One of the big discussions that has been ongoing for the full-service airlines in India, has been the quality and standards of meal services that have been offered. Vistara had been serving snack boxes, which they replaced with hot (vegetarian) meals in Economy back in the day in November 2021. However, hot beverage service did not return, allegedly because it is not allowed under the current rules prescribed by the Government of India.
Air India, on the other hand, has been quietly upping their game on in-flight services. In my 100-day plan for Vistara, I mentioned how full-service patrons had been wetting their beak elsewhere, and coming back impressed with Air India.
I last flew Air India in October 2021, and at the point, there was no meal service allowed for under two hour flights, so I did not see any hospitality service from their side. However, while I was researching for another story, it seems, another important truth might have tumbled out in the process, one I wasn’t aware of. Air India has restarted their tea and coffee service, again. My DMs seem to be full of this insight since last evening.
For instance, here is a reader who flew DEL-MAA in January 2022.
Here is another who flew between Mumbai and Dehradun in Mid December 2021.
And another who flew Air India between Lucknow and Bengaluru in January 2022.
Now, this was music to my ears, and I am certainly looking forward to tracking the progress of Air India after they are turned over to the Tata Group. This also means that there is only one airline which is currently hiding behind the DGCA guidelines on Covid-19, Vistara. I am wondering when will Air India return the favour of taking a dig on Vistara’s meals. In 2017, Vistara had famously taken a jab at Air India, when Air India went all-vegetarian on their Economy class meal service to save money.
Coffee and Tea service is important for many reasons. Yes, no one is going to die without coffee and tea on a plane, but a full set of service protocols, even on international legacy carriers who don’t provide free meals anymore, still provide a coffee or tea with sandwiches or biscuits (I am talking European Carriers, not American).
For airlines, it is important to baseline their service protocols compared to whatever else is there in the marketplace as well at the same time. In this case, Vistara is clearly not doing that, or just biding time to see what happens when Air India comes into the Tata fold.
Air India seems to be upping its game and restoring the full-service standards of the past pretty quickly, even before the Tata handover. Hot beverage service has returned. On the other hand, Vistara seems to be not worried about it at all for the time being.
Have you flown Air India recently? What has been your experience with their meal services (please describe with sector, time of day and what was served!)
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