Vistara is India’s newest widebody operator, flying the Boeing 787-9 across the country and globe. The airline promises to offer a premium experience on all its flights, especially in business class. Simple Flying was invited to try out the airline’s business class cabin on the 787 this week, all the way from New Delhi to London. Here is a comprehensive review of the newest entrant in the long-haul market!
Vistara operates one of its two 787-9s on the Delhi-London Heathrow leg. I traveled on September 8th, a busy day for the airline, with a full flight. Here’s a look at the experience from arrival to landing.
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On the ground
I arrived at Delhi Airport at 12:00 AM local time, a full three and a half hours before my flight. It was a brisk night at the airport, with hundreds of passengers queuing up across the doors to enter the terminal. Vistara uses several check-in rows at Delhi, with Row A for Tokyo-bound passengers and Row C for the London service.
Tonight’s flight to London Heathrow was full, by which I mean every cabin was full. This made for a bit of a chaotic check-in experience, with the priority line disappearing behind the economy check-in queue. Five minutes into the queue, I spotted that the priority lane was empty and quickly cut through inside.
Due to the current pandemic restrictions, all passengers have to show a number of documents to even check-in for the flight. Before the counter, I was asked to show my negative COVID test, passport, and passenger locator form. All of these were once again checked while receiving the boarding pass. Check-in took 15 minutes in total, quite speedy given the doc checks needed to fly.
There was one unique feature that I haven’t experienced with any airline yet – bag notifications. Less than a minute after dropping my suitcases, I was pinged with a text message with the number of bags and the total weight of my luggage. The text includes the bag tag numbers, a handy tool if yours don’t make it to the other side.
Next up was immigration. Delhi Airport has a dedicated area for all business class passengers, regardless of airline. After months of slow international traffic, the queues at immigration signal a rebound, with hundreds waiting to get through. Immigration took over 30 minutes, partially due to only two counters being open and several economy passengers joining the queue (there’s no check).
The 03:30 AM departure explained the busy airport experience. Nearly all US and Middle East-bound flights leave at this time, along with some UK flights. This is the busiest time for immigration, explaining the long wait. However, given the four and a half hours spent at Heathrow on arrival, Delhi seems like a dream!
All Vistara business class passengers can use the Plaza Premium lounge on fourth floor. Due to the pandemic, all other lounges in the terminal are closed, including airline ones. Passengers from Virgin Atlantic, United, and several others also share this lounge. This meant the lounge was near full, but my boarding pass got me instant access. Meanwhile, Priority Pass and other cardholders were asked to wait.
In a surprise from my visit in July, the Plaza Premium Lounge has fully reopened. This means the buffet, bar, and coffee sections are all accessible again. Fixed-meal table service was gone and the buffet was back in action, along with dozens of passengers.
After grabbing some food, I settled for a desk at the corner of the lounge. This kept me far from the crowd and in a nice nook. As the hour passed and more flights departed, the lounge began to empty out. By my exit at 2:30 AM, there was far more space for passengers and cardholders could enter once again.
However, this situation will likely not last long. Once the pandemic settles, Vistara will likely partner with Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa to allow business passengers access to one of their lounges. Or, we could see Vistara set up its own lounge in Delhi.
To the gate
I arrived at the boarding gate at 02:40 AM, which was late given boarding started at 02:00 AM (a full 90 minutes before departure!). I was handed a sanitary bag with a face shield, mask, and sanitizer, while my passport and negative COVID test were checked one last time. There was no queue for boarding, and I took the dedicated jetbridge to the front of the aircraft in solitude.
Upon boarding the aircraft I was greeted by a flight attendant to guided me to my seat for the evening, 4K. The 787 looked gorgeous in the purple mood lighting, which matched the late-night departure and did not strain the eyes.
The cabin is laid out in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. This means all passengers have direct aisle access, making Vistara one of the few airlines to offer this on the Delhi-London route. Seat selection is important on this flight, with alternating window seats closer to the aisle and the window. Middle seats also alternate between two that are closer together or far apart.
My seat for the red-eye flight was a true window seat and was located on the left side of the aircraft.
Vistara uses a Stelia Aerospace Symphony seat for its business class. This is the same one you will find on Singapore Airlines’ regional 787 configuration and Turkish Airlines’ new 787s. Vistara has gone for a subtle grey and dark maroon finish on the leather seats, giving it a luxurious look.
