Vistara Domestic Premium Economy vs. Economy – Is The Upgrade Worth It?

Vistara is a unique airline in India, being the only one that offers a premium economy cabin. Featuring larger seats, better food, and priority lanes, it is a comfortable way to travel. But with Vistara’s economy product stacking up as one of the best in the country, is the upgrade worth it? Is it worth paying for premium economy for safety during the pandemic?

Vistara A320
Vistara is the only airline in India offering a premium economy cabin in India. Photo: Airbus

Economy on Vistara

As one of only two full-service carriers in India, Vistara offers a high-quality economy product. On its A320, which used on most domestic routes, it offers 18-inch wide seats with a pitch of 29-30 inches. While this does sound standard, the well-padded seats and adjustable headrest make for a much more comfortable offering than its low-cost competitors. The seats also offer an acceptable 3″ recline.

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Vistara Economy Cabin
While the seat themselves aren’t larger, the padding makes them a lot more comfortable. Photo: Vistara

In terms of service, Vistara is one of the few airlines offering hot meals on domestic routes (minus short routes under an hour). All economy passengers, except those booked on Economy Lite fares, receive a meal along with hot or cold beverages. From personal experience, the meals are good and enough for domestic hops.

For those traveling on Lite fares, only complimentary hot beverages are available. Vistara also has a small buy-on-board menu, which features packaged snacks and drinks, along with some hot instant meals. Originally, the airline served all passenger’s meals. However, to offer passengers lower prices and flexibility, Economy Lite fares were introduced.

Premium economy on Vistara

As India’s only premium economy offering, Vistara effectively sets the standard. On the A320, the premium economy cabin has 24 seats, laid out in a 3-3 configuration. While the layout is the same as economy, with 18 inches of width, Vistara has upgraded the seats. These feature a generous 33″ of pitch and Italian leather seats with well-padded seat cushioning. While this might not sound very different, the difference is clearly noticeable while sitting in the seat.

Vistara Premium Economy
Vistara’s premium economy offers more legroom and comfortable seating. Photo: Vistara

Onboard, premium economy passengers receive a hot towel and menus. The hot towels are a nice touch and add to the premium experience, even on a two-hour flight. The menu usually offers three options on hot mains, along with sides and a dessert.

Once again, from personal experience, the premium economy meals are just usually of good quality, but only slightly better than economy. Passengers can also ask for hot or cold drinks anytime throughout the flight.

The more comfortable seating, smaller cabin, and larger meal selection does help differentiate the premium economy cabin from the back. What really makes a difference is the personalized service and friendly crew which are able to give you even more attention due to the smaller cabin.

Is it worth it?

Now that we have a quick overview of the two cabins, we come to the main question of whether it’s worth upgrading. The main criteria to evaluate an upgrade is cost and comfort. Flights can also be upgraded using miles, or though a bid, after booking.

In terms of cost, premium economy usually costs anywhere between 25-75% more than economy fares on Vistara. While this does sound like a lot, the price-sensitive nature of the Indian domestic market ensures that fares still remain low.

For instance, a one-way flight from Delhi to Bangalore in early August costs ₹6,041 ($81) in premium economy, while economy costs ₹4809 ($64). It should be noted that demand remains low on domestic routes in India due to the current health crisis, so prices may change in the future.

Vistara A320
Premium economy can cost up to 50% more than economy on some high demand domestic routes. Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia Commons

Another way to upgrade a Vistara flight is by using miles. Vistara has its own frequent flier program, known as Club Vistara, which offers some great redemptions. Upgrades to premium economy start at just 500 miles for short routes. More popular routes, such as Delhi-Mumbai cost 3,500 miles, and Mumbai-Bangalore costs 2,500 miles. Overall, the miles are a great redemption for domestic upgrades.

Vistara 787 Dreamliner
Be sure to use your Vistara miles to upgrade if you find yourself on the new 787. Photo: Vistara

In terms of comfort and ease of travel, premium economy does have some advantages. Vistara has dedicated check-in lanes for premium economy passengers and offers priority boarding too. If you’re on a tight schedule, these dedicated queues can speed up the process at busy airports.

Onboard, the smaller, quieter cabin, meal selection, and personalized service does make for a great experience. However, with most domestic flights in India being around 2 hours, none of this is essential. Most passengers do need to sleep or get too much work done on these short flights. This makes the economy cabin quite attractive too, especially if there is a significant cost difference.

A good deal right now?

The health crisis has forced many to reevaluate their travel habits and looking for ways to avoid contact with other passengers. With no Indian carrier blocking the middle seat, is premium economy a safer choice? 

In a short answer: not really. Unless you’re traveling with 16-24 people, there is little chance you will have the whole cabin to yourself. The 3-3 configuration means little social distancing and a similar situation to economy.

The only benefit is lesser movement along the aisles, which can possibly increase the flow of virus particles. Vistara is considering selling passengers the middle seat empty, to restore some confidence. But, in a nutshell, flying premium economy does little in terms of safety.

Vistara Premium Economy Empty Seats
Vistara is considering selling passengers the middle seat empty for social distance. Photo: Vistara

At the end of the day, the decision to upgrade comes down to the price and not the overall comfort of the cabin. If you manage to find a good deal, with fares only 20-30% higher or a miles upgrade, premium economy is a fun experience and a step up from the usual bustle of economy. If you’re taking an early morning or night flight, you will definitely appreciate the added comfort while sleeping.

However, the current situation means there is no onboard service, relegating premium economy to just economy with slightly more legroom. But when flying does return to normal, expect to enjoy the full benefit of the cabin.

What are your thoughts on Vistara’s premium economy? Would you upgrade? Let us know in the comments!