Vistara cancels Delhi – Paris – Delhi Air bubble flight, provides no assistance to passengers stuck in Paris under EU261 requirements

Vistara has been operating Air Bubble flights between Delhi and Paris as a part of the Air Bubble arrangements between the two countries since November 2021, with their Boeing 787-9 Aircraft. Vistara has, on the whole, been operating flights between India and Europe for about 18 months. While Vistara is pretty new to international operations in Europe, I would have hoped they would have built enough operational insight into international operations by now, and not pulled an erstwhile Air India service level on passengers.

Vistara postponed February 13 Delhi – Paris – Delhi flights by 24 hours

Vistara operates two flights weekly between Delhi – Paris CDG and the return leg on Sunday and Wednesday. The airline has been in a pickle concerning expanding international operations because Boeing is unable to deliver new 787 aircraft to any airline. The embargo does not come with an end date, and I believe over 100 787s are piled up at Boeing’s end for now, including at least two for Vistara. So, Vistara’s 2 787-9 aircraft have to be used by them to fly between Delhi and Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Paris CDG, and also be used for some sort of frequent charters Vistara has got going for itself to South Korea.

Last week, Vistara was supposed to operate Delhi – Paris – Delhi flights on February 13, 2022. However, they did not have the plane to operate the service, it seems. I extracted the logs for both VT-TSD and VT-TSE.

Per data from FlightRadar24, a flight-tracking website, VT-TSD was operating the Delhi – London Heathrow – Delhi flights and picked up a Delhi – Frankfurt rotation as well in the midst.  

On the other hand, VT-TSE was flying from Seoul to Delhi, while it should have been flying Delhi – Paris – Delhi. The flight on February 14 could either be contractual for Vistara (they kept the aircraft on the ground for a whole two days), or something went wrong on the aircraft or with the crew. It could be anything, but basically, Vistara’s 787-9 was sitting in Seoul for a couple of days.

Vistara did not comply with EU261 requirements caused due to this delay

When the Delhi – Paris CDG flight did not operate on February 13, neither did the Paris CDG – Delhi return. And this was put out as a delay by the airline, except the delay was a full 24 hours. Here is the update on the Vistara website. The flight was operated on   February 14, 2022, by VT-TSE.

Customers were not informed about this delay well in advance, or not informed at all in many cases. Many folks heard from Vistara at about 2 PM IST for a 2:15 AM IST departure out of Paris, just twelve hours before departure, while Vistara knew that they did not have a plane to operate this flight (since it was on its way from Seoul).

Unfortunately, things happen. Planes go tech, people fall sick, and all sorts of reasons happen when flights get delayed. It is how you treat your passengers during the delay which makes the experience delightful or not for the customer eventually.

For example, in 2019, Shipra and I misconnected at Abu Dhabi on my BOM-AUH-CDG trip because the BOM-AUH leg was delayed. Not only did Etihad rebook us on the next to next flight, but provided us with a hotel room and meals for one night. Though it took a bit of back and forth, they eventually understood that we could not make it to our eventual destination if they flew us on the next flight to Paris, and only a morning departure worked for us. From there, they owned the problem and solved it for us. Shipra and me, we were out of pocket a few AED for our visa on arrival in UAE, but everything else worked out fine.

In this case, the airline did not react the way it should have. Vistara does not have its own ground staff in Paris, so it uses the services of a local ground handler to run operations such as check-in, baggage handling and assistance at Charles De Galles airport for them. However, there is, or at least there should be someone who would have been sent from India to oversee operations on a day to day basis in Paris.

Given this was no small delay, it was going to be covered under EU/261 regulations. EU 261 regulations, since 2004, protect passengers flying to or from the European Union against severe flight disruption. The legislation confirms that long delays, cancellations, missed connections and flight re-bookings cause great inconvenience to the passenger, and as such affected passengers should be compensated.

The European Union demands that passengers be informed about their rights. In line with that, those who turned up at the airport on February 13, 2022, were handed out a letter from Vistara outlining their rights under EU 261 regulations.

Based on the 2004 EU261 ruling, the flight must either take off or land in the European Union, in the latter case the airline must also have its headquarters in the EU. Claims are valid up to 6 years retrospectively. One is entitled to compensation in the following cases:

  • Delays: The flight must have arrived at its destination 3 or more than 3 hours late
  • Cancellations: If you have been informed of the cancellation less than 14 days before departure
  • Overbooking: The airline overbooked your flight and you will not find a seat onboard, which is equivalent to denied boarding.
  • Missed connecting flight: If the final destination is reached 3 or more than 3 hours later due to a missed connecting flight This also applies if the connecting flight was operated by another airline as long as your ticket is valid for both legs of the flight.

