Hey all! Welcome to the second part of my India Summer 2015 trip series.
Here are the flight details: Jet Airways 9W255 on July 12th 2015 Colombo to Mumbai (VT-JBF Boeing 737-800) Vistara UK944 on July 12th 2015 Mumbai to New Delhi (Airbus A320-200) (this report!) Air India AI20 on July 13th 2015 New Delhi to Kolkata (Boeing 787-8 Dream)liner) Jet Airways 9W626 July 17th 2015 Kolkata to Mumbai (Boeing 737-900ER) SpiceJet SG421 July 21st 2015 Mumbai to Hyderabad (Boeing 737-800) Air India AI966 July 21st 2015 Hyderabad to Mumbai (Boeing 747-400) Jet Airways 9W252 July 21st 2015 Mumbai to Colombo (Boeing 737-800)
As always, here is the video trip report for the flight:
Touted as the next best thing in aviation, rather THE best thing to happen in Indian aviation in a while, all eyes were on the joint venture between two formidable companies in the world: TATA and Singapore Airlines. I therefore waited for an opportunity to try this airline. I selected Jet to fly between Mumbai and Colombo, Sri Lanka. There weren't many Vistara flights back then, the 1420 hours departure was my next best bet.
Prices of the ticket fell by a good $25 (pretty significant margin in India!), in February 2015, and that's when I decided to book the ticket. The booking process was pretty straightforward, no hiccups. So that was good. Also, Vistara automatically assigned me seat 12A, as per my preference on Club Vistara. There was a slightly tacky share option at the end:
While the website was pretty OK, here's where it got a bit annoying: I wanted to change my seat preference from 12A to one row behind, 14A. While this was done without a hiccup, it automatically reserved a Vegetarian Hindu Meal for me. No thanks, I'm good with the standard meal. But no. This wouldn't change back to a standard meal, on the site. Grrr. I received my eticket soon in the mailbox. And of course, every change I made through the Manage My Booking section resulted a mail being fired at me. A la Singapore Airlines!
Web check in was pretty easy, I did this 48 hours prior to departure. Sadly, Vistara only allows 15kgs in free checked luggage, much lower than Air India's 25kg. Luckily, my two bags were just under the limit (as I found out in Colombo while checking in for the Jet Airways flight).
I got dropped off at the impressive T2 (Vistara were the only domestic airline to operate out of the new Terminal 2 at that time). I entered the terminal where a roving agent asked me if I was flying Vistara, and what class, he directed me to an empty counter. It was 1312 hours. A middle aged couple were arguing about paying for different fare classes, and so should be sitting together….wow the stuff that happens at home! My check in was done relatively quickly, bags weighed in at 14.8kgs! There weren't any newspapers at the check in counter, something that was reported by many others who flew on Vistara prior to me.
Anyway, there was a random board that also directed Vistara passengers downstairs, where a security person would check the boarding pass. I headed down the escalator, to be welcomed by some lovely plants and waterfalls! Security was quick.
FIDS showed Vistara flights and Air India international connector flights. Some cafes and a were open, the rest? Under construction. UK944 would be departing from gate 87A. I headed through some areas which looked rather shady to be honest, this domestic part of T2 was rather strange.
When I finally saw the tarmac, I was surprised to see two Vistara planes parked together at different aerobridges! VT-TTC had the stuff going on around it, meaning that VT-TTC would be taking me to Delhi. The other plane (VT-TTF) was….sunbathing. She’d head to Bengaluru later. Looking at the flight departures from domestic T2, and the number of people around, it was fairly obvious that this would be a full flight, which is strange considering it was a Sunday afternoon.
I looked at the activity: VT-JGT had arrived from Singapore, preparing for its next assignment to Dubai, while VT-JBR pulled in from its new home, Abu Dhabi. An Air India 777-300ER also pulled in, which I believe was from RUH. A UPS Boeing 747-400F was pushed back, when boarding was called…..
Boarding was called at 1340 hours, five minutes after scheduled boarding time. The sea of humanity that existed within T2 domestic all came together at gate 87A to board VT-TTC that would operate UK944 to New Delhi. A full-ish flight was confirmed, but how full was the question. I waited for everyone else to board, before the gate agents called out all of the remaining passengers to board the aircraft. My boarding pass stub turn off, I was wished a pleasant flight, addressing me by my name, which was truly awesome.
