On a recent trip from Paris to New Delhi, Simple Flying was invited to try Vistara’s premium economy offering on the Boeing 787. As the only Indian carrier to offer the cabin, we were delighted to see how it turned out. compares to global competitors that Vistara hopes to rival. Here’s a detailed look at the ground experience, service, food and more.
Vistara operates from Terminal 2E at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), home to Air France’s intercontinental hub. While many airlines outsource their check-in and preparatory work to airport companies, Vistara has outsourced its services to Air France itself. This offered a marked improvement over the usual check-in staff, with premium passengers escorted by staff to ensure a speedy process.
Before joining the queue, I was asked to produce my Air Suvidha form and vaccination certificate, with no further document verification required. There was a dedicated queue for premium economy class and business class each. However, with the former about 80% full and the latter sold out, staff also occasionally used the four economic desks.
With the flight approaching capacity, gate agents had to work quickly to get everyone through. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Check in took about 15 minutes, thanks to attentive staff and I was told to go straight to the door as it was almost 9:20pm for a 11:05pm checkout. As expected, premium economy class does not come with lounge access or priority security checks in Paris.
However, after a fast train to L Gates, security only took 20 minutes (with disgruntled security guards insisting on checking boarding passes and leaving them in the bin instead of returning them).
With the flight almost full, boarding took some time, with the UK22 from Paris to Delhi delayed by almost 20 minutes. I chose to wait until most of the plane had boarded before joining the priority queue. Boarding was a bit disorganized, with the priority lane not highlighted when passengers arrived at the gate.
Boarding was a bit disorganized, with overhead displays not indicating where travelers should board. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Luckily this was later corrected and two agents were present when I boarded at 10.34pm and all economy or business class premium passengers could use the far left lane to board. A brief conversation with the Paris station manager for Vistara revealed that business class had been sold out, and had been for a few weeks, and demand seemed strong for the next month.
All passengers boarded through Gate 2 on this flight. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Vistara’s Boeing 787-9 comes with 24 premium economy class seats, arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. The airline selected the Recaro PL3530 for the cabin, a popular choice for carriers.
Boarding the plane, the three rows of premium economy class are distinguished by their dark blue seats and gold headrests. Although not the brightest colors, it still looks modern in the purple mood lighting. The seats are a little thinner than expected but still well padded, more than economical, and comfortable.
The premium economy is a compact affair on the 787-9 with just 24 seats. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
On the seat you will find only a blanket waiting for you, the crew separately distributing headphones for the IFE system. In front of you is a coat hook and a 13-inch IFE screen to enjoy content during the 7.5 hours of flight. With a pitch of 38 inches and a width of 19 inches, the seat was spacious and provided ample legroom for all passengers.
The screen tilts forward for viewing at the optimal angle. However, when the seat in front is reclined, it becomes slightly uncomfortable. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
On a red-eye flight that lands at 10:00 a.m., sleep is the most important part of the seat. The 787 offers a calf rest under the seat and a leg rest up front to help lighten the weight. I managed to sleep a good four hours in the air, helped by the adjustable headrest available in all cabins.
The 7-inch recline is generous and on par with industry flagships. Prototype: Pranjal Pande | Single Flying
While the experience has been smooth so far, Vistara’s smooth product can still be improved. On boarding, the lack of an amenity kit and headphones isn’t ideal, especially since its nearest competitors offer both. Although it can be argued that these products are not necessary for many, they add to the premium experience even though they are only available on demand.
The crew on this Vistara flight were great, frequently walking through the cabin and noticing if passengers were asleep or awake, offering towels and drinks whenever possible. With the easing of restrictions, I was happy to have the chance to properly interact with the crew after months of a zero contact policy. However, the one area that was lacking was the food.
Meals in premium economy and economy class seem to have no difference, a huge departure from other airlines. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Passengers were offered two full meals on this red-eye flight, breakfast and dinner. While a bar menu was offered, food options were always communicated verbally, one particular choice. For dinner, I opted for the Indian vegetarian choice, rice and paneer sauce (cottage cheese). It turned out to be a standard economy class meal, all plastic and with a cup of water.
Frequent flyers and readers may know that an important aspect of premium economy is still a business class menu. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, American Airlines and almost everyone else offers this on their flights, which makes Vistara an outlier. The meal was still tasty but didn’t stand out and looked like a good economy class meal. The salad and main course were tasty, while the dessert was a bit light in flavor.
The bar menu was a step up but barely made up for in the food. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Perhaps the only redemption for most was the fully stocked bar, served from the bottle, which included choices of whiskey (Jack Daniel’s is a new addition), gin and other spirits. Drinks were also served after dinner, another service anomaly.
Breakfast was the same story, where I opted for the non-veg westerner. The meal came with an omelette, potato bites and a bed of baked beans. Next to it was a bowl of very fresh fruit, cups of water and orange juice and another wrapped bun. The eggs were average at best, giving this meal another economy class feel. The Starbucks coffee was a nice touch and the best part of the meal.
While dinner beat breakfast as the best meal, the premium economy standard was also not the norm. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight
Vistara’s premium economy product on the Boeing 787-9 is a tale of two cities. The ground experience (from Paris), seat and crew attention are top-notch and able to rival full-service carriers worldwide. However, the soft product, especially the meals, does not offer a premium touch yet, leaving the product somewhere in the middle. Over time, Vistara can easily upgrade these offerings, helping it to compete in its most active markets.
What do you think of Vistara’s Premium Economy offer on the 787-9? Let us know in the comments!