For many months, Vistara, a full-service carrier, has been operating with a next to negligible meal service on its domestic flights, mainly because of government regulations. However, the meals they served in the economy cabin were disliked by many of their customers, unfortunately.
Vistara has resumed hot-meals on flights over two hours
Vistara has effective October 21, 2021, which is today, brought back the meal service on their domestic segments, where they are now serving a hot meal on flights over two hours in length. However, the meals served will only be vegetarian (more on the why later).
This is what I received from Vistara this morning,
The inflight menu will be refreshed every three days and include several scrumptious options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that are customer favourites. For instance, in Economy Class, breakfast options include Masala Uttappam, Medu Vada, Idli with sambar etc.; lunch and dinner options include Vegetable Biryani with Dal Makhani, Jeera Pulao with Chana Masala, and more; Masala Pao with Bhaji, Hot Garlic Vegetables with Noodles, etc. will be served as snacks on relevant flights. The new menu has been carefully curated to offer meals that do not compromise on taste and experience despite fluctuations between ground and cabin temperatures.
I got on a call with Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Executive Officer – designate, Vinod Kannan, to understand the thinking behind the changes.
As per my conversation with him, he explained that Vistara has been polling customers for a long while via their frequent surveys, and customers have been coming up down the middle on both sides of the aisle, with many asking for a full-meal service to resume, and many not in favour of the meal service coming back. So, he says, Vistara decided to offer something where people could consume it on board and choose to take it home, depending on their personal preference. This was the genesis of the snack box that we have seen over the past many months. It was a sort of the middle path for them.
Per Vinod, with their full-service business model, it turned on its head for them, with everyone expecting full-service, while with a no-frills carrier, only 20-30% of people would actually expect to get served something on board if they choose to buy a meal or anything from the cart.
The cue to move to a full offering again, comes from the government, he said, where the Government is now okay for airlines to operate as many flights as they’d like (with the scrapping of the capacity controls), and which is where they figured that they could get back to also serving a full meal to their customers. So, they initiated the process of bringing back hot meals earlier in October 2021 with their caterers.
Given the SOPs prescribed by the GoI, the airline still wants to stick to the letter and spirit to the extent possible, and hence they want to avoid interaction between the crew and passengers. So for now, only one meal choice will be served, which will be vegetarian. In terms of tea and coffee service, that will not be resumed in Economy class for now, due to the volumes, and hence, the inability of the airline to pour this in the galley and serve to all customers.
The feedback on the new meal choices is a mixed bag.
@LiveFromALounge Today Vistara on UK654 IXC-BOM served flavoured rice with dal. No tea/coffee. 3 weeks back on BOM-IXC, there were sandwiches.
— Rohit (@rohittalekar) October 21, 2021
— Kushan Mitra (@kushanmitra) October 23, 2021
— karan tewari (@karanrooney) October 23, 2021
Business Class and Premium Economy will not see changes for now.
For premium economy and business class, the airline will continue with the dual choices (one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian option) while they see how the feedback to the economy cabin is coming about. They promised that they are working on more options, but for now, called it a work-in-progress and stated that with the limitation of a one-tray service, this is a good middle of the road for now.
International catering continues to be limited.
I also enquired about the spartan service in the international cabin. Vistara’s CCO again explained that they are bound by the Indian restrictions on meals, which other carriers operating into India are not. So, for instance, they are only serving beer in economy on international routes since they can serve a whole can to stick to the guidelines currently prescribed by the GoI (but another airline can serve more if it checks the boxes with their own regulator).
Vistara has resumed hot-meal service on flights for more than two hours duration domestically, even though this will only be a vegetarian service for now. Hot beverages will not return for the time being. J and PEY will get meal options as before, with one option each on vegetarian and one non-vegetarian.
What do you think of the new approach Vistara has towards catering in economy class?
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