The seat looked plush for the eight-hour journey into Europe. Each seat came with a blanket, pillow, headphones, and a water bottle. I quickly settled into my seat and stretched out with ample legroom.
The seat itself is flanked by the console on the aisle side. This provides a large surface to keep items like phones and laptops while flying. Right behind that is a storage cubby with a closing door. This contained an eye mask, socks, and headphones upon arriving at the seat. I later used this to store my phone and earphones to make they didn’t fall during the flight.
The seat curves around you to offer a lighting console on the window side with a soft fabric finish. This made it easy to rest your head while watching something or generally resting. However, the curvature means you can only see out of one window (although the other was still accessible for GoPro shots!).
Soon after boarding, a cabin crew member came by to take meal preferences. The flight would begin with a light snack, followed by a full breakfast before arrival. I opted for the non-vegetarian snack and an apple juice for the snack. However, most opted to skip the meal service and sleep instead.
While preparing for takeoff, I explored the seat further. Everything is controlled by a set of touch screen buttons under the console, which can be easy to press by mistake but rarely happens due to its position. Right under the controls is an IFE remote control, and alongside is the headphone jack.
The IFE itself was big and bright, featuring an 18″ screen which looked far larger this close up. Below is the tray table, which folds in half and is stored that way. The tray table wasn’t the sturdiest and had some give but didn’t shake too much while typing on an iPad.
Viewing options were limited on this flight, with a few episodes of a handful of popular TV shows and a dozen or so movies. This media library will likely grow in the coming months but remains quite limited for now. Power options were simple on this flight, with a USB and plug found inside the storage cubby on the right-hand console.
Considering the 03:40 AM departure, speedy service is critical to maximizing sleep time. The Vistara crew delivered on this count, with the meal on my table within 30 minutes of cruising. The meal itself was plated beautifully and with no signs of pandemic-era scaling back.
The “snack,” if it’s fair to call it that, was a chicken pie with a tomato sauce and roasted vegetables. This was served with a fresh salad and a generous slice of fruit cake. This was far closer to a full meal than a snack in my eyes! A few hours into the flight, Vistara also offered a snack box containing a bag of chips, a juice, some nuts, and an energy bar.
The full meal service was reserved for breakfast. My meal was served soon after I woke up, about 90 minutes before arriving in London. However, the crew were happy to serve meals up to roughly an hour before landing to avoid waking up passengers.
The breakfast offered a continental or vegetarian meal. I went for the continental option, which included an omelet, sausage, baked beans, and cooked potatoes. This was accompanied by a fruit bowl, fresh orange juice, and a multigrain croissant. The breakfast was tasty too, with the eggs being light and the croissant surprisingly soft for an airplane bakery.
After running into some friends onboard and talking to them after takeoff, I made my way back to the seat for some shuteye. A comfortable bed is crucial on a night flight like this, and Vistara’s 787 certainly offers this. The seat offers 44″ in pitch that turns into a long 76″ fully flatbed. As someone who is 6’2″, I was happy to see that my feet didn’t touch the edge of the bed!
The width of the seat makes it possible to lie straight or on your side with no problems. The foot cubby is also not restrictive, allowing you to move your feet while sleeping easily. While a mattress topper would be nice, it was not very noticeable on the soft seat.
I slept for roughly five hours on this flight, though I would have likely slept a lot more if I hadn’t met friends onboard. The seat was comfortable to sleep in and left little to be wanted. A mattress topper is likely to make an appearance after the pandemic and further refine the product.
The only feature absent was an amenity kit. Instead, Vistara provided an eyeshade and socks but no other amenities like toothbrushes or creams. It’s unclear if this is a pandemic-era issue or if Vistara has taken the Singapore Airlines on-demand approach to amenities.
Having seen Air India and Virgin Atlantic’s offerings on the Delhi-London route too, Vistara offers a far more competitive offering. With direct aisle access and plentiful storage, the seat offers more than enough for a nine-hour hop to London or the rest of Europe. While the IFE options and amenity kits were drawbacks, Vistara’s catering and service quickly set it apart. Overall, the flight was excellent, and I would not hesitate to fly Vistara on other long-haul trips too.
What do you think about the Vistara 787 business class experience? Let us know in the comments!