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Wednesday 30 March 2016

Joyride on Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (Part 2: HAN-SGN)

Welcome to my Trip Report on Vietnam Airlines 787-9 Part 2! 

Ladies and Gentleman, I am your cabin crew for today! 

For my part 1, click here

*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net 

This type of shots is possible if you get either ramp access or during air shows. Fantastic photo by Anthony Guerra, taken at the Paris Air Show 2015.


I considered changing this flight to an earlier one since there wasn't much to do at Hanoi Airport. For the 4-5 hours transit, I didn't feel like heading out to town and back just in case a traffic jam happens. I might as well come back the next time to spend a couple of days at least, exploring the city. So the first thing I did when I arrive at the arrival hall at Hanoi Airport was to head for the check-in counters. Unfortunately, the staff informed me that my return flight was on the lowest fare and the only way I can change is to pay a fee for it. I decided to stick to it and asking her about the aircraft type, it was to remain as the Boeing 787 and also told me it was an overbooked flight. 

The previous night as mentioned in part 1, I couldn't do my online check-in so I could only make my seat selection at the check-in counter. This time I went for the last row aisle seat, 39G and it appeared later that there is no such seat number on the 787 aircraft. More on that in the latter part of the trip report. 

Map of Vietnam (Photo is credited to mapsofworld.com)

I hope to visit other cities in the near future. 

Domestic airlines in Vietnam (Currently 4)

Jetstar Pacific (Click here for the website)

This is a hybrid livery of Myanmar Airways International and Jetstar Pacific on this Airbus A320

The standard livery on this Airbus A321

Vietnam Airlines (Click here for the website)

This is the Skyteam special livery on this airline's Airbus A330-200, VN-A571.

The standard livery on this Boeing 777-200ER (Extended Range)

VASCO - Vietnam Airline Service Company (Click here for the website)

The airline's ATR 72-500

Vietjetair (Click here for website)

Vietjetair's Airbus A321 at the aircraft manufacturer and the Airbus Beluga in the background (That aircraft is used to transport aircraft parts from one manufacturing factory to the other) 

At Hanoi Airport 

Checking in early was possible for this airline as I managed to do it since my flight was about 4-5 hours from the departure time. Unlike my first sector, I was not offered or in fact not allowed to change my flight, so I had to count down the hours at the airport. Not the worst airport to hang around at as there are some restaurants and more importantly free WiFi available. 

At the arrival hall of the domestic terminal

Check-in counters for Vietnam Airlines 

My boarding pass 

If you go to the other side of the departure hall, you will bump into these airlines' check-in counters.

A look at the traffic outside the terminal building

Vietjetair check-in counter 

There are Lucky Cafe 1 and 2, I was tempted to grab a bite over here but decided to look for another restaurant since they didn't have what I want.

Departure Hall - Air Side 

Do note that you can only go to the airside by the gate number on your boarding pass. For example: If your aircraft is departing from gate 7, you can only go to the allocated security checkpoint (Gate 5 to Gate 8 signboard). I tried going through the security checkpoint at Gate 1 but was not allowed. That's very strange because, on the air side, the gates are all connected. I guess they didn't want passengers to lose their way or something. 

Spotting is possible at the airside and in front of me is an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 Cargo. It's unusual for freighters to park close to the terminal building at least for me.

This was where my aircraft parked, no chance of any photos of the aircraft. 

I had lunch at a cafe opposite the gate, pretty average. 

I did a check on Flightradar24 and VN-A864 was on its way to Hanoi to fly me back to Ho Chi Minh City. It is nice to fly on a different aircraft. 

The 4 hours went past quickly, I managed to get some work done thanks to the Wifi. So it wasn't so boring after all, after that, it was time to board. Departure was on time. 

My ride: VN-A864

Flight route: HAN-SGN

Miles: 717

Date of departure: 9th March 2016
Airline: Vietnam Airlines
Flight: VN261 
Route: HAN-SGN
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Registration: VN-A864
Delivered on 30th October 2015
Engines: 2 X GEnx-1B
Configuration: C28 W35 Y211
Line number: 353
Seat: 39G changed to 39H
Gate: 7 
Load: 100%
Duration: 1 hrs 35 mins
FL: 380
Scheduled departure: 1910
Boarding: 1841
Push back: 1913
Take off: 1926
Actual arrival: 2100
Scheduled arrival: 2120
Departure runway: 11L 
Arrival runway: 23L

Time to board the Dreamliner once again!

For this flight, I didn't take photos of the Business Class seats, you can check out the photos at part 1.

Premium Economy Class 

Wider seat with better legroom space and 2 windows for yourself, what more can you ask for?

Bulkhead row 

Middle row 

Just in front of this cabin is the Business Class 

Economy Class 

The economy Class class consists of 2 sections on both A350 and B787. 

The last row of the first Economy Class section

The first row usually offers ample legroom space.

