Review: Bamboo Airways Boeing 787 Business Class (Sydney-Ho Chi Minh City)
Get better acquainted with Vietnam’s fastest growing airline – now making its way Down Under.
Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City (SYD-SGN)
- Competitive fares, modern fleet
- Limited at-seat storage
- Limited drink selection
- Friendly service, mountains of food
Vietnamese carrier Bamboo Airways is a new arrival to Australian skies. Armed with a modern fleet, sharply-priced fares, and a promise to deliver ‘more than just a flight’, it’s built an impressive Southeast Asian network since its 2019 debut.
Now jetting off non-stop from Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City, and most recently Melbourne to Hanoi, it’s an attractive option for travellers, with a ‘hybrid’ approach combining full service on international routes with more value-oriented fares on domestic.
But we had questions. What was Bamboo Airways’ business class like? Was it really full service? And how did it compare to its well-established Asian rivals?
Executive Traveller climbed aboard a Boeing 787-9 to find out.
Opening three hours prior to departure, check-in was swift and pain-free. As per current policy, a negative RAT was required within 24 hours prior to the flight.
Ground staff collected passports and visas as passengers waited in line, printed their boarding passes and baggage tags, and handed them back before we reached the check-in desk. Then, it was just a simple tag and drop.
House loyalty program ‘Bamboo Club’ features four membership tiers: Emerald, Gold, Diamond and First, with worthwhile benefits including priority check-in and boarding kicking in from Gold. Lounge access is a perk of the top tier only.
Bamboo Airways is offering a generous status match for Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance until the end of December.
Business Class guests enjoy access to the Plaza Premium Lounge (formerly the American Express Lounge) at Sydney Airport, located opposite gates 25 and 26.
Inside the small yet functional space were a variety of seating options, including a row of work desks with power outlets and USB charger ports, booth seating and dining tables, and comfy armchairs gazing out to the tarmac.
An assortment of hot and cold foods were provided at the buffet station. Being a late morning flight, choices were classic breakfast staples like bacon, eggs, and beans, pastries, yoghurt, muesli and fruit. Barista made coffee was also readily available.
I recommend arriving early, as seating filled up quite quickly.
Sydney and Melbourne are serviced by Bamboo’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners – spacious, twin-aisle jets designed for efficiency and comfort.
As a daytime flight, I expected lights would remain on for the duration, but following the meal service the cabin was dimmed, windows were automatically darkened, and, at one point, the soothing sound of bird calls played throughout the cabin.
It took me a good few minutes to decide that no, a sparrow hadn’t stowed onboard to begin a new life in Vietnam. It was an ambient track to help passengers relax [a sound later echoed on my trip during a stay at FLC Grand Hotel Halong, part of the golfing and resort arm of Bamboo Airways’ parent company, FLC Group].
Luggage allowance in business class was 14kg carry-on (including two hand baggage items and one accessory), and 65kg checked luggage.
Business class on this flight comprised 36 lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The seat was based on the Zodiac Cirrus outward facing model, which includes direct aisle access for every seat. It’s similar to the one featured on the KLM 787 Dreamliner, as well as the second-gen Cathay Pacific A350 business class.
Each seat transforms into a fully-flat bed at the hold of a button. However, this was noticeably different from the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat shown on the Bamboo Airways’ website (which currently flies the direct Melbourne to Hanoi route).
Instead of an earthy brown and beige palette, this aircraft had a navy blue and cream colour scheme with patterned cloth seat, brushed metal buttons and trims, and a grey fold-out tray table. A padded footrest echoed the chair, with a small shelf for shoes beneath.
The seat back felt slightly contoured in the middle, almost like a racing bucket seat, which could potentially be uncomfortable for travellers who don’t fit perfectly into the snug, particularly on a flight of this duration.
A tray table slid out from under the static benchtop on an angle, and then folded out forwards. It didn’t slide closer, but the seat controls allowed you to move forward enough to do some work without stretching or avoid wearing lunch on your lap.
Storage wise, there was a small triangular tray above the magazine and safety instructions, a deep compartment on the aisle side of the seat, and a nook with a hook for headphones.
Aside from that, the only options were to keep things on the table or up in the overhead locker.
A universal AC power outlet and USB charger port were also included for charging devices. Tip: The USB was quite slow to charge, so I’d recommend bringing a charger plug.
Shortly before cabin lights were dimmed, crew offered to make up the bed. This consisted of a thin, quilted cover over the seat and leg rest. Surprisingly, there was no pillow provided, though this may have been an oversight because it was a day flight.
In the fully-reclined position, the seat has a slight hump in the middle, meaning you were better off leaving it on a slight angle. A mattress topper – like the one Cathay Pacific rolled out on these seats in 2019 – would likely solve this issue.
Being 6′ 1″, I found legroom to be perfectly adequate, with plenty of room to stretch out.
First meal service:
Around 15-20 minutes after takeoff, crew walked through with an iPad menu to offer a choice of two entrees and three mains, with dessert to follow. While I appreciated the effort to reduce paper waste, it would have been nice to be able to browse through the menu.
