When it unveiled the brand Vistara in August 2014, Tata Singapore Airlines had said it would offer personalised service, which sounded all too familiar.
But going by the experience on the airline’s first day, it seems to have walked the talk. The airline’s maiden flight saw various innovative features, including an automated check-in system.
Through this, passengers received boarding passes via email a few hours before departure; a web check-in wasn’t required. As most international airlines do, Vistara also conducted sequential boarding — passengers with seats in the last few rows of the economy class boarded first, followed by those with seats in the rows in front.
The airline plans to install in-flight entertainment systems and expand its fleet of three Airbus planes to 9-10 planes by December-end. UK 890, Vistara’s maiden flight with 148 passengers on the Delhi-Mumbai route, also carried senior executives of the Tata group and Singapore Airlines.
However, Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, who was expected to be one of the VIPs on board, was not on the flight.
The novelty of the first flight obviously helped, and passengers seemed a satisfied lot. “It was a pleasing experience. The check-in experience depends upon the person behind the counter. What makes the difference is when passengers are valued right from check-in to boarding and don’t feel dismissed,” said Shanti Padmanabhan, who was travelling to Rajkot via Mumbai.
“We wish Vistara offers through-baggage check-in for passengers flying onward on routes not served by it,” she added.
Though there a few complaints pertaining to difficulty in securing boarding passes through the automated check-in system, the first flight was largely glitch-free. The flight took off at 12.51 pm, with captain Mandesh Singh in command. Each passenger received a thank-you note signed by the airline management.
Through the journey, the airline’s chief executive and chairman went around, asking passengers whether or not the services had met their expectations.
The aircraft had 16 business class seats, with a 40-inch seat pitch (the distance between a seat and the one in front of it). With a 33-inch seat pitch, seats in the premium economy class, a first among domestic airlines, offered more legroom than those in the economy class. This correspondent’s ticket in the economy class on the first Vistara flight cost Rs 7,812.
The airline’s premium economy class is the first of its kind among domestic airlines Premium economy passengers could choose between prawn and leek pie, vegetable kathi roll and vegetable pasta as a main course.
Bread, salad and pastries were also offered, as were a variety of teas, coffees, soups and desserts. At 2:40 pm, the flight landed on the secondary runway of the Mumbai airport and was greeted with a customary water cannon salute.
The first few passengers were received by Tata group Chairman Cyrus Mistry, as well as GVK group Chairman G V K Reddy. From Saturday, Vistara will also connect Ahmedabad with Delhi and Mumbai, apart from operating on the Delhi-Mumbai route.