Nice to be the only one at the rear cabin 

Vietnamese crew waiting for the passengers to board. It was when I got to my seat and realized that seat 39G didn't exist, went to this crew for help. Told me to take a seat at the crew's seat while she and her colleagues sort this issue out.  

There is no charge for the 2-seater seats at the last row. 

Extra space between the middle seat and the window, this is due to the fuselage curving in near the rear of the aircraft. 

The windowless seat at row 38! Beware!

View from my seat 

The seat may be closed to the toilet, but I didn't hear the flushing noise.

Good time to snap these photos before every seat was taken. 

Standard legroom space 

Emergency door (new type)

Crew's seat 

View from the cabin crew seat 

Everyone had settled down and the crew did some last-minute check before departure. 

Decent legroom space 

The lights were dimmed during taking off 

I love the mood lighting 

Surprisingly, a comedy show was shown for about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, we couldn't switch channels as it was controlled by the crew.

Window comparison between Airbus A350 and Boeing 787

Airbus A350 - Conventional type

Boeing 787 - Electronic dimmed windows

In-flight experience 

Boarded the aircraft with a low expectation of the service, but this set seemed more enthusiastic than the ones on my previous flights. I made my way to my seat and I had to check a few times because I couldn't find seat 39G and informed the crew about it. Fortunately, they were nice enough to wait at the crew's seat and offered me to sit there for a while. Once everyone was on board, the aisle seat (last row) was available, and the crew told me to sit there and she apologized to me for the inconvenience. For that, the crew service scored points for it. My seatmate probably felt disappointed.

Aircraft was pushed back promptly and we taxied to runway 11L. We had to hold short at the taxiway before passing through runway 11R due to incoming traffic. After 2 landings, we were cleared. 

Take off was quiet and smooth. It isn't as noisy as I expected at the rear. Comparing the GEnx to the Roll Royce Trent 1000 engine, I find the former slightly quieter. We hit some turbulence during the climbing but was smooth once we were above 10,000 feet. Seat belts were turned off and the cabin crew was on their feet. 

The announcement was made to the passengers that the IFE system would not be in operation for this flight, I wonder why especially I got to use it on my A350 flights a couple of months ago. Well, only the management has the answer. 

Meal service was done but unfortunately, the 2nd option was not available when the crew reached my row. This is of the disadvantages of sitting at the rear when it comes to meal service. Sometimes they start from the rear and sometimes they start from the first row, so it depends on your luck.

Flight crew came on the speaker a few times to update us on our flight and weather in Ho Chi Minh City and then a comedy show was shown for the last half an hour or so before we landed smoothly at Ho Chi Minh City. This was my first time doing a nighttime domestic flight in Vietnam, the experience felt different from the daytime flight.

Service on the overall was not bad, most of the crew were reserved but at least they were better than my previous flight's crew (SGN-HAN sector). 

I will be doing another round of SGN-HAN round trip soon with the airline's Boeing 777-200ER and perhaps the Airbus A330-200 as well. Stay tuned for that!

In-flight meal 

I can't remember what's the other option but it was not available when the crew reached my row, so I had to settle for this, pork noodles. 

I had a cup of tea when the hot beverages were served

In-flight Wifi 

It was available on my flight.

View of the aircraft after arrival 

Baggage Carousel at Ho Chi Minh City Domestic terminal

My rating: 

Airlines website and mobile app: 6/10
Hanoi Airport domestic terminal: 6/10
Airport check-in staff: 6/10
In-flight service: 6/10
IFE system: 6/10 (At least a comedy show was shown)
In-flight meal: 7/10
Cabin interior: 9/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Overall rating: 73/100


My joyrides so far from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and return have been pleasant. The airports may not be the most modern but at least there are restaurants, free-WiFi, and shops to check out. Vietnamese service at the airport is generally good but for the airline itself, among my 8 flights so far, I haven't come across an above average set of crew. I feel that this is one of the areas the airline can work on. Now with the new aircraft, the airline can give its rivals some competition with a decent in-flight entertainment system for medium to long haul flights. Both Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are different in the inside with both having their own pros and cons. From what I know, the upcoming A350 aircraft (VN-A890 and onwards) will feature the same Business, Premium Economy and Economy class products as the Boeing 787.

This is the current routing for the airline's Airbus A350 (March 2016 update and do note that aircraft change can take place due to operational reasons)

*These aircraft can also be deployed on other regional and domestic routes if required. 

Ho Chi Minh City - Hanoi 
Hanoi - Paris 
Ho Chi Minh City - Paris 
Ho Chi Minh City - Frankfurt
Hanoi - Seoul 

For the Boeing 787-9's routing

Ho Chi Minh City - Hanoi 
Ho Chi Minh City - London 
Hanoi - Frankfurt 
Hanoi - London 
Hanoi - Tokyo
Ho Chi Minh City - Tokyo

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to ask! 

For my part 1, click here
Airbus A350 Part 1, click here
Airbus A350 Part 2, click here


1 comment:

  1. Hi, I have seen the same info about the later A350s getting the Cirrus seats in J. Interesting trip report . Cheers