Things are looking up at Vistara

Towards the end of 2021, I wrote up an article enlisting all the ways that Vistara were not performing up to its true potential. Now that the 100 days are over, I thought I’d come around and do a follow-up on my article.

To Vistara’s credit, they really made an effort to improve things, and I wanted to talk about my observations on that count. I’ve flown a total of 16 flights, all domestic this year, and out of them, 5 were with Vistara, so that is about one-third of my flights. I’ve tended to fly them more often over the past 5-6 weeks, as before that there was a lull in my flying given Omicron was still at large and I had to quarantine in January as well (nothing wrong, just got exposed!).

My observations are limited to the domestic flights of Vistara, as I still have not flown Vistara long-haul international. But, here are some things I noticed while flying the Business and Economy class with them. While it is impractical to write an article about every flight of mine, as it might just be boring for all you folks, I did start to do a mini-review thread on Twitter, where you should follow me if you don’t already.

Coming to the point, while in January 2022, things were in flux, Vistara’s incoming CEO publicly acknowledged that the airline had dropped the ball in February 2022. Kudos to him for that, to firstly acknowledge that some things had gone wrong, and second, to get his team to fix them, pronto. You can read the email sent out to all of Vistara’s customer base, in case you missed it then.

Vistara has upped its F&B on board

First and foremost, as Vistara committed, the menu cards are back in Business Class and Premium Economy. I was recently handed out one in March 2022, when I flew between Delhi and Hyderabad on Vistara’s Business Class aboard the A321neo. Also, there are four choices now, rather than the three listed on this menu, and even on my flight, the fourth choice was offered but it was unlisted. Since April I believe, menu cards carry all four choices.

Full meals and hot beverages have been back in the Economy class, including a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals, as well as on snack flights. And it mostly looks good.

For instance, here is my breakfast on a Delhi – Mumbai flight recently, which was pretty filling.

Here is a snack on my most recent Mumbai  – Delhi flight. This is a chicken calzone, and the other option was Chole Samosa. In hindsight, I’d have gone for the vegetarian one if I had to choose between two options made with maida.

This snack was followed by an Ice Cream. May has been especially hot this year, after all.

Here is another full meal from an economy class flight (Delhi – Mumbai) in early April 2022. I seem to have inadvertently hidden the chicken curry under the parantha.

And here is a Business Class Breakfast on the flight between Delhi and Hyderabad.

All in all, very filling meals, and so far, haven’t run into a repetition on board, which is a good sign.

The Soft Product is also looking up

Vistara’s soft product seems to be turning back to focus on the North Star, the customer. At least on the domestic front, the premium ground service has swelled up and risen to the occasion, in spite of the fact that customers have also gone up and crowded the airports.

Over the past few flights, I’ve consistently received quick and efficient service at the check-in counters on the ground. As a Club Vistara Platinum, which I am trying to hold on to for the year, I’ve noticed that I usually get to the front of the queue in Delhi and Mumbai in about 3 minutes, which is not bad. This, of course, means that I am at the Club Vistara Platinum/Business Class counter.

However, I’ve not put the upgrade processes to test, after my lacklustre and undelightful experience the last time, since I could not muster up the courage to be turned down once more!

At the boarding area, Vistara is back to boarding by priority, rather than boarding in a lump. They ensure you board, first as per your priority, and give pushback to those who try and break the order of boarding. Rider, I’ve seen this only in Mumbai and Delhi, and I’m not sure how the smaller stations behave.

Although, even there, gone are the days it seems where the airline would set up 5 queues for Platinum/Business, Gold/Premium Economy, Zone 1/2/3 of Economy.

Continuing with ground services, bags are now being delivered per their priority tagging. In the past few flights, I’ve never noticed once where the non-priority bags would arrive first over priority bags. That makes me a happy camper, because of late, rather than lug my roll-aboard around, I prefer checking it in. So be it Hyderabad, Mumbai or Delhi, to have them delivered in time, is a boon.

Onboard, Vistara’s cabin crew has upped it as well. Or more to say, the people who designed the service have upped their game. All through my flights in April and May, when the crew comes around for meal service, they thank people for their repeat business to Vistara and for being elites.

Some might think I’m just being too microscopic, but hey, this is a standard industry practice around the globe. It just makes sense to make the loyalists a bit more welcome than the rest, and saying a thank you or we appreciate your business, is just a soft form of recognition that hurt no one ever.

There is room for improvement

This is not to say that everything is well and good. I just don’t know if it is to be able to speak for every one of the issues I’ve commented on in the past for now. I know the kinks in Vistara’s IT has still not been solved, but there are some new things that come to my notice, that I’d rather have Vistara pay urgent attention to, because they are putting off any customer, not just me. It essentially boils down to an eye for detail.

