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Review: Vietnam Airlines Premium Economy flight from London to Hanoi (Part 1)

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This is our review of Vietnam Airlines Premium Economy on a Boeing 787-9 from London Heathrow to Hanoi.

This is the first part of a new HfP series on Vietnam.  You can read more about my trip in Vietnam, including reviews of business class on Vietnam Airlines, the Hilton Hanoi Opera, a Halong Bay cruise, the MGallery by Sofitel Royal Hoi An and a review of the Sailing Club Resort Mui Ne.

Vietnam Airlines offered me and my plus one complimentary flights (one way Premium Economy, one way Business).  It also used its contacts to arrange complimentary hotels and even a river cruise, so you can expect a wide variety of content over the next week.  HfP paid for all its incidental expenses.

Vietnam Airlines is the only airline to fly directly between the UK and Vietnam, which makes it your obvious choice if you are keen to visit this beautiful country.

Check in and airport experience

Vietnam Airlines is a member of the Skyteam alliance and uses Heathrow Terminal 4, the SkyTeam base. It is the Heathrow terminal I am least familiar with – the last time I was here was for my Malaysia Airlines trip earlier in the year.

Emerging from the tube you are greeted by rows and rows of check in counters. I checked the board to see which zone Vietnam Airlines is in and saw it was Zone H.

Vietnam Airlines premium economy review

This turned out to be incorrect. Zone H is not in the same row – it has expanded slightly into the ‘forecourt’ of the terminal, so to speak. I was redirected to Zone G, which is on the far right-hand corner and which looks like it is in a room of its own.

When I arrived two hours before my flight there were a handful of desks open, one for business class, one for premium economy and the rest for economy. We walked straight up to the premium economy check in and were served immediately.

Having a dedicated premium economy check-in desk was an immediate plus – this is something that British Airways still does not do.

Vietnam Airlines premium economy check in

The lounge

Vietnam Airlines does not have its own lounges but does use the SkyTeam lounge at Terminal 4, which Rob reviewed back in February.

Premium economy passengers are not entitled to lounge access unless they have SkyTeam status (which I don’t!).  It is worth noting that you can also access the SkyTeam lounge with a Priority Pass lounge club card (free with American Express Platinum) although you cannot use the two Lounge Club passes which comes with American Express Gold.

There are two other Priority Pass / Lounge Club options in Terminal 4 – the Plaza Premium lounge, reviewed here, and ART & LOUNGE, reviewed here.  The latter is currently closed for refurbishment.  You can also pay to use The House, Etihad’s old lounge and now part of No 1 Lounge’s super-premium brand.

Vietnam Airlines 787


Although our boarding pass said that boarding began an hour before departure, in reality it was more like 45 minutes. Business class was boarded first, followed by premium economy. There was a trolley with a stash of newspapers and magazines on the jet bridge:

Vietnam Airlines premium economy newspapers

…. including The Economist, National Geographic, Time, The Times, FT …. not bad at all.

We made our way to our seats in 15G and 15K, which is the last row of premium economy on Vietnam Airlines’ 787-9. The window seats are best for those travelling in pairs, since we did not have to step over anyone to get in or out.

Vietnam Airlines premium economy cabin

The Vietnam Airlines premium economy seat

Vietnam Airlines uses the same premium economy seat as Norwegian, although it is obviously upholstered in different materials. This means it is a wide seat with very generous leg room and recline.  Here it is:

Vietnam Airlines premium economy seat


Vietnam Airlines premium economy leg room

The recline is such that it is not the easiest to get out of if you are sitting in a window or middle seat and the person in front of you has fully reclined. You do have to ask your neighbour to move – there is not enough space to squeeze past them.  Then again this IS premium economy and not business class where all-aisle access is now expected.

Each seat had a blanket, amenity kit and small cushion on it. There was a pair of toe-less slippers in the seat-back pocket:

Vietnam Airlines premium economy slippers

As you can see, Vietnam Airlines has gone for a decidedly yellow theme!

The amenity kit was relatively basic as you would expect from premium economy. It was made from a thin green polyester material and contained a pair of socks, eye-mask, ear plugs and dental kit.

Vietnam Airlines premium economy amenity kit

Cabin crew came around with a small drinks service at the gate. You could choose from water, apple or orange juice, served in plastic cups.

We ended up pushing back from the gate at the correct time, although we were stuck on the tarmac for a while.  Something was clearly not right, and about 10 minutes later the captain announced that there was a technical problem and that we would return to the gate for it to be fixed.

In the end, we departed with a delay of about an hour. Given Heathrow’s notorious congestion and the fact that we had a technical problem I am surprised it was not longer!

This is the end of Part 1.  In Part 2, also published today, I look at the meal service and IFE in Vietnam Airlines premium economy.

