Flight Review: Dreamliner to Sydney has to be Vietnam Airlines’ game changer … and the sooner the better!
With the world of flying aircraft through the skies, especially in terms of medium and long haul flights, becoming even more competitive, including the Airbus A380 in larger aircraft and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in smaller ones most certainly game changers, the latter is particularly significant for some of the smaller airlines and on some routes.
Vietnam Airlines is no exception in terms of the smaller airlines, and it must be hard for an airline like Vietnam Airlines having to operator old aircraft on some routes, when they are trying so hard to upgrade their service and standard of offering.
With their long awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliners commencing service later this year on the Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City route, having flown with Vietnam Airlines this week, I have to say, the sooner the Dreamliners arrive, the better it will be for Vietnam Airlines and their passengers.
The Boeing 777 on which I flew from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City was very tired, with before boarding the exterior of the aircraft showing very worn and faded paintwork, patching, touching up and faded logos, creating in me a degree of concern for my flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
We had been booked on the flight by International Tourism Exchange Ho Chi Minh City, the leading trade show for everything in tourism in the Mekong and Vietnam to attend the event as hosted media, with Vietnam Airlines, a sponsor of the event.
Booked in economy, we thought we would spoil ourselves though by paying for an upgrade to Premium Economy on line through the web site to which Vietnam Airlines directed us www.optiontown.com.
I also checked out the services offered in Premium Economy on Vietnam Airlines’ web site and it all looked pretty good, including what is described on the following linkhttps://www.vietnamairlines.com/au/en/plan-book/vna-experience/premium-economy-class as, “For passengers wanting to take advantage of our deluxe comfort seats, priority check-in, and additional amenities, Premium Economy is a great choice at an even better value” and “Passengers who upgrade to Premium Economy can enjoy added personal space adjustable recline, and a large private monitor for screening in-flight media entertainment”.
Sounds great but sadly and unfortunately that is not was what provided on the 777 service, with the seats old, tired, hard, very worn and torn in places, with trim hanging off on the sets and windows and in a 3/3/3 configuration.
The in flight entertainment monitor was a very old and tiny, with very dated technology and very limited choice of entertainment.
The web site went onto say treasures” and “All of our premium meals can be coupled with a complimentary selection of soft drinks and premium spirits, offering a one-of-a-kind dining experience” and “Premium Economy guests can select from our carefully curated menu, inspired by the world’s greatest culinary treasures, which was clearly not the case, with the food in Premium Economy the same as in Economy and a rather average offering at that, nowhere near a culinary treasure.
When questioned about the difference between Economy and Premium Economy, a crew member said that the only difference between them was the seat pitch, with the food the same food as Economy, as was the service, with the web site also claiming that we would be offered a range of amazing amenities and priority check in, none of which was provided!
The crew member went on to comment that in their opinion it was a waste of money upgrading to Premium Economy and their advice was not to bother and save our money!
To be fair, the seats do have a slightly greater seat pitch, that is the distance between the squab, the bit you sit on and the seat in front!
So, Vietnam Airlines, the sooner the better you operate Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the Sydney route, to provide a quality service and promise what you deliver, the better, but in the meantime also changing your web site to portray more accurately what Premium Economy on the 777 aircraft actually provides, rather than I suspect on your newer aircraft, which sound great, would help greatly.
In the meantime, my review is below: –
Airline: Vietnam Airlines
Date: 5 September, 2016
Class: Premium Economy
Aircraft: Boeing 777- 200
Flight departure time: 10:15 – departure delayed until approximately 11:00am with no explanation or apology from the flight deck.
Flight arrival time: 4:05 – approx 10 mins early – well done Vietnam Airlines
Flight rating: 4 out of 10
Check In: The check-in process in Sydney was very quick and smooth and managed by Qantas, but it is not clear where Premium Economy passengers check in and there are no special check in facilities as claimed on their web site.
Boarding: delayed with no explanation and Premium Economy boarding.
Seat: The first cabin and business had what appeared to be old style business and first class seats. The third cabin was Premium Economy with seats the same configuration as economy but a slightly greater seat pitch.
The sets were hard and well-worn with broken trim on the seat backs and windows.
Welcome: Pretty average greeting on boarding with the crew seeming distracted and no further contact to assist passengers with seating.
Safety briefing was OK, but announcements were virtually indecipherable in English, so English skills need significant improvement.
Departure: The flight departed very late, with no explanation, but with a smooth take off.
Food: The quality of food was economy standard and I chose the beef with oyster sauce which was relatively tasty but mass prepared in a foil dish as one might expect in economy but not in Premium Economy or as the web site promised.
Drinks: A reasonable selection and quality of drinks available, but only on drinks run then the crew disappeared, except for one water bottle run – strangely the only beer available was VB!
Crew: The crew were very inconsistent in their degree of interest in passengers and quality of service, with some good and interested in their work but others could not care less and also some of the crew members’ English was indecipherable.
Entertainment: While the entertainment system was seat back, it was a tiny screen from many years ago and very old fashioned in its operation, with a very limited selection of movies, TV etc.
Disembarkation: Disembarkation in Ho Chi Minh City was OK, but at a remote gate outside the domestic arrivals, with no apology or explanation, with a transfer by bus, which was jam packed, to the international terminal – very strange, especially as there were a number of empty gates with aerobridges at the international terminal.
General Comments: Overall, a very disappointing experience indeed, with a poor quality and a very worn and tired aircraft, poor or at least very average service, sadly making for a very unsatisfactory experience.
I hope that things will improved with the new Dreamliner Sydney service, with clearly a newer aircraft and hopefully significant improvements in the quality of service, delivering what is promised on line, especially in Premium Economy, and also that the crew will be trained to provide the service that they should be and the required huge improvement in English language training, a basic requirement for any international airline!
A Vietnam Airlines in flight review by John Alwyn-Jones