India’s Vistara, the joint venture airline between the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, is no longer a new airline. But that does not mean it is the same as when it launched service in 2015. The carrier now operates 787s, with plans for regular service on long-haul, international routes such as London and Frankfurt.
That aircraft is game changer for the airline, and for aviation in India, in many ways. Beyond enabling the new routes, Vistara’s 787s are the first Indian aircraft to feature in-flight internet connectivity, with the service provided by Panasonic Avionics and local integrator Nelco.. The company is also the global launch customer for Panasonic Avionics‘ Arc moving map platform.
As for the Vistara 787 passenger experience, it is not quite the same as what the company intended when it placed the order or even when the first aircraft was delivered. But the first-hand report below from Vinamra Longani highlights some of the compelling aspects of the operation, as well as some shortcomings.
With flights to London Heathrow, the airlines initial long-haul destination, impacted by the pandemic, the airline regularly schedules the Dreamliner to operate domestic flights. This provided an opportunity to experience the Vistara Dreamliner without leaving India.
Interestingly, Vistara’s current Dreamliner aircraft does not come fitted with crew rest areas for both flight and cabin crew as the airline aims to use these aircraft for flights of duration up to 10 hours. I was told by the cabin crew that they are permitted to use their crew seats to take short breaks on long haul flights. It is not uncommon for airlines to block off passenger seats for crew rest on aircraft which do not have dedicated crew rest areas especially for flights where crew rest is a legal requirement.
The airline has configured the aircraft with 299 seats across three classes: 30 in business class, 21 in premium economy and 248 in economy.
Vistara selected the Stelia Aerospace Symphony seat which is found on the parent, Singapore Airlines regional 787-10 fleet among other airlines. Each seat features a 76″ flat bed, 18″ HD personal monitor, AC and USB power outlets.
I flew in seat 1A on both my flights on the Dreamliner. While the seat looks great, especially with the mood lighting, I felt cramped and restricted in the seat. While this is my personal opinion, the seat per se is available on many airlines and is widely acknowledged for its comfort.
Vistara has picked Recaro’s PL3530 premium economy and CL3710 economy class seats for its Dreamliner fleet.
The thread below has pictures taken on 17th Nov 2020, when I flew the Vistara Dreamliner for the very first time from Delhi to Mumbai.
Vistara Inflight Entertainment (IFE) and Connectivity
Vistara Dreamliner and A321neo fleets feature Panasonic’s X Series in-seat IFE system, as well as Panasonic’s Ku-band satellite-supported inflight connectivity service.
While a Wi-Fi network did show up on my mobile phone, I was unable to connect to it. I was later advised by the crew that passenger Wi-Fi is currently only available on international flights. It is unclear if this is a business decision or a regulatory one, as the system is also active on the A321neo fleet and the local regulations appear to permit such service.
Vistara is the launch customer for Panasonic Avionics’ brand-new state of the art, Arc 3D In-Flight Map Application. This map platform made its debut on the airlines B787-9 fleet and is now available on the Airbus 321neo fleet too.
The upgraded map is available across all three cabins i.e., business, premium economy and economy, in the overhead monitors, seatback screens, video handsets as well as on passengers’ mobile devices connected to the in-flight Wi-Fi.
The Vistara Lounge Experience at Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru
Vistara inaugurated its signature lounge at its hub, Delhi Airport Terminal 3, with much fanfare in 2016. The lounge was conveniently located on the domestic departure concourse adjacent to Boarding Gate 41.
This was the airlines only lounge in India. Alas, the airline dismantled this lounge in 2020. It now uses Plaza Premium, a third-party lounge provider, across India including its hub in Delhi Terminal 3.
The Plaza Premium Lounge in Delhi has a dedicated section for Vistara business class, top tiered frequent fliers, Priority Pass and Amex Platinum card holders.
The airline uses the GVK lounge in Mumbai Terminal 2
At Bengaluru International Airport, the airline uses the Domestic Lounge.
Vistara has had to greatly curtail its service offering in order to minimize contact between crews and passengers due to COVID19. So much so that the airline currently does not offer hot beverages in the economy and premium economy cabins. Bizarrely, these are offered in the business class cabin.
Menus, hot towels, welcome beverages, etc. are yet to make their comeback too. On both my Dreamliner flights in business, the crew came around just once to take my order and did not come back again. Not even to offer water.
I am a vegetarian by choice and the meal offered on the flight back to Delhi, a vegetarian biryani with black lentil dal, was tasty and filling.
As an AvGeek, it is a delight to be able to fly widebody aircraft on domestic legs. India currently has two full-service airlines i.e., Air India and Vistara and the later wins hands down. I am a frequent flier with Vistara and have only have pleasant experiences onboard my flights with the airline.
Let’s hope the frills associated with flying a full-service airline make a comeback sooner than later.
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