I finally managed to step aboard the highly anticipated Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Vistara. As expected, flying business class was a special experience, though I must say I did feel the pressure of being the first blogger to review this brand new aircraft.
Mumbai (BOM) T2 - Delhi (DEL) T3
Date: November 24, 2020
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Cabin: Business class
Booking Vistara 787-9 business class
After having long discussions with Luke about the risk of last minute aircraft changes from the airline, I decided to go ahead with the booking on Vistara’s website, which cost me a total of INR 18,473 (USD 250) for a one-way ticket from Mumbai to Delhi.
My fears were heightened when I read media reports of the Maharashtra government considering banning flights between Mumbai and Delhi a couple of days before my scheduled departure. This also got me thinking about the possibility of last minute aircraft changes from Vistara.
I took a sigh of relief when I read that the government hadn’t banned flights, and instead chose to make Covid-19 test results mandatory for all incoming passengers from certain states, including Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa.
About Vistara's 787-9 aircraft
In 2018, Vistara signed orders for six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft (as well as 13 planes from the Airbus A320neo family). The 787-9 Dreamliner is a wide-body aircraft with a range of 13,950km - meaning it is usually deployed on long-haul routes.
So far, Vistara has received two of its Dreamliners (registrations VT-TSD and VT-TSE). They have quickly been put to work on London flights, hastily arranged as part of the air transport “bubble” agreed between India and the UK.
Perhaps in response to a second lockdown recently imposed by the UK, reducing the need for flights to London, Vistara’s Dreamliners have also been spotted flying a limited number of domestic routes (including the Mumbai-Delhi sector).
Vistara’s 787-9s have 299 seats and three cabin classes: business, premium economy and economy. Up front in business, Vistara has gone for the Stelia Aerospace Symphony seat - the same seat you’ll find on some of Singapore Airlines’ aircraft (Vistara is a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata).
Set in a 1-2-1 configuration, each business class seat offers direct aisle access, as well as a 76″ flat bed, 18″ HD personal monitor, plus AC and USB power outlets. There are 30 seats in total.
Vistara was the first Indian airline to offer a premium economy cabin, which is in a 2-3-2 configuration, with seats offering 37″ of pitch, on the 787-9 Dreamliner. Economy is in the typical 3-3-3 set-up, with seats offering 31” of pitch.
Other features of the plane include WiFi internet connectivity (available on long-haul, international flights), a Boeing-designed advanced air purification system, larger windows and lower cabin altitude (which promises travellers will arrive at their destination feeling “fresh and time-adjusted”).
Vistara is currently the only Indian airline operating the Boeing 787-9 (Air India selected the slightly smaller Boeing 787-8 for its fleet of Dreamliners).
At Mumbai airport
I arrived at the airport at 9am, well in advance from my flight, though still concerned about last minute changes in aircraft. That concern was washed away when the Vistara check in agent assured me that it was the Dreamliner aircraft.
The agent offered to have my Club Vistara number added to my booking, which I am glad he brought up because I tried a couple of times to update it but for some reason it failed both times.
I then headed towards the security check, which was smooth and wasn’t as time-consuming as it used to be during the non-Covid days. Since I was flying business class, I received access to the GVK lounge and I headed there.
After spending an hour or so at the lounge and helping myself to a nice breakfast, I decided to leave, although there was still time left before boarding began, but I chose to wait at the gate instead.
Vistara 787-9 Dreamliner review
Our boarding gate was 53, which is close to the GVK Lounge so I arrived at the gate very quickly. I enquired for the floor manager, who was busy elsewhere so I got talking to Sumit Munj, who seemed like he was in charge of the gate at the time.
He was very warm in his approach and made sure my boarding process was nice and smooth. After boarding, I first headed towards the back of the aircraft to check out the economy and premium economy cabins. I have added those pictures below.
I then headed to the business class cabin and took my seat, 6K, which was by the window. Soon after I was offered a water bottle.
I was welcomed by a feeling of freshness as I stepped into the business class cabin, which was due to how new the aircraft and this product was.
Keep in mind that there are a few things to consider when choosing your seat on this aircraft. I read some people complaining about certain aspects of the seat and I have discussed them in detail further in this article.
As I began checking out my seat, the first thing that caught my eye was the large 18-inch IFE screen running Vistara World - the Vistara infotainment system. The screen can be tilted down and adjusted, which is helpful when you decide to put your seat all the way down.
I decided to watch The Martian for a while during the flight.
There is a large collection of movies to choose from, including English ones as well as those in other languages. Also, apart from the flight tracking, there are various games to play on this IFE system.
The next thing I checked out was the storage compartment in the console next to the seat. There was a three-pin AC plug point along with a USB port and next to it a storage space where you can keep your gadgets, passport, boarding pass, etc. I used it to store my face shield and hand gel, along with a couple of water bottles.
Next to the side storage, there is a sliding mirror as well.
There was another storage compartment under the leg rest, where you could keep your shoes.
There was also a compartment at the seat to place reading material like magazines, newspapers, etc, though it was only occupied with the safety instructions manual at the time (my guess was due to Covid measures to reduce touchpoints).
There are various lighting options, which can be controlled separately. The first is the reading lamp with three settings to meet different seat positions - upright, reclined and flat-bed.
A second switch turns on the lights in both the side storage compartment, as well as the storage under the leg rest.