I opted for BBQ duck and poached prawn with a chilli lime dressing, topped with salmon roe for entree. It was served with a side salad of noodles and prawns with balsamic and olive oil dressing, and squash soup with croutons.
Honestly, if I could have taken the chilli lime dressing bottle with me, I would have. It was my dish of the flight.
For my main, I decided to try the Western option, which was a grilled beef fillet served with herb roasted potatoes and carrots. The beef was a little over done and liberal shakes of salt and pepper helped dial up the flavour.
Dessert was an elaborate, theatrical affair. Cabin crew wheeled out a trolley liberally adorned with hard and soft cheeses, crackers and an assortment of fresh fruits, accented by twinkling lights to make it that little bit special. Chocolate mousse cake was offered after.
For the drinks, there were the usual suspects of beer, soft drink, tea/coffee, and juice, plus two white wines and two reds. Surprisingly, there was no sparkling. Wines were a French viognier and New Zealand sauvignon blanc (the ever-reliable Mussel Bay from Marlborough), Chilean merlot and a Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley shiraz. No spirits were offered on board.
Second meal service:
This was offered around two hours prior to landing and included a selection of three main meals: two Asian and one Western.
I went for the lemongrass fried rice with honey soy roasted chicken. It was served with a choice of bread, a vermicelli and prawn salad, and some fresh fruit. The rice was absolutely delicious.
Somewhat disappointingly, the bread arrived about five minutes after I’d finished the meal for both services.
Entertainment & Service
Passengers received a warm welcome onboard. Cabin staff initially wore clear, plastic masks. It was a nice personal touch, allowing you to see their smile and provide a stronger connection. These were swapped for regular masks during flight.
Once seated, the cabin crew delivered branded Bamboo slippers and a blanket, a choice of juice or water, cold refresher towel, and premium-feel amenity kit.
Tightly packed within was a toothbrush and paste, mouthwash, disposable razor and shaving cream, socks, hair brush, moisturiser, hand sanitiser and face mask.
Almost every item was individually wrapped in plastic, which is understandable due to the pandemic, but it still felt a little excessive.
Extra dental kits were available in the lavatories, which were cleaned regularly.
With the sharp pricing, some concessions were inevitable. One of the more noticeable areas was the inflight entertainment offering. While the system itself was fast, responsive and easy-to-use, content choices were good quality, but very limited.
There was a selection of 31 movies (including two Vietnamese language films), six TV shows, six documentaries and 12 episodes of ‘Adventure Golf’. Most movies dated from around the mid 2010s, with only one option released post-2020.
For guests who like being serenaded, there were albums from six international artists, with the rest from Vietnamese artists, and a surprisingly extensive collection of ‘bolero’ music – it even had its own subheading on the main menu. Who knew it was so popular?
It’s worth noting the audio was quite loud, even on the lowest setting.
At the beginning and end of the flight, two crew members stood at the front of the cabin, placed their right hands on their hearts, and bowed to the guests. A cold towel was also offered before takeoff, and a hot towel shortly before landing.
Despite the initial attentive service, crew were scarce once lights dimmed, although you could flag them down to ask for water or tea during their occasional walks through the cabin.
At around $1500 each way on the Sydney-Ho Chi Minh City route, Bamboo Airways’ business class represents excellent value for money.
Part of its hybrid model is to deliver a similar level of service to a traditional full-service airline, but at an affordable price point – ‘more than just a flight’, as they say. It works well for the mid-haul service offered to Vietnam.
Although not quite a full frills business class service, it's a solid and comfortable way to travel in the region. And with a status match for Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam open for applications until 31 December 2022 (the promotional page is in Vietnamese, so Google translate is your friend), it could be a worthwhile alternative for frequent travellers.
With Bamboo’s domestic network of 61 destinations and growing – including Hanoi, Nha Trang and Quy Nhon (a coastal city described as ‘the one to watch’) – plus overseas flights to Taiwan, South Korea and more to come, it’s a carrier sure to pick up a lot of fans.
- The writer travelled as a guest of Bamboo Airways
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Bamboo Airways Boeing 787 Business Class (Sydney-Ho Chi Minh City)
24 Aug 2011
Total posts 1189
Interesting that they have different J seats on their various 787s. Is the a legacy of some of the planes being Not Taken Up by a previous purchaser/lessee?
23 May 2022
Total posts 2
Bamboo's 787 are from Hainan Airlines before, the first two 787s aka Sam Son Beach and Ha Long Bay are ex Hainan jets. Hainan Airlines can't deliver these aircraft due to financial headaches, so Boeing sold to Bamboo Airways for a lower cost.
now this one is from Hainan although, Bamboo got it leased from GECAS (now AerCap after they bought GECAS)
22 Jan 2013
Total posts 92
Love the razor in the amenities kit. Hate it when they turn the windows to black on a day flight.
23 May 2022
Total posts 2
I been on VN-A829 aka Quy Nhon City's Business Class in Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Overall product is alright, but I still love the service!
same thing with premium eco flying from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City