windows.
The best seats in the house are definitely the bulkhead seats (of which there are two sets) although the window seats will not have as much leg room as the aisle or middles seats due to the evacuation slide on the emergency doors.
However, our small bug bear is the controller on the arm rest, which is very sensitive, and may mean inadvertent cabin crew calling, disco light scenarios or channel changing as people shift around to get some shut eye. The shut eye however, made all the better by the pillows and blankets on offer for every passenger.
Generally speaking the economy cabin is very smart, and whilst not as miraculous as the more premium cabins upfront, will help put the carrier on the right steps towards earning the 4-star recognition it is actively seeking.
Economy Class Big Picture
All in all, we are very impressed with Vietnam Airlines new 787 product which has already started service as of today between Ho Chi Minh /Hanoi and London’s Heathrow airport. The good news is the carrier is planning on becoming daily on the Vietnam to UK routes by 2016, offering more passengers more choice and very affordable products. The carrier also announced it is planning on introducing inflight WiFi and SMS connectivity in the near future.