Last week, I flew Vistara’s inaugural international flight, which was flown between Delhi and Singapore. I flew Business Class out to Singapore, and for the return, I decided to fly back on Vistara Singapore Mumbai Flights’ Economy Class to experience the Economy service as well.
While both the Delhi and Mumbai flights depart from their respective stations almost at the same time (11:45 PM) and arrive at Changi at 8:15 AM, on the return, the Delhi flight is scheduled to depart at 9:30 AM and the Mumbai one at 10:30 AM. This could be related to slots, or the fact that there is a very small team doing all the ground handling at Singapore at the moment. As a reference point, Vistara has 12 Business Class seats on the 737s, and 156 Economy class seats, and you can expect similar service on both the Delhi and Mumbai flights.
I arrived at the airport at about 6:30 AM for the 10:30 AM departure, and the check-in counters had just about opened up. The Business Class counter was busy, so I was waived by the next open counter. Ground handling for Vistara is handled by SATS in Singapore, which should be no surprise given the Singapore Airlines connection.
I was only travelling with my Away cabin baggage and a laptop bag only. At the counter, while issuing my boarding pass, the agent asked me about checked bags. When I said I had no checked bags, he asked to weigh my cabin bag, which turned up at 11.8 kgs. When the agent wanted me to check it in, I reminded him that Vistara Platinums could carry 12 kgs in cabin bag and one personal effect. He checked it on his computer (early days!), and said okay to that. Next, he proceeded to issue me a lounge pass to the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3. The whole process took me about five minutes. My gate was still undetermined, and hence I was advised to look it up on the monitors later.
Since I was early at the airport, I proceeded towards immigration. Since Singapore now allows for e-gates, it meant I was through immigration in a minute on exiting from the country. I had some work emails to address, so I headed first to the SATS Premier Lounge for a quick bite and taking care of my email before heading back out again. More on the lounge in another post.
I got done with work about 8:30 AM so I decided to get some air and walk around the terminal a bit. I happened to pass the gate A9 where the Vistara flight to Delhi was just about to board. The massive queues at the gate and in the holding area make me believe the flight had about 90% loads, which is not bad for a sector that the airline started just three days ago.
I am not too much of a duty free shopper, so I decided to head back to the lounges for another cuppa before boarding was called. I was back on the way to the gates at about 9:25 am, while boarding for my flight was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am.
The Singapore – Mumbai flight of Vistara was assigned to gate A7, which gave me the opportunity to experience the bus gates of Singapore Terminal 3 for the first time. Security for gates A1-A8 was conducted together at one checkpoint, and it was more thorough than usual. The security wanted to inspect everything in the bag, given they spotted some small metallic collar stays in my bag which were not presented for inspection ever before. As a consequence, it took me about 10 minutes to repack my compactly packed bag.
Eventually, when I reached the boarding gate, pre-boarding had already been completed, and general boarding was in progress. Since this was a bus gate, everyone was being allowed to get through as they arrived, rather than the zonewise boarding usual with Vistara.
At the gate, again my passport and boarding pass were inspected and I was allowed to board the bus. While I usually do not detest bus gates, I was really surprised to know that in this case the aircraft was parked somewhere really really far, closer to the apron between Terminal 2 & 4 on the other side of the road. That was quite a long bus ride.
As it would turn out, I was flying back on the same equipment, VT-TGD, on which I had flown in, and with the same set of cabin crew which had operated the inaugural flight. I was greeted on entering the plane, and I headed towards my seat. For this flight, I was able to block off the Emergency Exit row, which is available only for Gold and Platinum customers to pre-book.
Waiting at the seat was a pillow and blanket, similar to the business class cabin.
Also waiting for my viewing pleasure was this, from the back of the seat ahead of me. These were ex- Jet Airways 737 aircraft which 9W used to operate on routes regionally.
I got some great views waiting for boarding to complete, with various Singapore Airlines aircraft lining up for departure, such as this A350-900.
As I got settled in, the lead cabin crew on this flight, Deepika, appeared and greeted me, as this is standard protocol for a Platinum member to be on the aircraft. My first flight in Economy as a Platinum, so I was a little surprised, but the crew checked in on me from time to time. I requested for some water, and was delivered water in a glass shortly.
Boarding was completed (by the busloads) before time. The cabin crew made a pre-departure safety demonstration, and also brought out hot towelettes for everyone. Impressive for economy, if I may say.
The Mumbai flight was largely full as well, but for a few seats, one of which was next to me. With an empty middle seat next to me, the ride was going to be more comfortable. I immediately signed on to the Vistara World IFE system, continuing to watch the movies I was watching a couple of days ago on the incoming flight.
We had a smooth take off, subsequent to which, the crew started with the breakfast service. Again, the cabin crew arrived at my seat first, addressed me by last name again, and checking if I still wanted to have my original choice of meal. I asked her what the choices were. On this flight, we were being served a cheese omelette or a soaked idli with upma. I went with the vegetarian option and received this tray, which also had some bread and flavoured yoghurt to go along. I went with Orange juice as my choice of beverage, but they also had tea and coffee being served. One gripe, the preservative based orange juices hardly match up the fresh squeezed ones, and have too much sugar. I left the juice after one sip.
I was expecting a menu, just like they did for the inaugural flight out of Delhi. Here is what Vistara serves on the redeye to Singapore, via a reader.
I do wish Vistara would have done a third option beyond the usual eggs and idli for economy, which basically made me feel I am on a domestic flight, or come up with something more creative. I found the dinner options to be more interesting.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and I alternated between catching up on lost sleep and watching some sitcoms on the IFE. About 1.5 hours before arrival, the cabin crew set up a service again, and this time, they did a drinks service. You can read what they offer for drinks in Economy above, or see it on the cart below.
My beverage was served with nibbles, peanuts in this case, on the flight.
Towards the end of the flight, as we prepared to land, the lead cabin crew came back again to check on me and if there was anything I required and if the service was okay. Another member of the cabin crew also walked by a while later, to hand me over an envelope, much to the amusement of my seat mate who was wondering why was I getting special treatment.
The envelope had a card, thanking me for flying with them.
That was the end of one of my longest Vistara flights till date. On this segment, Vistara is not the cheapest flight, that would be IndiGo. But Vistara sells at par with Air India, and yet again at a significant discount to parent Singapore Airlines on this route, which has a different wide-body product and service altogether.
Have you flown Vistara Singapore Mumbai Flights yet? What has been your experience?