Flight test: Vietnam Airlines economy class

Last updated 13:03 18/12/2013
Vietnam Airlines

VIETNAM AIRLINES: 'I've heard a lot about the hospitality and warmth of the Vietnamese people. I'm not sure the service on Vietnam Airlines reflects this.'

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In economy class the advertising tagline the airline uses is "A cut above the rest".

THE ROUTE Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City.

THE PLANE Airbus A330-200.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME Golden Lotus Plus (although I earn miles for Qantas Frequent Flyer).

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END? Economy, seat 7C.

TIME IN THE AIR Nine hours.

THE SEAT STUFF 31-inch pitch, 18-inch width. It's a 2-4-2 layout for 256 economy class seats. There is a smallish business class cabin with 24 seats.

BAGGAGE Checked bags up to 20 kilograms in collective weight, one carry-on bag up to seven kilograms and one personal item (eg handbag).

COMFORT FACTOR The plane feels old and a bit tired. My husband has the window seat, I'm on the aisle, but we're not small people and we immediately feel squashed.

I notice the bank of four seats in the middle is vacant so once the aircraft doors are closed I jump across, allowing both of us more elbow room.

The seatback pockets are sagging, so when I put my magazines in the pocket it hits my knees, which is a tad annoying.

We're seated two rows back from the bulkhead where there are three screeching babies in bassinets. I've done a lot of flying with my own children so I sympathise with the parents but I'm glad I've brought noise-cancelling headphones.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT The in-flight entertainment system uses individual seat-back touch screens which aren't particularly responsive.

I spend quite a lot of time pressing the screen to no avail. The menu of movies and short features is fairly limited - about 20 of each.

Nothing really grabs me but I've always had a soft spot for Colin Firth and his fluffy comedy Gambit kills a couple of hours.

THE SERVICE This is my first trip to Vietnam and I've heard a lot about the hospitality and warmth of the Vietnamese people.

I'm not sure the service on Vietnam Airlines reflects this. That said, the female flight attendants look so chic in their long red ao dai tunics with trousers underneath, you'd almost forgive them.

FEEDING TIME Two meals are served but neither bears any relation to the dishes printed on the menus handed out just after take-off.

Lunch is coleslaw with slices of salami, then beef in a peppery sauce with rice.

The tea and coffee service is suspended after the first meal due to turbulence but never reappears when the flight smooths out and asking for a cup of tea later feels a little like an imposition.

Dinner is a choice of chicken or beef. I choose chicken but it's not particularly appetising, so I nibble on a bread roll and cut fruit instead, and dream of what awaits on the ground.

Tea is served this time, but it's barely warm, so it remains undrunk.

ONE MORE THING ... For economy class the advertising tagline the airline uses is "A cut above the rest". Mmm, I'm not convinced.

THE VERDICT Code-share flights don't always work in your favour. We booked Qantas but the experience on Vietnam Airlines was definitely not of the quality we've all come to expect of our national carrier.

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THE FREQUENCY There is one flight daily from both Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City, with connections to Hanoi.

Tested by Sally Webb, who paid for her own travel

- FFX Aus


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