At the end of July 2021, Shipra and I packed up for our first time out in many months. We were headed to Goa, as I explained in this post. While I’ve experienced and written about the Vistara 787 Business Class experience and the Vistara A321neo Business Class experience, I figured it was only fitting, that I refreshed the Vistara A320neo Business Class Domestic Business Class experience as well, especially from a pandemic perspective.
Booking the Flight
As I’d explained earlier, I was preparing for this trip to be canned for one reason or another, given how the pandemic has been behaving over the past year or so, and hence, I wanted to book a fully refundable fare. Vistara had recently launched Vistara Bridge, a booking platform for companies. After looking at the fares on the direct website, those available via American Express Platinum and on Vistara Bridge, I decided to book via Bridge. The critical pull for me here was the refund terms, which were much better than the other options.
Vistara only had one flight a day between Delhi and Goa, and we booked in Premium Economy. However, casually browsing the Vistara website the same day, I saw an open upgrade space in Business Class. We used one upgrade voucher each to upgrade into business class, and I secretly hoped that with any rush of people heading into Goa, Vistara would switch this aircraft out, booked an A320Neo, to an A321Neo, which was being done a lot earlier on.
At the Delhi Airport Terminal 3
At Delhi Airport, most airline operations are consolidated at Terminal 3, with some IndiGo operations and GoAir being the only ones having transferred over to Terminal 2.
After the usual Uber troubles in Delhi with getting a ride, we pulled over at the airport, in front of gate 1.
A small queue was built up right before us, and after pushing our luggage through, we headed to the front of the entry gate where we displayed our identity document and ticket, and we were waived in. Things were quieter here, as compared to my last trip to the airport. On our way in, someone used a temperature gun to measure our temperature as well.
We headed straight to the Vistara check-in counters, where there was no queue to speak of, just one person ahead of us in the Business Class queue.
We were asked to show our RT-PCR negative report by the check-in agent, who validated the date and time and matched our names with the passenger names and put a comment with a pen on the boarding pass about our reports having been inspected.
After the bag drop, we proceeded to the security check. Luckily the Business Class and First Class (who has it domestically in India?) queue was functioning today, and it was empty.
However, as luck would have it, I had all sorts of wires in my bag, which meant I had to remove them and present the bag for a second screening again. Few minutes were lost, but we were on our way pretty quickly.
The American Express Lounge at Delhi Terminal 3, which had opened up in March 2021, was closed again due to the pandemic. Hence, we found our way back to the Plaza Premium Lounge on the Mezzanine Floor of Delhi’s T3 Domestic Pier.
After our quick trip to the lounge, we started the long walk to catch the flight. On this day, our A320neo was parked on gate 36, which I thought would be closer to the centre of the pier in my head (39A is the nearest gate once you go left from the T-point at the pier). However, it was the furthest gate, on the right side of the pier, which Air India usually uses.
While the gate was open, boarding was yet to start, and it was time to do some plane spotting in the vicinity, such as this Air India 787-8 parked at the next gate in the Star Alliance livery, very close to the gate where I made my epic last flight of Air India’s Boeing 747-400 in March 2021.
Pre-Boarding & Boarding
At the gate, I was handed out my Passenger Safety Kit. Onboard aircraft in India, you are mandated to wear a face mask and a face shield while boarding and the airline supplied it to us at the gate. Also, there was some sanitiser for use on the flight.
An agent from Vistara came around to check our RT-PCR reports a second time around and asked us to wear the face shield to board the plane, something of a rule which had been informally relaxed till so far. Airlines want you to know that you should wear your mask at all times on the flight. However, perhaps they also note that the face shield is useless, and while they supply it to be on the right side of the law, they don’t bother implementing you wearing it. It was different this time.
After the pre-boarding for passengers on wheelchairs and those with infants were completed, we were allowed to board the aircraft and were one of the first ones on the plane, roughly forty minutes before the flight.
Onboard Vistara A320neo
Delhi (DEL) – Goa (GOI)
Friday, July 30, 2021
Departure: 11:11 AM
Duration: 2 Hours 19 minutes
Arrival: 1:30 PM
Aircraft Type: Airbus A320neo
Seat: 1A (Business)
Meal Service: Snack
Vistara A320neo Business Class
Here is the Vistara A320neo Business Class, which is the top cabin on the aircraft. The Vistara A320neo Business Class is laid out in a 2-2 configuration, with a semi-private divider separating the two seats. There are just 8 Business Class seats.
The A320neo we were flying today was less than a year old, and a part of the newest order that Vistara has been running with for now. Vistara installed the Rockwell Collins MiQ Business Class seats on these aircraft, which is different from the earlier Vistara product supplied by Geven.
The plane filled up pretty quickly. However, for over 30 minutes, no one came around to offer as much as a bottle of water on the flight. When the flight had completely boarded, the crew serving business class came around, offering us a bottle of packaged drinking water.
The business class cabin was full to the extent of 7 out of the eight seats today, and the crew came back in a bit to ask us about our choice of meals. On domestic flights under two hours, serving a meal is barred, for now. Since this was a 2:30 minute block time flight, there was going to be meal service on the plane. Because of the timing of the flight (departing after breakfast and arriving at around lunchtime), Vistara serves a snack on the Delhi – Goa segment. No recognition or welcoming of Platinum members as should have been the norm.
