After spending a night at the Sheraton Skyline Heathrow, I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 at around 9AM, plenty early for my 11:10AM flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Airlines check-in was located in Zone G, at the very right of the terminal.
The check-in process took a surprisingly long time, given that there was only one person ahead of me. They seemed to be having some issues with their ticket, so it took over 20 minutes until I was helped. Once it was my turn I was quickly issued my boarding passes all the way to Shanghai.
Security was quick. While Vietnam Airlines uses the SkyTeam Lounge, I decided to skip it, given that I’ve reviewed it before. I love just wandering around Terminal 4, given the unique airlines that operate out of there. Check out this beautiful Gulf Air A330, for example.
The Vietnam Airlines flight was departing from gate 11, so I headed there. Interestingly right in front of the gate they had three immigration officers and a money sniffing dog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a money sniffing dog at an airport before (at least not knowingly), and that search was specific to our gate. Is currency smuggling a big issue on flights to/from Vietnam, or do they just select flights at random?
While my boarding pass indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 10:10AM, in reality boarding only started at 10:35AM, with business class passengers being called first.
Vietnam Airlines 50London (LHR) – Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)Saturday, May 5Depart: 11:10AMArrive: 5:20AM (+1 day)Duration: 12hr10minAircraft: Boeing 787-9Seat: 6K (Business Class)
I boarded through the second set of doors on the 787, where I was pointed left into the business class cabin. Vietnam Airlines’ 787 business class cabin consists of a total of 28 seats, spread across seven rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. There were no bins in the center section of the plane (just the intrusion in the first few rows from the pilot crew rest), which made the cabin feel more spacious.
The cabin looked pretty cookie-cutter, aside from the fact that Vietnam Airlines chose brown finishes for their seats.
I had assigned myself seat 6K, the window seat on the right side in the second to last row.
Since the 787 is a bit narrower than the 777, reverse herringbone seats on the plane also feel a bit narrower, in my experience.
To the right of the seat was a reading light, entertainment control, seat controls, USB outlet, and headphone jack.
To the side of that was an exposed storage compartment with a hook, where the headphones were located.
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When you recline the seat into the bed, the ottoman becomes part of it. There was some room underneath the ottoman, which was great for storing shoes during the flight.
The tray table could be extended from the console to the right of the seat, and could be folded over in half.
Underneath that was a small storage area, the 110v outlet, and the literature pocket.
To the left of the seat was an armrest that could be raised and lowered. I always like to have this up whenever possible, but some airlines require it to be lowered for takeoff and landing.
To the side of that was the seat’s only enclosed storage compartment, which was still quite small.
One fantastic feature of these seats was that they had individual air nozzles, which far too many airlines don’t have. Unfortunately the center seats don’t have these, though, given the lack of overhead bins.
Reverse herringbone seats are among my favorite business class seats, so all around this was a solid setup, especially since each seat had two air nozzles.
Waiting at my seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket. This was quite underwhelming — while the pillow was thick, it was small, and the blanket was thin and scratchy. Bedding can make such a huge difference in terms of the business class experience, and it’s one area where Vietnam Airlines disappoints.
Also waiting at my seat were slippers.
Then there was an amenity kit with Acca Kappa products. The kit had eyeshades, socks, earplugs, a comb, a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, moisturizer, and service stickers.
Also at the seat were headphones, which were low quality. They hurt my ears, and the sound quality wasn’t very good.
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Just a moment after settling in, I was offered a cold towel by one of the flight attendants.
A few minutes later I was asked whether I wanted something to drink. It’s nice that they offer drinks of choice, rather than only offering a limited selection. I asked for a glass of champagne, which was served in a proper champagne flute.