Background: November and December are peak season months for travel to Goa with a lot of tourists flocking to the popular beaches of Goa. The airfares were bound to be on the higher side. Vistara, being a recently launched full service airline (a joint venture between Tata and Singapore Airlines), was my preferred choice. As an aviation fan, I had been longing to fly them.Interestingly, the difference between their round-trip airfares for Premium Economy and Economy was not a lot. Vistara is also the first airline to offer Premium Economy in India. This prompted me to book Premium Economy with them. The fact that all Vistara flights depart from the new Terminal 2 of the International Airport excited me further.
Check-in,Terminal and Boarding:
At present, only Vistara and Air India operate domestic flights from this new swanky Terminal. Jet Airways is expected to shift their domestic operations to Terminal 2 early next year.
Vistara offers the facility of Auto Check-in (if web check in has not been done) where they automatically check you in, allotting the seats chosen during the time of reservation. Before I left my house, I received my boarding pass by email. So, I was only required to drop the bags and collect my boarding pass. Vistara offers dedicated check-in counters for Premium Economy passengers. The lady at the check-in counter was kind to ask me if I wanted an exit row seat with more leg room. The efficient staff at check-in counters ensured the process was smooth and quick. A priority tag was attached to my checked in bag.
Vistara Check-in counters
The security was extremely quick and in no time,I was at the airside. There was ample seating with many restaurants. I picked up a spot at the window offering views of the runway.
BA 777 being readied for its fight back to LHR
Air India Boeing 787- They even fly this aircraft on some domestic routes
SQ Boeing 772 taxiing to the runway
The terminal 2 is a well made one!
I think this is the part of T2 due to open up soon!
While walking to the gates, one can view magnificent artefacts along the walk
My ride to the Goa would be the second one hiding behind
The waiting area at the gates
Boarding was announced in sequence with priority to Business class passengers followed by Premium Economy. For Economy class, boarding was announced row-wise. As I presented the boarding pass, the staff at the counter informed me that I had been UPGRADED TO BUSINESS CLASS. I was overjoyed to hear that. Wishing every passenger a pleasant flight, the staff at the gate directed us to the flight.
The Vistara Experience: Two smiling female flight attendants greeted me warmly and directed me to my seat. Vistara Business class offers a generous 42 seat pitch with a 7 recline and a small personal storage space at the side of the seat. The cabin configuration for Business was 2x2. Each sit had a cozy pillow. Blankets were available on request. Vistara seats are not fitted with IFE screens. However, for business class, they offer 10.5 tablets with pre-loaded content which was not offered during the flight- Probably because the flying time was only about 50 minutes. However, Vistara had announced plans to offer wireless streaming of IFE content to personal electronic devices or Tablets. An extremely innovative idea- first airline in India to embrace such a technology. However, the same wasn't yet implemented. When I booked a few months back, their website said the same would be available from third quarter of 2015 which probably got delayed.
Business class seats offered an adjustable head rest, coat hook, extendable leg rest and a foot rest too
Missing IFE Screen but generous leg room
The crew started the service off by offering oshiboris while cautioning the passengers as they were piping hot. This reminisced me of the trademark SQ service. Newspapers and a few publications were offered along with the inflight magazine. A choice of coconut water and Buttermilk was offered as welcome drinks. I chose the coconut water. It was indeed refreshing.
My choice of welcome drink - coconut water
Menus were then distributed. A wide choice of tea was offered along with varied beverages. Two choices of vegetarian and one choice for non-vegetarian were on offer for the meals. Meals on offer for a short flight of about 50 minutes flight time
Little later, the crew came around to take orders. Addressing me by my name which is nowadays customary in Business Class, the air hostess explained me choices on offer and recommended me to try the Mixed Kebabs Platter as a vegetarian. I opted for that along with a Mixed Fruit Juice. Our flight was in command of a lady captain who welcomed us aboard giving details of the conditions and requesting us to pay attention to the safety demonstration. She came on again as were taxiing to inform us that we were first in line for take off with an arrival in between.
Glimpses of the airport terminal and some spotting during taxi:
Air India 777
The new terminal building which was relatively empty at that time of the day
In no time, we took off from the primary runway 09-27 and were on your way. After take off, banking towards the south offers some stunning glimpses of the famous Queen's Necklace, Girgaum Chowpatty beach, Wankhede cricket stadium and the areas of South Mumbai (aka Downtown)
Bandra- Worli Sea Link in the background
A short flight means the meal service would commence soon. The very friendly air hostesses removed the tray tables stowed in the side and set it up for the meal service with a fine linen cloth. The drinks were first served followed by the meals.