Owing to the pandemic, no literature was placed in the seat pockets, apart from the safety instruction card, in line with the DGCA directive. No hot/cold towels were served either. A new add-on of note is the laminated card which directs people to read the Vistara in-flight magazine on their devices using a QR code. I do hope that the magazine comes back once it can.
The crew serving the cabin came back pre-departure to check and also take our meal orders. No menu cards were distributed, and the meal options are also truncated at the moment. The cabin crew explained both the options and took our order. A classical-rock playlist played on while the plane was prepared for departure.
The new Vistara Business Class seat offers in-flight power, apart from a generally better design for those who are mobility-impaired, as the armrest can be dropped to bring them on the seat from the wheelchair seamlessly.
Keeping the design simple, apart from the storage area, where you could put some small personal effects, or a book or a laptop, there were only two buttons to adjust the position of the seat, one to adjust the footrest, and the other to change the seatback.
I’d carried some disinfectant wipes with me, and as a general habit, even pre-CoVid-19, I used to scrub down my seat with a hot towel or a wipe, and I did the same thing, also for Shipra. I’d advise you to get some onboard any flight, although planes are disinfected after every flight now. Here are the ones I generally use.
As the inflight announcements took over the PA system, one of the first messages we heard from the crew was that all cabin crew were subject to temperature tests and are cleared to operate the flight medically.
We had a long taxi before being airborne. The crew quickly started to work as soon as we got on to 10,000 feet. As they went about the meal service, the crew announcement reminded everyone that the meal service was truncated to ensure minimal contact between passengers and crew. My meal was brought out almost immediately after we completed the climb and went on cruise mode. Vistara resumed in-flight meals in September 2020 on domestic flights.
I’d chosen a vegetarian snack option, which was brought out hot. To go along with it, I’d requested a Diet Coke. I asked the crew to hand me over a can itself if they had enough to go around or pour it for me if not.
Important to note, meals are now brought out in one go on a tray rather than a course-by-course service in business class to stick to the CoVid-19 protocols. Also, the packaging is not removed, in line with the DGCA permissions about serving only pre-packed meals on board. I unwrapped the meals myself.
My meal had two small cuts of Paneer Rolled into a Roti, along with some Mushroom and Capsicum, which I don’t know what I should have eaten it with. There was also some mousse. While the rolls were tasty, I left the Mushroom side because I did not know its purpose. The Mousse was too sweet for me, so I passed it along as well. Overall, a forgettable meal.
In hindsight, Shipra’s non-vegetarian meal choice looked like a better option as it had some chow and chicken to go along. I did not think either of these meals should have been in circulation on a Vistara flight in the first place, given their culinary standards are higher.
After the quick meal service, I’d requested for a coffee to be brought along, and a Starbucks coffee, brewed in a french press on board appeared in a paper cup right after. Good coffee is something I’ve appreciated about Vistara for a long time now.
The flight was flying over various pockets of turbulence, thanks to which there was a lot of time we spent with the seatbelt sign-on. It did take a while even to find the lavatory empty when the seat belt sign was off. But when it was, the crew sanitised the whole bathroom before allowing me to use it.
After the quick meal service and clear up after, I spent my time looking out of the window to some beautiful green views and mixed it up with a sitcom here or there on my phone, connected to Vistara World.
We did have a boisterous young passenger on the flight who was talking to a co-passenger in loud tones and felt it was alright to keep her bare feet on the divider. I wouldn’t want you to go through what I went through, so I won’t post the picture here. However, in good time, it was time to land in Goa.
Arriving into Goa
We landed in Goa about 15 minutes before our scheduled time, and after a very short taxi, arrived at our gate. The deboarding process was very orderly, and at Goa Airport, I could dispose of our face shields in special disposal bins for PPE. The airport was buzzing with activity, but not as busy as I’ve seen it back in the day.
On arrival, we waited for our bags, and as the bag arrived, I did my routine check on the bags. Having learnt the hard way, I always check the wheels and the body of the suitcases for any damage, and uh-oh, I found a deep gash in one of our bags.
We had to find an agent and get them to write up a Property Irregularity Report (PIR), which took the Goa station a good 20-30 minutes to do. The Goa station got back to me a few days later, determining that the bag was not repairable and hence wanted to replace the bag. Unfortunately, I was almost done with my trip to Goa by the time they got back, and I told them to take care of this in Delhi on my return. (P.S.: One month later, Vistara’s Delhi Arrival team and I are still discussing the exact amount they need to refund me for the new bag, as they initially determined that 30% of the bag’s value was good enough to compensate).
The new Vistara A320neo Business Class hard product is good, and I am looking forward to trying this product out on a more extended flight sometime soon, once full-service resumes and the world begins to open up again. Unfortunately, there were some not very memorable moments on this flight, such as the snack service and the broken bag in the end, which was stretched beyond a reasonable time and is still an outstanding issue.
Have you flown the Vistara A320neo Business Class Domestic? What was your experience?
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