I inched closer and closer to TTC, being one of the last passengers to board the plane. Not the warmest of welcomes from the all female cabin crew, but I’ll give that to them because business class was quite full and they had their work cut out. Likewise, premium economy was rather full, with just four or five seats empty.
I see economy, and there’s only three seats empty, one being my 14A. I take my seat, and buckle up. The seat was quite nicely padded and soft (relative to JBF that morning at least). Legroom felt tight. The whole plastic thing on the seat back looked way too tacky, especially considering the fact that this is supposed to be India’s most premium airline ever. Anyway, I look at the seat pocket and there is an old crumpled up tissue paper from a few flights ago. So much for cleanliness then…..
Flight attendants took quite a few packs and bottles of soft drinks, juices and other stuff, and heading straight for the premium cabins…not for us humble Y folk. We at least got a bottle of water, which was served to everyone (that didn’t happen on my Jet or Air India flights, unless on request). I was feeling really tired, I drifted in and out of sleep.
1356 hours, twenty-four minutes before departure, the captain came online to ask all ground personnel to deplane, which was soon followed by all the welcome announcements, a flying time of 1hr45min was announced. Pushback was at 1403 hours, a whole seventeen minutes before departure. Vistara wins for being on time. The pushback sequence is quite unique with Mumbai T2, especially the Vistara departure gates. So the plane is pushed back, turned straight towards the buildings behind, before being pulled in front till the engines were started. Unfortunately, the idiot me sat a bit too much in front so the flight attendant doing the safety briefing could see my camera. No start up video for this flight then :(
Tiny plane relative to the mighty 777s!
TTC taxied towards the active Runway 27, where we had to queue up for departure. All the gained time on ground was to be negated with this hold up. I saw VT-EVB baking in the sun, while another Air India Boeing 787-8 was parked. As we turned to hold short, I saw the Jahri Mahri slums - the sea of humanity waiting for us to depart was amazing! Was it simply because they were there to see just another plane to take off? Or because the wow factor of Vistara still remained with the people? Either way, it was amazing to see the interest that existed with the people around! We had to wait for an IndiGo A320 to take off before we finally took off with a roar, as is always is with the IAE V2500 engines.
We soon headed northwest for a bit, before finally setting course for New Delhi. Seatbelt signs were turned off, curtains drawn for the respective cabins, I started to get more sleepy!
One trolley was rolled up right to the front….and went past the curtains for the Premium Economy folk. Another trolley was pulled up to row 16 or so, which then went back and forth to serve the passengers. Two crew members were serving us, one had a genuine smile, the other was basically just there going about her business. 1451 hours, I got my meal tray…er..box. This came with the crew welcoming us onboard Vistara, and introducing us to the content of the boxes. I get it, this does take it a step further in terms of being personalized and all, but it isn’t exactly being personalized if it is not said with any enthusiasm. And that’s exactly what happened. Anyway, I asked for a box with chicken in it, while the person beside me said non veg, and the person beside him asked for vegetarian. She handed me a vegetarian box, to which I said again, I asked for the chicken. She apologized profusely and handed me a non vegetarian box. This happens. Seemed like a pretty OK crew - nothing as extravagant has promised, though…
I opened the upper half of the box first. There was a strawberry cheesecake like dessert, a cold bun, rock hard (but deformed) butter, and a bowl of curd. The mains consisted of a chicken in white sauce thing, there were only three or four pieces, they tasted reasonable. The gravy was pretty nice, and went pretty well with what apparently was saffron rice. The rice was bland. The dessert though, was absolutely amazing. I found the mango pickle to be specially packed for Vistara, which was interesting. All in all, a pretty average (box) meal, dessert standing out.
We hit a patch of turbulence which was expected because of the monsoon showers that hit Delhi a few days ago. Tea and coffee service followed, I went for tea, which was pretty good…I mean, one can’t really go wrong there! The pilots did an amazing job to bank the plane away from the possible showers and further bumps. Trays..I mean..boxes were collected and thrown into the trash. Water bottles were given out.