A third switch is used to control the lights positioned above you. Window seat passengers can enjoy the luxury of using both the lights above - one illuminating the side table while the other one is focused on the seat - whereas centre seat passengers only get one light each (to illuminate the seat).
Priya Shaw, the crew member taking care of me on the day introduced herself and her team before taking my order for lunch, pre-departure. Their non-veg is halal, and therefore I went with the spiced chicken breast for lunch.
She enquired what I would like to have to drink, so I asked about the mocktails. Priya gave a similar reply to the one I received while reviewing the Vistara 737 aircraft, which was that they can’t prepare those drinks now due to Covid.
I settled on orange juice to have with lunch, before asking her whether Starbucks was being served, and it was. She mentioned there was French press available, so I asked for a coffee with milk and a single serving of sugar - and I let her know that I’d like to have it a short while after the meal.
I then began checking out the tray table, which is stored under the IFE screen, and it was generously sized.
The newly-released safety video was played and was fun to watch as the instructions were communicated via various yoga asanas, or postures.
The flight pushed back at 11.55am and I spotted one of Air India's 787-8 Dreamliners.
We were airborne soon after and the lighting was quite good in Mumbai, which enabled me to get some good pictures from above. Look out for the shadow of the aircraft on the beach!
The seatbelt signs were turned off at 12.15pm and I checked the lavatory out soon after. It was adequately big, though only hand wash was available inside.
Priya brought my lunch at 12.35pm and named each of the dishes being served. There was Waldorf salad, spiced chicken breast for main course, chocolate ganache cake for dessert and a wrapped bread roll on the side.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the quality of food on this journey. Vistara has done a really good job with it, this food service was a cherry on top of my first experience of their Dreamliner.
The chicken breast was accompanied with veggies on the side and potatoes topped with cheese, which complemented the chicken really well. The meat was tender and very well cooked - served at the right temperature.
The salad was nice and fresh too, though I was more excited about the dessert and it exceeded my expectations by quite a bit - it was just perfect.
Once I was done with my meal, I began checking out the functions of the seat, which can be operated by the feather touch buttons on the side. There are three pre-set positions to choose from:
- Taxi, take off, and landing
For most of this journey, I sat with the seat in the upright position. Briefly, I put the seat into lounge mode and then all the way down for just a short duration, only so I could get a quick feel of it.
A lack of space in the footwell when the seat is fully flat can be an issue on some business class seats, though I wasn't able to get a good feel for how much of a problem this is on the Vistara Dreamliner as it was such a short flight (and I obviously wasn't sleeping!).
I would like to get a proper experience of the bed on a longer route, though whatever little time I managed to spend laying down, it seemed to accommodate me well (I am 5’10). There was some room to twist and turn once I put the armrests down, though the walls on my seat (6K) kind of creeped in on me.
After some time, Priya brought the coffee, which was served with a couple of cookies, and it was all quite good. As I was getting done with my drink, I enquired about the veg meal, and she was kind enough to bring the entire meal for me to taste.
It was dal makhni (lentils) with veg pulao (rice), though it didn’t exactly taste like makhni, and I was glad I went for the non-veg option.
Which business class seat to choose on the Vistara 787?
Business class on the Vistara features Stelia Aerospace Symphony seats, and you will have a different experience depending on the seat you choose.
All the seats have direct access to the aisle, though if you are choosing to get a window seat, do keep in mind that not all of them get a proper view of outside, as it gets covered by the seat. Try to avoid the following seats if you value uninterrupted views of outside: 2A, 3A, 7A, 8A, 2K, 3K and 8K.
Alternate window seats have the console positioned towards the aisle, while others have it away from the aisle. The seats where the console is positioned towards the aisle are: 2A, 4A, 6A, 8A, 2K, 4K, 6K, and 8K.
You will get to enjoy more privacy in these seats, though, as some passengers have recently complained, this may come at the cost of feeling a little claustrophobic as the space narrows down on you and feels less airy.
The window side seats feel more spacious and airy, and provide enough privacy as well. Personally, I would prefer to get these seats when I am flying this product next - unless I have company, in which case I would go for the centre seats.
The centre seats that have the console towards the aisle would be ideal for couples, as both the centre seats are only divided by a privacy screen in the middle, which can be put down. These seats are in rows 1, 3, 5 and 7. Whereas, rows 2, 4, 6, and 8 have the consoles in the centre, and seats further away from each other.
Arriving in Delhi
We touched down in Delhi at 1.37pm, earlier than the scheduled arrival time. As mentioned above, I clicked pictures of the economy and the premium economy cabins as well - my first impression of these cabins was that they look comfortable. I have added the pictures here:
Although I feel like there is more for me to experience on this product, overall it was a pleasant flight and the service from staff members made it a memorable one.
I got a chance to click a nice photo as we approached Delhi airport:
After waiting for this opportunity for months, it was great to finally fly Vistara's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This business class product is great, and the best one in India right now.
The food and the service on this journey were both really good and, masks aside, the flight felt normal. I believe Vistara has more than just food to offer in terms of soft product (there were no amenity kits, pillows or bedding on this short sector), and for that reason I would like to experience their service on a longer flight, as well as take a proper nap on the flatbed.
The business class cabin was only about twenty percent occupied, which meant that everybody could enjoy their space, though this may be a luxury we wont be able to enjoy for long as travel starts to pick up.
What are your thoughts about Vistara’s 787-9 business class? Are you excited to fly it soon?