LONG-HAUL HANOI (HAN) - PARIS (CGD) -
Our mood was a bit sad. As always, when we leave Vietnam. Only a pleasant flight, from Hanoi Noi Bai Airport (HAN) to Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG), could soothe our gloomy soul. The domestic airport was overcrowded when we landed, back from Saigon; Vietnamese people travel a lot in the replenishing post-COVID period. What a contrast with the deserted international departure area : Vietnam is still waiting for Western tourists… Therefore, it took only five minutes to deal with our transit. Our luggage had been registered in Tan Son Nhat International Airport, our boarding passes issued, and we had plenty of time ahead to head to the Lotus / Sky Team Lounge, after a quick security procedure via the business class passengers fast track lane. Though our upgrade allowed us the Sky Priority privileges (yet, luggage allowance remained calculated on the 23 kilograms in Economy! Not much...), we were surprised to hear from the charming hostess filtering the entrance, that only those who paid full fare for business class could get admission. We had no problem at all in Paris to step into the Air France / Sky Team Club Lounge (check our Paris - Hanoi review with VN), and were astonished quite a lot by this policy. But Vietnam Airlines is a certified 4-star airline by Skytrax, and a call to the supervisor solved the problem: we were welcome! This was important to evaluate the Lotus Lounge, and we can say that it had whatever we could expect from an excellent airline. The design is trendy. The intimacy is optimum. We liked the buffet, with a convenient selection of super fresh salads, Vietnamese snacks, and even appealing bowls of Pho. The selection of soft drinks is plethoric; it is more limited when it comes to the liquors (only two kinds of wine for instance), but the quality is fair. The WiFi is fast, there are a lot of plugs to charge our phone and laptop. We particularly liked the top-quality automated massage chairs: this was a pleasure to relax our legs and back before a long flight. Thumbs up to the adorable staff. VN improved a lot in terms of service, and will be soon a real competitor to better-established airlines from southern Asia.
The Lotus lounge was located close to the departing gate. Despite its cyclopean size, the Boeing B787-9 Dreamliner was 100% full. The boarding went super cool, with lots of staff to take care of the passengers. At least 90% of them were Asian. The separate and priority boarding for Business Class passengers was as soft as silk: within three minutes we were courteously welcome in the elegant front cabin of the Dreamliner, seating 28 passengers on a 1-2-1 configuration (35 in Premium Economy, and 211 in Economy). Operating flights between airports in Vietnam as well as throughout Europe and North East Asia, this is one of our preferred planes: it has an air-control system keeping the atmosphere mild and comfy, and XL (10.7 by 18.4 inches) dimmable "Magic Window". Our video on Youtube will show you how spacious the well-designed Business Class is. Tailored made for long-haul flights like the 13-hour Hanoi-Paris.
The flight attendants wore the traditional Ao Dai. A reflection of Asian elegance and devotion, they provided a faultless quality of service from boarding to arrival. We never pushed a button to call them to our seat, as they simply anticipated all our needs. That's what we call a real executive class treatment. Pleased to fly again, after two years stuck on earth, they shared their happiness with the passengers.
There is so much space to work, relax, or simply sleep! All this for a competitive rate (though VN raised its post-COVID fares, like all its competitors)! You can see in the picture how high is the cabin, with a Zen white and olive green finishing. No risk of claustrophobia, but an immediate impression of well-being. We took off on time (10:35 PM) for half a day above the clouds.
Each Zodiac Cirrus seat, made in France, is equipped with an electrical socket, USB (slow loading speed for your phone battery: be patient!), remote control for the large TV screen, and a reading lamp. The large table is perfect for a laptop, and makes the dining experience like in a restaurant. We liked the generous space allowed to set our belongings. Easy to adjust, this is a model of reverse herringbone seat used by many airlines in the world; and one of the best.
