TRAVEL | Jetstar Australia recently launched their direct Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (“Dreamliner”) service from Melbourne (and Sydney) to Ho Chi Minh City. To celebrate, I was invited to fly Business Class on the inaugural 8.5 hour service to see what the flight was like, and to experience a few days in Ho Chi Minh City. First off the gate, I have to say that this service makes a couple day break in Vietnam something that’s doable. Prices do vary quite a bit, but if you plan your days right, you can get a return economy ticket for as little as AUD$600 – and that’s full price. A full price business ticket on the same flight will set you back around $1,800. Wait until there’s a 2 for 1 or half price ticket deal, and you start to see where I’m coming from.
I’ve flown Jetstar domestically a fair bit, and a little bit within Japan, and have generally found them to be a quite acceptable airline, offering a good product for the price. Having flown many budget airlines around the world over the years, I think that Jetstar fairs quite well overall. Remember, it’s not a full service, or full price airline. Accordingly, the Jetstar Business cabin on the Dreamliner shouldn’t be compared to the business class cabins you’ll find on a full service airline like Cathay Pacific, Emirates, or Qantas. In fact, if you’ve flown premium economy on a full service airline, you’ve already got a good idea of what Jetstar’s Business cabin is like. For the full lowdown, read ahead.
Check in is fast and efficient. You get to use the dedicated Business check in counter, and get an Express Path card for a speedy route through customs and security. Jetstar doesn’t have a Business Lounge, but this isn’t an issue if you’ve purchased a $200 Max bundle, as you get access to the Qantas Business lounge. When it comes time to board, a dedicated Business line means you won’t be waiting long to get to your seat on the plane, champagne in hand. Also note that the Max bundle will allow you to earn some valuable status credits and points.
Checked luggage is included with all Business tickets. You can check-in one bag up to 30kg, and two carry-on bags up to 7kg each.
I usually write about the on-board service when talking about a flight, however since this was the inaugural flight on this route, and it was a special occasion with lots of media on board, the staff were, as you could imagine, excellent. I’m unable to make an independent determination on this aspect of the flight, so will leave it.
The Jetstar Business cabin on the Dreamliner that flies from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City (and back) is set up in a 2-3-2 formation which is much more spacious than the back of the plane. The relatively small number of seat means that there’s no trouble getting the attention of a flight attendant. Colour wise it’s light grey, black and orange, keeping in line with Jetstar’s branding. When it comes to cleanliness, everything is as expected – nice and clean. There is only one toilet, but isn’t really an issue given that there will only ever be a maximum of 21 people in the Business cabin.
One obvious advantages of the Dreamliner is that the lighting inside the plane is much more natural than on older planes. LED lights, along with larger windows that automatically adjust the level of light coming through based on the outside lighting, mean that you get the feeling that there’s a lot more natural light on the plane than you’re used to. One disadvantage of the windows however, is that there’s no manual shutter, and at night they don’t black out completely. You can put on the provided eye mask when sleeping, but if you’re a light sleeper like me, the moonlight can be noticeable if you’re sat on the side of the plane that has the moonlight shining through.
Normally the main advantage of flying Business is the seat, but on a medium haul flight such as this, where the seat is essentially a full service Premium Economy seat, with dimensions of about 92.5cm x 48cm, the advantages are more about all of the other perks that you don’t normally get when flying with a low cost airline. You can’t recline your seat all the way to get a flat lie down bed, it reclines enough that you can have a nice snooze, if not a full-on sleep.
The leather bound seats are comfy, and feature a good sized armrests and a little side tray. There’s a sleeve at the back of the seat in front to place your magazines and electronics, and enough space to get some work done on your laptop if the person in front of you hasn’t fully reclined.
There’s a 27cm touch screen on the back of each seat with offers a wide variety of on-demand movies, television shows and audio programs all of which rotate regularly to ensure that the content remains fresh and current. There are also a number of games offered, meaning there’s more than enough to keep you occupied during the flight. The provided headphones are decent too – over the ear, and noise cancelling.
Meals are included with all Business tickets, and in what was a genuine surprise for me, the food was actually pretty decent. Flying to Ho Chi Minh City, I enjoyed a tasty chicken larb lightly infused with chilli and lime set on a lettuce leaf cup, garnished with carrot and cucumber julienne. Both mains did the trick nicely too, making use of the modern science of the advantages of salt and umami at high altitude. A Japanese seven spice crusted salmon filled with olive oil enriched crushed potatoes and a tomato grapefruit salad was intense and flavoursome, while my return main was equally tasty – pan fried spinach and ricotta gnocchi with kalamata olives, wilted baby spinach leaves, roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
The only savoury dish that didn’t hit the mark was the supper, a bean quesadilla. The tortilla was somewhat stale, but the lightly spiced bean and cheese and coriander sour cream were nice.
Of the desserts, the mini raspberry macaron had a good texture and flavour too it, while the chocolate and raspberry brownie was a real winner with a rich chocolate and raspberry flavours combining nicely. The mini lime and curd tart didn’t really hit the mark – there wasn’t a real citrus zing and the sugar overpowered the tartness.
The provided comfort pack gives passengers an inflatable neck support pillow, toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, socks, eye mask, and an Ecothread blanket. All of the essentials you need for a comfortable flight.
When considering Jetstar Business class on the Dreamliner from Melbourne or Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City, it’s important to know what you’re going to get. Jetstar is a low cost airline, and the offering reflects this. You’re not getting a full service Business cabin here, but rather a full service Premium Economy cabin, with all of the other advantages at check in and at the airport that you’d expect from a Business Class ticket. Judged by that context, the Jetstar offering does a good job of achieving everything it sets out to.