For instance, here we are on Vistara’s first flight of the day on an Airbus A321neo, in business class. I hope you notice the dirty vents atop my seat.

I don’t know if cleaning the vents is not a part of the standard operating process or if it was missed out, but so much muck can’t be accumulated over one flight. A friend of mine also flew the same plane on the way back from Hyderabad, sat on the same seat, and got the same picture. He in fact noticed the issue on two of the aircraft of Vistara’s 4-aircraft A321neo fleet, on the same seat on the same day.

Oh, and a good scrubbing of the plane is essential just for the fact that most flyers have become hyper-aware about cleanliness. So it does not bode well when you see… whatever this is on your seat.

Another ground department which needs to pull up its socks is the maintenance team. Most of Vistara’s aircraft is practically new, but the population they fly can be rough. If they don’t do their job right, it just means that aircraft appear older than they actually are. This is a six-month-old A320neo in Economy class.

And then this is business class onboard my flight to Hyderabad, the famed A321neo. I hope you notice the scratches. These were all over the seat frame. And there is a tray table coming apart if you look at the lower picture. The eventual responsibility to behave like a good passenger lies with all of us, but the eventual responsibility to fix the mess caused by one of us is of the airline.

The same holds true for the catering team as well. The eye for detail is perhaps still missing. Here is the cup in which I was served coffee on March 23, 2022. It was not washed properly before getting back into the plane.

And on my flight on May 1, 2022, while Vistara served all passengers ice cream, there were no spoons to eat it with. We eventually had to use the dirty sporks to dig in, but many people had their sporks breaking up as they tried to dig it into the ice cream. Health hazard right there.     

Bottomline

In a nutshell, Vistara has come a long way from its state of affairs last year, and I hope they keep working on the recovery of standards. However, work needs to be done, especially back of the office, where maintenance, catering and IT can do a much better job than they have been doing so far.

What has been your recent experience with Vistara? Do share.


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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. Below is my experience in Vistara business class FRA-DEL in April.

    Check-in at FRA was smooth, the staff courteous, multilingual and efficient.

    After emigration formalities, we discovered there was no lounge facility. Luckily My wife and I were able to use an alternate airlines lounge, but several Vistara customers were bitter and complaining.
    It is an industry standard that business class passengers are offered a complimentary lounge facility at the departure airport.
    It would be understandable it there were no lounges operational due to the pandemic etc. But there were at least 4 different lounges operational at this time, why couldn’t Vistara not rent their service ?
    Moreover – what I found a bit strange is Vistara’s silence on this issue, while selling tickets. This should have been made clear to customers purchasing business class tickets on this route that there will be no such service available. Not informing customers is a breach of trust and very unbecoming of their reputation.

    In flight :

    A flight departing at 9PM has passengers coming from all over after a fully occupied day.
    The least that they could offer to upper class passengers was a hot or a cold towel to refresh upon being seated. But nothing.

    Food service – Business class customers expect a little class, especially from Vistara. No table cloths while serving food – eating out of a plastic tray – Competing Airlines of do better in economy class.
    Paper napkins – At least provide cloth napkins in business class. While the food quality was good, it was not at all enjoyable due to small things which really make a difference.
    Also – There was no menu card, and no printed beverage list. The poor stewardesses had to verbally rattle to every passenger, what was on offer in food and beverage.
    I suggest that their F&B manager try and choose a wine to accompany his dinner from a list of European wines that someone rattles out from memory.. It was hilarious and pathetic at the same time.

    No amenity kit. An overnight flight generally always offers a basic amenity kit, containing at the minimum a toothbrush, to be used before retiring to bed and upon waking up. Nothing was offered.
    (Although upon inquiry, the staff did bring me a toothbrush packed in a flimsy, half torn paper wrap.)

    Seat – Although the seat was comfortable, it was definitely on the smaller side compared to any business class that I have flown.
    What irked me most, however, was that this seat has a small chamber on the side to store headphones and a water bottle.
    This chamber has a light that cannot be turned OFF. That is fine as normally this chamber has a door, which when shut, conceals the light. My seat, 5F, had a missing door.
    I could not sleep since I was unable to turn this light OFF. When I complained to the In-flight staff, I was told that the door is broken and there are no spares to found anywhere.
    OK no problem, But at least offer your customer a change of seat to sleep on – since you have more than half of the business class un-occupied.
    Shows lack of training, or lack of presence of mind, I do not know.

    Overall my experience was below my expectations from Vistara. I think Vistara is a great airline that has a huge potential but at this rate they will quickly lose loyal passengers.

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