Coats and jackets were promptly transferred by the attendants to a secured cloakroom, and we received our first glass of Heidsieck & Co Monopole Champagne. This is their traditional provider for many years, and the quality is fine. We sipped a second glass observing the take-off from the window: we always book a window seat for more intimacy. Feeling like in a flying cocoon, we got the impression that we were in First Class.
After take-off, we adjusted our noise-canceling headphones and listened to classic music. We received slippers, and an elegant Cerruti 1881 amenity kit, featuring all we needed to feel fresh during and after the flight: comb, body lotion, lip balm, toothbrush kit, earplugs, socks, and eye mask.
The selection of cocktails featured a rich selection of classics like Cuba Libre, Bloody Mary, and Dry Brandy Manhattan. Liquors, like whiskey, fine Cognac, rum Bacardi, Martini, Bailey’s Irish Cream... and Champagne of course.. were available open bar during the flight. The cocktail menu was oddly presented on the flight attendant's smartphone. We found it a bit odd. Wouldn't it be more classy on paper support?
We already knew VN signature cocktail “Hello Vietnam” (fresh Orange Juice, Sprite, and Campari), by Mister Vo Tan Si, President of Saigon Bartenders Association. It was nicely presented; not with peanuts only, but also with some quality canapés. We did like that stylish presentation.
The "Lunch Menu" (we started to eat around midnight; this was rather a dinner...or a supper) was the same on our way from Paris and Hanoi, more or less. We compared it with other recent reviews of VN long-haul flights, and this was exactly the same offer, indeed. Moreover, as you can see, the selection is too limited for Business Class. This was no problem for us, leisure travelers; but this might look so boring to frequent business flyers. Last but not least, they omitted to mention the best, most traditional Vietnamese dish: the Pho soup, served aboard just like in a small local restaurant of Hanoi.
All dishes, nicely presented by the friendly steward, were super fresh and appetizing. The portions were just enough to feel comfortable for a pleasant night between the Far East and Europe. We like very much the quality of the bread served on VN flights. Particularly the crispy Olive Baguette: we dropped extra olive oil on it.
Watch how smart the service is! It improved since our previous experience with VN, five years ago: flying back is so motivating for the flight attendants. After some cheese, fresh fruits, and an excellent Chocolat Cake, we relaxed a bit.
We sipped a glass of Cognac Remy Martin VSOP (in Business Class VN should consider serving XO...), and preferred sleeping to watching all night long the rich selection of movies available on the rich library of the IFE. That was tempting; but we always travel Business Class to reach our destination fresh and ready for the action, without any jetlag.
Note that Vietnam Airlines still doesn’t provide WiFi aboard its long-haul flights.... That was the one and only thing missing. All airlines which we experienced recently had WiFi, which was much used by the passengers. This tends to be indispensable on a 13-hour flight.
We saw the flight attendants walking throw the aisle regularly, checking if everything was OK with our comfort and offering water or juice. Like five-star nannies, kindly anticipated all our requests from Hanoi to Paris.
This is so good to lazily spread oneself over a real bed in the air! With the armrests down, the spacious seat measures 21.5″ (54.6 cm) wide. As far as seat pitch and bed length, you can expect 42″ (106.6 cm) in pitch and 79″ (2 meters) of bed length when fully lie-flat. Enough to host at ease a strong and tall passenger.
We landed on time (7 AM), at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG), with a priority exit procedure for Business Class passengers, and a fast track in the airport. Luggage was delivered quickly compared with the other flights which landed shortly before and after VN19.
VN operates direct flights from Hanoi Noi Bai, and the larger Saigon Than Son Nhat airport, to the leading destinations around the world, and to an increasing number of destinations in Vietnam and the rest of Asia. It operates twice per week (only...), Wednesday and Friday (Thursday and Saturday, way back) between Hanoi and Paris. Four times a week between Hanoi and the USA (San Francisco only, on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday). It has resumed more flights on the Asian routes and domestic routes in Vietnam. It should take a few months before reaching the post-COVID quality of operation within the world.
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