Remember, EU/261 regulations do not differentiate based on the fare paid, but offer compensation based on the distance you are booked to fly. In this case, Vistara is on the hook for 600 Euros (INR 51,000) per passenger on the flight between Paris CDG – Delhi.

Not just that, Vistara was also supposed to take care of these passengers. Under Article 9 of the EU261 ruling, the EU establishes a Right to Care by the airline. The Right to Care includes:

(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;

(b) hotel accommodation in cases
– where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or
– where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;

(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).

Vistara’s website recognises these duties towards passengers. Read the highlighted part.

Unfortunately, Vistara did not fully appreciate or apply the EU261 requirements on this delay out of Paris. Vistara, till the last moment, continued to advise many passengers that their flights were operating. I have screengrabs from passengers who were sent auto-triggered text messages by Vistara to make them believe their flights were operating as per schedule.

Even if Vistara delayed the flight, it was Vistara’s responsibility to provide hotel accommodation, transport to/fro said hotel and meals during the delay to all the passengers who had a delay on the flight. Alternatively, Vistara could have just rebooked them on Air France and decided to not operate the flight.

Vistara’s representatives in Paris did nothing. They did not provide hotel accommodation, nor did they provide anything under the EU Right to Care to the passengers affected. They just handed them the letter and asked them to talk to Vistara’s customer care in Delhi if they had any other concerns. Except, at Delhi, no one was talking to them, because the customer contact centre is perpetually under a meltdown.

On reaching out to Vistara, a Vistara spokesperson confirmed to us that,

This flight was rescheduled due to operational reasons. All the customers were notified of the change except for a few whose contact details were not updated in their bookings. Customers were also assisted for RTPCR exemption with support from the Airport Health Office.

Passengers who were affected by Vistara’s Delay should send Vistara their hotel bill, cab bills as well as meal bills for 13/02 and 14/02 to the airline when they lodge their claims with the airline.

Bottomline

Vistara operated its February 13 flight from Delhi to Paris and return with a 24-hour delay, because of operational reasons (non-availability of aircraft). However, they dropped the ball in terms of EU261 requirements and did not offer the standard of care that passengers are entitled to in case of a delay. It could have been handled much better, in my book, by Vistara. And they need to take this case to the training room to ensure they don’t repeat such instances, again.And refund customers

Have you been affected on an international flight operated by Vistara? What was their redressal to your greviance?


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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Comments

  1. Somethings not right with Vistara. I get the feeling that the Tata’s want to dilute the brand in favour of their long lost child that has returned home.

    They are in a quandary. Do you put money into Vistara, Air I did or Both?

    And how do you handle 2 Full Service Airlines?

  2. I am getting impression that Tata wants to be kicked out by Singapore Airline from Vistara. Off late I have seen customer relations are not as cordial with passengers as they used to be. People must think twice before booking on Vistara.

    • 100% agree. The cust relations phone team is completely novice. Earlier if a call would drop they would call back. Now they say not possible.

      Recently it took me 3 calls and 60 minutes of hold time to add an infant to my PNR.

      The services have definitely dropped. Something is amiss.

  3. I am getting impression that Tata wants to be kicked out by Singapore Airline from Vistara. Off late I have seen customer relations are not as cordial with passengers as they used to be. People must think twice before booking on Vistara.

  4. It’s ironical that the CEO of vistara sends an email to all customers about the below par performance and that they need to be given another chance! Probably the CEO missed sending the copy of the message to the staff asking them to pull their socks up! How can anybody trust this airline (even though TATA name is part of it) going forward? I am sure TATAs focus will be to improve Air India image and performance and vistara will continue to be pathetic. I will fly Air India but not Vistara at all.

  5. Thanks to such pathetic services and torture by Vistara, the passenger cabins of Middle Eastern airlines will go full. Travellers will avoid vistara like a plague. Too many people in vistara are just drawing salaries without even trying to fulfill their work responsibilities it seems. Nobody would believe Singapore airlines has a stake in this run of the mill operator.

  6. Thanks for the article.
    This makes me question whether I should book this route with Vistara for end March 22 or not.
    Any recommendations for Del – Paris flights?

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