Comments (50)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Matt Vaughan says:

    I visited Vietnam for the first time earlier this year and absolutely loved it. Friendly people, beautiful scenery, delicious street food, and a real sense of positivity. Plus the weirdness of seeing portraits in Hanoi of Lenin and Ho Chi Minh alongside Lexus dealerships and Starbucks…so it’s Communist, but not THAT Communist…

    • Brighton Belle says:

      I tried to access BBC News through my Hanoi hotel Wi-Fi. It was blocked with and without a VPN running. I used both a commercial VPN and a private one. So they have the ability to detect what you’re using , rather like Speedtest does now. It was only accessible via a slingbox for which the Vietnam great firewall didn’t have the encoding keys.

      So Vietnam is not there yet. At the time it appeared to be because the Vietnamese Government was upset about the “BBC spreading lies and propaganda harmful to Vietnam.”

      • FC says:

        I’m there now and accessed the bbc website a few minutes ago on 4G and have had no problems on the hotel WiFi either, both without a vpn

        • AndyGWP says:

          When I was there a couple of months ago, access to BBC was intermittent, working in some places, but not others (including when on 4G)

          Check “internet censorship in Vietnam” article on Wikipedia

          My biggest issue in Vietnam was (hotel) wifi that blocked VPN, but that can happen anywhere in the world really 🙂

      • AndyGWP says:

        Brighton Belle:
        The good news is They don’t have the ability to detect anything within your VPN (that’s the purpose of a VPN) 🙂

        Most likely you had a DNS Leak (which would explain why both VPN’s behaved the same way)

        Take a look at DNSLeaktest dot com for more information

    • Rhys says:

      Agreed – you would almost forget, except that there are loads of communist party buildings in every city/town!

    • the_real_a says:

      As for VPNs you need a supplier that constantly brings new servers (and IP`s) online. Anyone who spends time in China will understand what i mean. The authorities – or in this case the bbc – constantly block VPN IP’s so they only work for a few days at a time.

      Although having said that, doesn’t iPlayer now allow 30 days access outside the UK?

      • Lady London says:

        The BBC seems to have made major progress in detecting incoming connections via VPN’s since middle of this year. 2 top vpn’s don’t work anymore for me. (tested vpn use both inside and outside uk and vpn is refused inside uk too). As you say, the VPN’s have to have a high renewal rate of their IP addresses otherwise increasingly they are not going to be fit for this purpose.

        if anyone knows a VPN that is still good for the BBC please let me know.

        • AndyGWP says:

          Not that it directly helps you, but I have my own (raspberry pi) VPN. Great little device that is powered by the USB port on the back of my router, and enables me to connect to my home broadband connection whilst abroad

          If you have an IT friend who likes a challenge, throw £50 at them and send them to:
          Pivpn dot io

          BBC can’t block these, as it just looks like you’re accessing from home, and their mechanism for detecting professional VPNs is primarily driven by connections

          Failing that, is Windscribe an option (or is that just good for Netflix? I forget)

          • Lady London says:

            I’m completely wireless (and always have been) so no router. is there a “soft” way of doing what you suggest?

          • Lady London says:

            PS I know that solution, I saw it somehwere, I think basically you are using the Raspberry Pi as the computer the BBC will see but that immediately mirrors onto another computer that you actually dial into? solution sounds a bit similar to slingbox. However unfortunately I could not reply on a permanent hardware setup in the UK – children, animals etc.!!! so I am looking for a completely “soft” solution I think as I am wireless from everywhere including UK.

          • AndyGWP says:

            Raspberry Pi has Wifi, and you can powe itr from a phone charger if you want (I just used the USB on the back of the router as an example of how little power it uses) 🙂

            You could tape it to the ceiling to keep it out of the way of children 😉 (or just hid it somewhere discreet)

            (Your thoughts on how it works are correct)

            You just need to install the software on the Pi, and generate certificates to put on your device (which you will install OpenVPN on)…. If you have DynDNS on your router, it makes life infinitely easier too

          • AndyGWP says:

            Actually, your thoughts on how it works aren’t quite correct. It’s just a VPN server, in the same sense that you would use any VPN.

            So, your Computer in your remote location, creates a VPN tunnel to Raspberry PI, which creates (in essence) a bridge of your computer traffic through your home broadband to whatever you’re trying to access (ie. BBC)

    • guesswho2000 says:

      When I first visited Vietnam, there was no Macca’s – but alas, that’s changed now too!

  • Polly says:

    Loved Vietnam too, heading to Cambodia in 2 weeks. Saddest part for us was seeing photos of John McCain and his family visiting his jail, looking at pics of himself and other air force prisoners whilst incarcerated…truly awful conditions. Very brave man, serving his full time with colleagues, even when offered amnesty for being the son of an admiral.
    Plus the museum where they literally put the copters and others back together on display. Truly moving.
    Hoi An old town def worth a beach visit to relax after all the history. Wouldn’t recommend the Da Nang hotel strip. All too samey.

