Flying the New Feeling – an Air Vistara experience

I had originally booked myself on an evening flight on another airline but decided to take a morning #AirVistara flight instead. I took the decision one day prior to departure and found that the #AirVistara economy class pricing to be much lower than competition – about 15% lower approx. I made my booking on #Cleartrip of course – there is just no other site that is as well designed and intuitive. I put in my FF number on #Cleartrip while booking – usually the airline systems pick this up. The #AirVistara systems didn’t seem to, though.

Web-check in – I had to go to the #AirVistara site to do a seat assignment and check-in. The #AirVistara web-site is really slow and not built keeping the slowness of Indian internet in mind. Too many clunky images that take far too long to download. Once I was inside the web-checkin flow I felt that the flow was not intuitive. I had to first update the FF number – which is a separate funnel from the seat and meal selection. The seat selection is also not intuitive – there is a small box that logically looks like the place to click, but it is not. I was web checking-in about 14 hours prior and noticed that there were hardly any seats that were available – I counted less than a dozen. Is that because the airline system auto-allocates? I know from experience that so many people could not have checked in by themselves so much in advance. The exit row is not available for selection. This, for me, is a big negative as that is the seat that I select all the time and have no qualms about paying the extra charge for that comfort. After I finished checking-in I saw multiple options for delivery of the boarding pass (including an Apple Passbook feature) which I felt was well thought through. I couldn’t print the boarding pass as I didn’t have access to a printer and thought that I would do that at the airport kiosk.

Airport check-in – At the airport, I couldn’t see #AirVistara enabled in the kiosk. A big miss in my opinion, esp. if the core target audience is corporate & business travellers who have probably forgotten what it is like to stand in a check-in queue. At the check-in counter, I checked if the 11F that I had been allotted (thanks to someone in the #AirVistara team allotting this when we called them) was an exit row – and the agent was a bit confused, probably because of the LOPA changes currently underway (the airline is changing to a different seat configuration across their fleet). The service was, however, polite and courteous – definitely a few notches better that my recent experiences with other airlines.

Before the flight – The boarding process was smooth. Not sure if it was because there was no queue and I could walk straight through. The aircraft had a nice clean and fresh look to it and the welcome was warm and friendly. The exit row instructions were delivered personally rather than like a classroom that some airlines do these days. It was delivered well except that the attendant didn’t really make eye-contact all the time – doesn’t leave the right impression if the delivery is to be personal. Asked for some water before we took off and didn’t get it – maybe I was too close to push-back. Even if it was, would have been good to hear from the attendant that I would get it once we take off. I have never been a big fan of leather seats – feel that the leather makes the seat feel very hard, which is how the seats felt to me on the #AirVistara aircraft. The seats needed to be pushed very hard to get them to recline – not sure if that is the way they are designed or if it needs some looking into.

In the air – We pushed back ahead of time and were taxiing on the runway at the STD. That is something that one expects of a base departure anyways. There were only 7 exit row seats occupied which meant that I would have no one in the seat next to me – on a 2:30 long flight that was a luxury. This was in line with the occupancy in the Economy Cabin (I counted about 75 people) – which for a prime-time, week-day, inter-metro flight is a big commercial red flag. With extremely competitive pricing, why was it that #AirVistara was not able to fill the economy cabin? Is there a brand / marketing issue? Did they bank too much on last-minute demand that they forgot to get their share of the advance-booking travellers? Can’t really be an awareness issue as they have now been around for more than 15 months.

Food service – Carts were promptly rolled out as soon as we were airborne and I was served a veg breakfast as requested. My first impression was “Oh my god, the packaging is way too excessive”. Well designed for sure, but there must be other ways of delivering this that is far more ecologically responsible. The cutlery says “oxo-biodegradable pouch & cutlery – contributing to a sustainable planet’. Come on, we are just fooling ourselves if we seriously believe this. The poha and rava kesari/sheera for breakfast was really nice. A welcome change from the unexciting airline food that I have been having every week for the last several years.

The rest of the flight was quite uneventful as I decided to catch up on some sleep after I wrote this blog post. The landing was on time and quite smooth. There was an airport snafu when we got off the plane though – the gates to the terminal was shut and we had to wait for a few minutes before someone could open then.

Will I fly them again? I reckon so if their schedule is convenient for me – for which they will need to add more frequency on the routes that I usually fly every week.

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