Bamboo Airways is a private airline which launched in 2017 and has expanded quickly, now flying to 21 out of Vietnam’s domestic 22 airports, and an increasing roster of international ones including London and Sydney.
These long haul routes are with a fleet of B787 Dreamliners which were originally intended for Hainan Airways.
The airline flies weekly from London Heathrow to Hanoi, and also weekly from Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. It is possible that because of the problems at Heathrow, and the cost of operating from there, it will move this one weekly flight from London to Hanoi over to London Gatwick
I have posted a review of the outbound flight from London Heathrow which had a different business class onboard – you can read that here:
I arrived at Hanoi International at 2400/ 0000 (midnight) for the 0215 departure on QH23, a flight time of 11 hours and 55 minutes. There are was a long queue at economy check-in, with passengers checking-in some huge, wrapped parcels and bags in addition to trolleys of luggage, but, thankfully, the premium queue was much shorter and we were quickly checked in.
To get airside you have your passport and boarding card inspected at check-in, just before security, and then again, just after security, though there were few passengers around at this time and so it didn’t take long. Shoes and even small watches have to be removed for security.
Business class passengers have access to the Hong Song lounge which is shared with many airlines, but which is a good size and at this time was not full. It had a range of hot and cold food and alcohol – including spirits and wine – and soft drinks. There were also two massage chairs in the corner of the lounge.
It was a long walk out to Gate 36 even with automatic walkways, and once we got there boarding had already started (this was around 0130).
Once on board, I was guided to my seat.
It was very late, but I recorded some video which can be watched (above).
Bamboo has two different business class seats on its long-haul B787 aircraft. I had been on one type on the flight over – a Saffran Cirrus seat (see the video link, above).
The configuration on this return flight was three classes – economy, premium economy and business, and with a different type of business class on board – the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond, the same seat as used by British Airways in its new Club Suite, and also Etihad Airways.
The cabin in this configuration starts at row 11 and goes back to row 19 in a 1-2-1 (A D-G-K) configuration of a total of 26 seats. In the front row there are only 19A and 19K but thereafter towards the back of the cabin it is 1-2-1 with all seats having direct aisle access.
The seat has plenty of storage space, from the large arm rest on the aisle side which can be raised or lowered and which has room for items in it to theside table with a flap which can be opened to reveal the AC power, USB and the handheld control for the Inflight Entertainment (IFE) as well as more storage. There is more storage for, say, a water bottle in the compartment by your feet, and then more room under the foot rest. Finally there is room for some magazines, though this is already pretty full with Bamboo’s own thick magazine and some sick bags and a safety card.
The seat has a panel set into the side of the plastic surround which has various pre-sets on it and it works well. It’s also not in the way so you accidentally touch the controls.
The IFE screen is a good size (18 inches) and needs to be large because it is fixed and facing you directly as you sit in the seat. As with the flight over, the choice of IFE was poor. The table is tucked away under the IFE screen and has several positions which can be manipulated using a lever underneath which releases it and also brings it closer or keeps it further away, according to preference. It is also bifold, so you can use it in several different ways.
Note that there is a shoulder strap which should be used for both take off and landing. This is the same as all the Super Diamond seats I have flown (Etihad and British Airways Club Suite). It is necessary because you are facing forward but in an angled way and the surround of the seat in front is close enough for you to hit your head on it in the event of, well, let’s say sudden deceleration. You can watch me demonstrating it in this video of the BA Club Suite.
Despite this, the flight attendants seemed unaware of it, we were not told to use them, and very few people did, either for take off or landing at Heathrow.
They are all good. On this flight I was in the front row window seat 11K but wasn’t disturbed by the galley or the toilet, which in any case on this side of the aircraft is on the other side of the door by the door to the flight deck. If you are travelling with a friend or loved one, go for the centre seats, though I’d avoid the back row.
Before take-off we were offered a choice of three soft drinks. I chose a lime juice. There was no offer of champagne or sparkling wine, and in fact there wasn’t any on board. We were also given a very substantial amenity bag with all the usual items in it, all wrapped in plastic, unfortunately.
After take-off our orders were taken for both drinks and food. There was a choice of two white wines and two reds; namely a sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand and a chardonnay from Pay d’Oc, France and a merlot from Chile and a shiraz from Australia. The meal service included draping a table cloth over the table. A small bowl of unsalted cashews were offered along with the first drinks. The menus were shown to us on an ipad which I suppose makes environmental sense, but it does mean it’s difficult to take notes and tell you exactly what was on offer (I got it on the video, though).
On this flight there seemed to be a choice between a Western menu and Vietnamese menu, though I had pre-ordered a vegan mean. This was not very tasty, and I left most of it. I spoke to colleagues on the flight, and they were in general slightly disappointed with their meals, which was in contrast to the meals on the day flight out of Heathrow – strange, because an airline’s meals are normally best out of its home base.
My main course was two pieces of bread which I at first mistook for large slabs of tofu, with some ratatouille. There was a small bowl with single, thick slices of orange, apple and melon, and a salad along with a bread roll with a pot of jam.
My main aim for the flight was to get some sleep, so I was looking forward to trying out the seat.
I asked a flight attendant to make the bed, which involves placing a brown under sheet which loops over the headrest to keep it in place. With the addition of a small, Bamboo Airways branded pillow, and also a comfortable blue blanket I had no problem getting comfy.
You can lower the large arm rest on the aisle for more room around the shoulders, or keep it raised if you like the security. The bed is a long one – 2m I think, but is a little narrow if you like lying on your side. There was a fault on my seat in that it didn’t go completely flat – getting stuck perhaps five degrees away from that. They tried to fix it and I asked for them to report it before the aircraft flew out again but I could still sleep in that position.
When I woke after about six hours and looked at the flight time I could see we were scheduled to arrive well over an our early at around 0845 as opposed to 1010.
I worked for a while and then was offered a pot noodle as a snack, which was just what I needed. Breakfast was served which had the same three bits of fruit, and the same ratatouille, though this time with pasta, which was odd for breakfast. The coffee was good though, I had some with condensed milk, Vietnamese style. It may be because I drank a couple of those that I felt the cabin temperature was too hot.
We arrived at 0845, some 80 minutes early, but then waited over an hour for a stand, at least one engine turning over, causing pollution to Heathrow but unable to make any further progress.
We disembarked around 1000 and were quickly through immigration, but then the bags took over 45 minutes to arrive. I finally left the airport around 1115, some two and a half hours after landing.
A comfortable flight with a top class seat, great service and a modern aircraft. The food could be better, and so could the choice of inflight entertainment, but otherwise, very much recommended.
Flight duration 11 hours and 25 minutes
Seat length 79 inches
Seat width 21 inches