    • Matthew Vaughan says:

      I liked the bit in the Hanoi Hilton which said “Prisoners were well cared for”, with videos of them growing vegetables, playing basketball and singing Christmas carols. Er, apart from all the torture and beatings, I guess?

    • Genghis says:

      +1 for Vietnam. We went for our honeymoon in 2015 and travelled all over over 3 weeks. We loved it. Perhaps overall our most fun “holiday” with great food very much on every street corner.

      • BJ says:

        Agreed, we enjoyed also. Highlight was a multiday tour of the Delta with levietnamcycletours, and Saigon.

  • Polly says:

    And let’s hope our BAEC survives all this FF controversy! Selfish, l know….

  • John says:

    I think premium economy on most airlines is a waste of money, as I’d say the experience is only 1.2 to 1.5 times better than economy, while the prices are often 1.5x to 2.5x more expensive.

    It can be worth it on BA for the TPs particularly if there’s an ex-EU deal.

    • Mike says:

      I prefer premium economy if spending my own money and flying long haul – simply for the extra legroom. I find economy legroom too tight (er I am only 5,10)

      • John says:

        I’m also 177cm tall, and extra legroom is welcome but my point was that (IMO) PE is still uncomfortable, the reduction in discomfort of 20% is not worth the usual 50-150% increase in price.

        Unless there is a PE sale and no Y sale, or redeeming in FFPs which only charge 1.2-1.5x more miles.

        Especially when there will usually be an ex-EU J sale for 2-3x cheapest economy (also including a European city break) which reduces discomfort to 0.

        • BJ says:

          My partner is ok with daytime flights on AF where they have hard shell seats so no issues with recline into personal but it comes at the expense of seat recline itself. Comes with leg rest, better meals, priority security, boarding etc. Unfortunately, the new AF a350s are sceapping the current PE in favour of the mire typical style discussed here. Apparentky BKK is setbto be one of the early routes to get AF a350. Business class looks quite nice but not suites.

    • riku2 says:

      The most I’ve paid recently is 1.5x economy price and normally about 1.2x – based on trips to KUL, ATL, BLR, BOI, DFW in the past few months. These are work trips bought about 1-2months in advance. Only one of them with BA though, the others LH, AA and JAL.
      The best premium economy is when airlines use half the business class cabin for premium economy passengers.

      • John says:

        Ok, so economy cheapest fares have mostly sold out by the time you book.

        The best PE experience for me was having the slightly better meal, earning the miles / TPs then going back to empty economy for a flat bed.

  • John says:

    OT – I have avios booking for business class seats on 26th December flying to Hong Kong , return January 6th. Two people . I will be cancelling this avios booking later today
    Happy to coordinate the time of cancelling if anyone is looking for Xmas avios seats to HK .

    • John w says:

      John w is the post regarding Avios

      • Polly says:

        He is being nice. Rob doesn’t mind this intrusion on a post.
        My F KUL 241tkts were grabbed by a hfp ter when l cancelled.
        Can we not help each other out then??

        • Prins Polo says:

          Cancelled Avios seats don’t necessarily go straight back to the pool.

  • Andy says:

    Those socks though!

    • Scott says:

      Knew someone would be unable to stop themselves commenting. Look forward to you posting pictures of yourself so we can all criticise your personal appearance,

      • Bagoly says:

        But those ones are well into the 1% of thinness and shortness!

        I would caution against wearing such in forests, even temperate ones, because they do make insect bites and resultant diseases more likely.

        • Crafty says:

          But he was on a plane.

          Rhys, I’d also advise against wearing those socks to trek across the Antarctic Ice Sheet. You’d be cold.

          • sayling says:

            It’s a good point, though.

            Rhys, don’t wear those socks in the bath – they’ll get wet

          • Peter K says:

            Not great for going into space either, not airtight enough

          • Rhys says:

            Thanks for the advice guys 😉

            Andy – they’re invisible trainer socks

          • Doug M says:

            Definitely work because you trainers were not visible on your feet

    • Nick says:

      ……….and the denim jeans were presumably mail order and Rhys couldn’t be bothered to return when they arrived and were too long hence the funny turned over bit at the bottom.

  • ankomonkey says:

    I genuinely like the yellow slippers. And great work on getting both dinner main dishes, Rhys. I always go for the Asian option over the Western one for flavour power reasons.

    Do Vietnam Airlines still give out super-fragrant wet wipes in little plastic bags? I was addicted to the smell during and just after flying them years ago.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series…

    • Rhys says:

      Yes, I always appreciate slippers on a plane!

      Had those wet wipes on a domestic flight and yes – they smell great!

  • Leo says:

    Rhys can you tell us the exact amount of pitch? Accounts vary on the net. Also how tall are you if you don’t mind? Only so we can gauge space from photos. I also went to Vietnam this year. I’d wanted to go for ages. It was…. Okay. I don’t understand the rave reviews TBH but I see them everywhere. I liked Cambodia and Thailand much more.

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