My choice of Mixed Fruit Juice
Mixed Kebabs Platter with Chickpea Salad and Chocolate Mousse
The meal was served on bone china tableware and was quite delicious. I am not a big fan of salad so did not have it much but the mousse was absolutely lip-smacking and was as fresh as ever. The air hostess even insisted the passenger seated ahead of me who refused to take a meal to try the mousse since it was indeed delicious. On noticing that there was no tea or coffee on my table, the air hostess was prompt to ask if I needed some tea or coffee. Only 15 minutes since the drinks were served, the Captain came on the PA. She updated us about the altitude, route and the speed. Announcing they would be commencing descent, she instructed the cabin crew to prepare the cabin for arrival. The crew did not rush with the collection of the plates. They patiently let everyone complete their meals. After collection of the plates, they appeared again offering us Schmitten Chocolate Bars.
Another hot oshibori service followed. Since Goa is an old defence base airport, photography there is prohibited. A specific announcement with respect to this was made inflight. Hence, my apologies for clicking no photos there. After a smooth landing, we taxied slowly to the gates and were parked next to another Vistara aircraft headed for Delhi. We arrived before the scheduled arrival time. The crew greeted passengers with a warm good bye and through the aerobridge, we made our way to what was a small terminal building.
Within 15-20 minutes, the baggage was on the carousel with Baggage of Business class and Premium economy class passengers arriving first. The staff at the exit gate cross checked the tag on the bags with that on the boarding pass. There was a long queue at the prepaid taxi counters. There I was in Goa!!
Conclusion: I am of the strong opinion that the entry of Vistara will foster healthy competition amongst the few full service airlines in India Viz. Jet Airways, Air India. The travelers are sure to benefit from the reduced tariffs, more fare deals, better service. Vistara's product for a short flight was mighty impressive. The service by the crew was reflective of the high standards of service on SQ flights. The strategy of upgrading passengers to a higher class of cabin is also a very smart one. I am looking forward to try their innovative IFE streaming on personal devices. That will give Vistara an edge over other domestic airlines in terms of IFE. I found the catering impressive too.
But, I also think that Jet Airways offers a great frequent flyer program (Jet Privilege) which allows family members to pool their miles too. Whereas Club Vistara (frequent flyer of Vistara) miles are earned based on the amount spent and not the distance travelled and the miles needed for redeeming an award flight are quite high. Thus, many domestic passengers loyal to Jet Privilege would not shift easily unless a better scheme is offered. But Club Vistara has a tie up with SQ's Krisflyer attracts the loyal SQ travelers. Overall, Vistara offers a great refreshing experience with a lively crew and new aircrafts.One thing is for sure that Jet Airways and Vistara will have to keep devising attractive marketing strategies to attract passengers or retain them. Jet Airways, as per the reviews I found online, would have to upgrade their aircrafts and keep refurbishing them to compete with this fresh product from Vistara. Meanwhile, Air India too will have to improve their service standards (though they are making efforts already) in the long run to stay in the competition. I look forward to see Vistara expanding to new routes and even go international. SQ is undoubtedly one my favourite airlines and Vistara lives up to the expectations of SQ standards of service. While SQ has a strict upgrading policy, Vistara's strategy of upgrading passengers is an excellent marketing move and this should surely continue. This was my first ever flight report- Any feedback/suggestions on how I can make them better, please let me know!
Mumbai - BOM
Goa - GOI
The business class seats were extremely comfortable and a short flight of this duration meant I did not even require the extendable leg recliner. The crew was efficient, polite, friendly and service standards were as high as found in SQ. IFE however was restricted to the few magazines offered. No tablets were provided contrary to their business class offering mentioned on their website. However, this may be due to the flight's short duration. As an aviation geek, would have loved to track the flight progress at least. However, Vistara surpassed my expectations by upgrading me to Business and the catering was impressive. A special mention to the twitter account of Vistara which would provide prompt assistance and my queries would be resolved instantaneously. The ground service staff was courteous and helpful too. I will look forward to flying them soon and it indeed encouraged me to 'Fly the new feeling' again which is their tag line!
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