Vistara, what happened to the premium meal?

In the airline world, it is one thing to promise the moon, and another to deliver it. When Vistara took off the ground, they promised a premium experience on their carrier, which included multiple meal options, which were not your standard “chicken or Veg?” options. One was supposed to be rotating menus ever so often, so that you did not witness the same food over and over again. The premium food experience they intended to create was also imparted at other events they held over a period of time (Read here and here)

Anyhow, I made it for the inaugural flight, and on the day of the inaugural, they served up an impressive package in the Economy section. This included stuff never heard of before on Indian flights such as Cannelloni and Leek & Prawn Pies. Also, the nice line of service, “What would you like to have today, Mr. Awtaney?” Of course, this got the buzz going and I was very impressed with my first flight on them, also which I reviewed for the Conde Nast Traveller.

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Vistara’s Economy meal on their inaugural DEL-BOM flight in Jan 2015

Fast forward to later in the same year, and the courtesies were gone, and the food had turned to the more Indianized experience. Notice below the Dinner service on a Mumbai – Delhi flight last year in May. You’ll notice a lot of rice, and a lot less of the western options we started out with in the beginning of 2015. We still had a dinner roll, a box of curd and a dessert served along.

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Vistara Dinner Service May 2015 (BOM-DEL)

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Vistara Dinner Service BOM-DEL May 2015

I hopped on to yet another Vistara flight just a couple of days ago on my way from Mumbai to Delhi. I noticed a fairly scanty meal box in economy. Notice around here, the salads are gone, the yogurt is gone and so is the bread roll. Erm, and no courtesies, no addressing us by name. Read also these guest posts where the bread rolls and cut fruits were a part of the meal service. Also, this! All we got was Dal Chawal (Pulao rice with lentils) on this flight taken two days ago.

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Vistara Dinner Service April 2016 BOM-DEL

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The key thing to note here for me was that there was lesser and lesser food being served up in Economy now, while I remember asking an offline question at the event where Vistara was launched in Delhi a couple of years ago, where the question was specific to the meal service of Vistara. I was assured by the CEO that Economy will get the best service they ever had in the Indian skies. I was informed by the Vistara team that they only nixed Yoghurt since it was not consumed on the flight.

Is Vistara baselining catering with Jet Airways’ meal service?

The interesting thing is, that Jet Airways, during an economic downturn, also clipped meal service, something I repeatedly addressed over a period of time with them. Now, it seems, Jet Airways upped its meal service a bit, however Vistara seems to figure that they will offer the same quality/quantity/experience as Jet Airways and no better. It turns out however, even Jet Airways serves up a bigger meal on their similarly timed flights. See below a Delhi – Mumbai Dinner flight I was on in October 2015.

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Jet Airways’ Economy Dinner Service October 2015

Bottomline

The Indian customer is price sensitive, period! So, if Vistara is now trying to attract the market which is price sensitive economy travellers, this is a vastly different game than positioning itself as a premium carrier, which was the intention long ago. I’m still mixed up about what Vistara wishes to do, and if this is a one-off tack or a continuous move towards positioning themselves in line with other airlines rather than one up (read together with their move to reduce business class seats on the plane).

What do you think about the in-flight catering on Vistara?

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Comments

  1. Sir I feel economy class travel will see the price and may not like to pay a higher price for vistara or any other airlines. If they are willing to pay more they will fly business. Secondly I travelled vistas a premium economy(upgraded) other then leg space I did not find anything great in terms of service or food

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