We went through some pretty big clouds when the Captain announced descent into New Delhi, where he said there would be some bumps into arrival. The skies looked beautiful with the clouds and all scattered around. The cabin was secured for landing, just when I saw a SpiceJet Boeing 737 not too far away from us, speeding away in the distance, but heading for Delhi only most likely. We cut through the many clouds as we got closer and closer to Delhi, and Earth.
A smooth landing was made on to Runway 29 at 1602 hours, that was followed by a quick taxi to the Terminal 3 gate. I was warmly welcomed by the sight of two Jet Airways Boeing 737-800s. Doors disarmed, passengers started disembarking, and this is where my very mediocre experience with Vistara got worse. I waited for all passengers to get off first, being the last one to get off. I asked one flight attendant if it was okay to click a photograph of the cabin. She said it was okay. Just then, the attendant who was otherwise smiling all the time, frowned upon it and asked me NOT to take any photographs and videos. I was left bewildered and shocked. And most importantly, disappointed. A complete breakdown of communication between the crew members, and worse, the latter wasn’t aware of the fact that photography was absolutely fine in Delhi. I read their safety card, thankfully I took a video of the same ([url=https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=lFec9fxD76c&feature=youtu.be]Vistara A320 safety card[/url]), where it clearly states that the Government of India bans photography in some airports (in Vistara’s network: Goa and Bagdogra). This left me quite sad, and what’s worse I wasn’t even addressed at the door by anyone. Instead, I was welcomed with about forty people who were going to clean the aircraft, completely blocking my way. I’ve never faced such an incident (or incidents) before, so I guess, I did fly the new feeling after all!
I made my way to the baggage claim, which took a while even to start being handed back. I headed outside and reunited with my big brother after a long long time! After the shambles of Vistara, it was time to head for Vivanta…the Taj Vivanta Dwarka. Finding the taxi was not so easy, especially considering the loud crowd outside, cars honking, swears shouted at, etc. I was well and truly in India. The drive to the hotel was quite long, and through some mad traffic! I knew instantly that I’ll never be able to drive around in India! Finally on reaching the Taj Vivanta, there was instant sense of warmth and caring, stuff that I was looking forward to onboard Vistara. Anyway, I got a room facing the runway 11 and parts of Terminal 2. The first plane I saw was…. a wonderful SriLankan Airlines Airbus A320! This felt amazing…home away from home?!
VT-EDE Airbus A320-200 from Kabul Afghanistan as AI244
VT-ESC double bogey A320 to Indore as AI636
VT-JFM Bowing 737-800 to Mumbai as 9W362
VT-ESB double bogey A320-200 to Bhubaneswar as AI473
VT-TTD Airbus A320-200 to Pune as UK991
VT-JGC coming in from Mumbai, most likely
VT-SCP Airbus A319 operating AI624 to Mumbai
VT-AII operating flight 9I9604 from Allahabad
VT-PPO from Mumbai as AI660
VT-JLF Boeing 737-800 operating flight S24392 to Ahmedabad
VT-ATF Airbus A320-200 operating flight I52327 to Goa
And the last one, VT-JBX operating 9W548 to Dubai…
Following this, a relaxing night in the hotel happened. A new day dawned as I had to board another flight - this time, an Air India Dream)liner to Kolkata!
Do stay tuned, folks!
Mumbai - BOM
New Delhi - DEL
Absolutely disappointed with Vistara, to be honest. They came in branding themselves as the next big thing in Indian aviation (standards that were set by Kingfisher Airlines till their grounding in 2012). I was a bit downbeat when I found out there would be no IFE, and a very low baggage allowance, amongst other things. I had low expectations for the flight. Top class ground crew at Mumbai, with their personalized greeting and all. However, I knew I was in for a disappointment when I boarded, when there was no crew member greeting the passengers. This only got worse after landing in Delhi. The food too was nothing spectacular, only the tea and dessert being the saving grace.
The Vistara part of Mumbai's T2 is really strange, especially since everything is under construction there and nothing was open. A very loud construction-sounds atmosphere was present, I wasn't expecting that. Delhi was pretty faultless.
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