They intend to be the Louis Vuitton of Indian aviation, my words, not theirs.

Just this morning, I was over at the Taj Palace Hotel in Delhi to witness the unveiling of the in-flight product and experience from the latest Indian airline waiting to take to the skies, Vistara. It was an interesting presentation, but I did not come back with much that they promise to do which only they do, and not others. Apart from the Premium Economy cabin class of course.

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The Product:

Like I mentioned a couple of days ago, Vistara will be the first Indian airline to carry a Premium Economy product. The plane will be a 3-class configuration.

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Business Class: Vistara takes pride in a 42” seat pitch, and seats which will have an extendable leg rest. 16 of those seats in a 2-2 configuration on the plane. I could not locate the personal storage space on these seats, but Vistara promised they are there, so they must be there.

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Premium Economy: Premium Economy will have up to 20% more legroom than economy seats at 33-36 inch . As a result, the seat goes back further. The airline claims to have invested in seats with longer armrests, along with a tray meal service. Think Economy seats of today in other airlines, however, with a larger space to stretch out. And yes, the label of Premium Economy.

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Economy: Economy will have a boxed meal service, instead of a meal service in a tray. That was all about Economy that was different.

The Inflight Catering:

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Vistara has tied up with TajSATS to devise the meals for the flights. Of course, both are JVs between Taj and Singapore Airline companies, so they were the logical choice. The menus will be rotated every week, hence you don’t get the same meals if you are a frequent flyer. Each meal with reappear only 4 weeks down again. For the non-vegetarians, there will be 2 options in business and premium-economy, and 1 option in Economy. Similarly, there will be 2 veg options in Business & Premium Economy, and 1 in Economy.

Club Vistara:

Some more details begin to emerge today, but only two are of interest. Like we mentioned before, the program accumulates on a revenue basis, so miles will be accumulated as a ratio to the price of your ticket. How can you redeem them, is still unknown however (fixed pricing per segment or variable pricing). One of the uses is to be able to redeem them for upgrades.

Additionally, Vistara is making tie-ups with other airlines and non-airline partners to make more earning and redemption opportunities available. However, personally, I don’t expect a credit card anytime soon.

Of interest would however be the fact that Taj Inner Circle will be a partner with Club Vistara, and also the airline will have tie-ups with Singapore Airlines and Silk Air.

The question asked the most still remains, how will you be able to redeem these points on the airline.

Ground Experience:

Vistara promises to make the service experience a personalised one. They also stressed a lot on the fact that they will have seamless check-in unique to them. The airline will offer Web/mobile/counter check-in and then they will have roving check-in agents, which they claim are unique to them, but in reality other airlines such as Indigo and Jet Airways have had them in the past.

Vistara claimed to have a unique auto check-in option, which already exists in Indigo, and is also coming soon to Jet Airways.

Seamless boarding however may be the reason I will like them. Right now, Indian airlines just hoard passengers onto the plane, and Vistara promised to manage queues and boarding sequences.

One thing to note is that at in Mumbai, they will use the newer Terminal 2, which will help them offer a nicer lounge and more space at the airport itself for a premium experience.

Vistara Lounge:

The airline is working on an exclusive lounge at Delhi Terminal 3, and this should go live by April 2015. I am guessing they will also use the lounges from Plaza Premium or Air India till then.

So why the premium pricing?

Vistara is positioning themselves as a premium carrier, and I’m guessing they are hoping people will come back once they like their experience, just like those who flew Kingfisher Airlines were captive customers for the airline.  I’m waiting to see what the fuss is all about after I get on one of their flights. Till then, I am hoping they are able to deliver the wow factor on a 2 hour long flight.

How do you like the premium positioning of Vistara? I really hope they have a key differentiator around here.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

Just yesterday, I flew over to Delhi from Mumbai, yet again. I was originally scheduled to get into Delhi on AI101, which is perhaps one of my favourite flights given it gives me access to the Terminal 2 GVK Lounge, and I get to fly a Boeing 777-300ER between the 2 hour Mumbai Delhi segment (the flight further heads to New York from Delhi).

However, given that it is winters and Delhi has a massive fog problem, and I did not want to really really get into home middle of the night, I decided to change my plans. I now was going to depart from terminal 1A, from where Air India operates, and this meant I had access to the Air India Lounge as an Air India Golden Edge Member. This lounge is also available for all Star Alliance Gold members and The Maharaja Club Members of AI. There is a separate lounge for Air India Business Class passengers, not accessible by FFP members.

The lounge is situated pre-security, so you need to have enough time on hand to clear the security check and then roam around at the gates. This made it a bad option for me, but I wanted to try it out anyways for all of you.

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The Lounge was a pretty basic and small lounge. I’d never been here before, so I was all the more surprised to see a lounge for 16-18 passengers, only. Air India is the dominant carrier based at Terminal 1A, and I would have expected a bigger capacity lounge from them here.

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I was over in the morning, so they had a couple of Indian hot breakfast items like Chana-Parantha and Upma, along with vegetarian and non-vegetarian finger sandwiches and some bakery items. Apart from that, there was a choice of soft drinks (hot and cold).

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The lounge attendants stayed in the backdrop all the time, making a round every few minutes to clear the tables or ask if there was anything else I required. With this being an empty lounge and pre-security, I hardly stayed here for over half an hour to get some pictures, and then moved into the security hold area, where I could have gone to the Carnations Lounge or the American Express Lounge, but I was lazy and headed straight to the gate.

I don’t think I’d plan time for this lounge the next time I would be flying Air India domestically. It is a rudimentary lounge after all, but the pre-security location gives me some amount of anxiety.

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Jet Airways clearly has a great tool in its fight against all the incoming new carriers, and it is called JetPrivilege. So yesterday, when Vistara announced the launch of their operations on the Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Ahmedabad and Mumbai-Ahmedabad sectors as of January 9, 2015, Jet Airways hit back with some nice goodies to tell them who is the boss! Winking smile

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Yes, Jet Airways flights on all these segments will earn double bonus miles in economy on all the sectors listed above, and triple in business class. These miles are apart from the tier and cabin bonuses for both these airlines.

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All flights booked before the promotion launch date also qualify.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | No Comments

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 8 Comments

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I just received a wonderful surprise from JetPrivilege in my email, something that maybe a lot of you would be receiving shortly or have already received as well. JetPrivilege just sent out an email stating that the validity of all my JetPrivilege miles was being extended from 3 years to 5 years. I wasn’t ever […]

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Frequent Traveller Ajay Awtaney comments on the recent move of Hyatt to change their award categories

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