Vistara is the only Indian airline to offer premium economy, so I was keen to try this product - pitched as a significant upgrade from economy, for just a little extra.
Booking my Vistara flight
I booked my flight just two days before travelling, directly on the Vistara website. The cost was INR 10,787 in premium economy for a return ticket.
At the airport
I arrived at Mumbai airport’s terminal 2 at 4.40am for my 6.10am Vistara flight. After clearing security I stepped aside to put my mask on and then headed to the check-in counter, which was rather empty given the coronavirus scare at the time.
Hoping that I would be able to get a cheap upgrade to business class given the low passenger loads, I headed straight to the business check-in counter.
I was quoted INR 8,000 for the upgrade, which was more than the INR 5,600 upgrade available online before the flight, so I declined. The representative was kind enough to check my bag in at the same counter.
Check-in and hand baggage allowance in premium economy is 20kg and 10kg respectively, an increase on the 15kg and 7kg for economy class passengers (baggage allowance for business passengers is 30kg for check-in and 12kg for hand baggage).
After clearing security, I reached the boarding gate (47B) at 5am, which meant that I still had 25 minutes before boarding began.
After spending a few minutes looking outside the window and being prompted by a pop-up screen on my phone to join the airport wifi, I started talking to the manager at the gate.
He told me that the flights have been going empty recently, so much so that the airline is planning on reducing 50 per cent of its flights.
Boarding began on time at 5.25am. I was welcomed on board by a team of crew members and made my way to seat 6D.
You have to pass through the business class cabin on the way to premium economy, which is divided from the economy section by a curtain.
With just two rows in a 2-2 configuration, the business class cabin is small, but the seats looked rather comfortable. I was tempted to try it out on my return flight.
Of the 24 seats available in premium economy, only five were taken so the cabin was quiet throughout the journey. Cold towels were given out at 5.47am, followed by a “boarding complete and gate closing” announcement.
Five minutes later I got the breakfast menu, and there were three options to choose from in premium economy, one more than economy class.
At this point a crew member (I don’t want to name names!) came up to my seat looking pretty confused. After standing there for a few seconds with a look of bewilderment, the crew member asked me if I minded moving to an emergency seat in the economy section.
I was quite surprised that a crew member would ask someone from premium economy to move to economy.
Announcements were made in Hindi and English to introduce the captain, first commander, on board crew and the mandatory safety demonstrations.
I was still recovering from the shock of being asked to move to economy when I found the crew member had placed her face mask on the seat next to me (as I had moved along to the centre seat in order to make room for her).
I would request Vistara to please make sure that hygiene is maintained, specially in such times.
After a taxi time of approximately 10 minutes, the flight took off at 6.17am.
The differences between economy and premium economy seats are that premium economy has an adjustable headrest, more recline and extra leg space. The seats are in the same 3-3 configuration as the economy cabin.
There’s extra leg space in premium economy, thanks to the 33” seat pitch - 20 per cent more than economy.
A cushion is provided.
You will find newspapers already waiting in your seat pocket. A gentleman from behind asked for the Economic Times as the newspapers aren’t provided in economy, and I was happy to oblige.
There is no infotainment system, but Vistara has their own app for flight infotainment called ‘Vistara World’, which can be used using the wifi on flight that only runs this app.
If you don’t have the app installed on your phone, you can log on to the Vistara World website and watch the movies and TV shows there. Wifi is only limited to Vistara World - it does not support whatsapp, emails, browsing or any other internet services.
A USB port for charging mobile devices is available, and there's also a stand for keeping your tablet and mobile phones.
I’ll advise you to avoid the last row, as you can feel pushing and disturbance on your seat because the economy seat behind doesn’t have a lot of room. I was lucky the flight was empty and I didn’t have to face too much of that.
After take-off, passengers were asked for their choice of hot meal. I chose the multigrain omelette with chicken sausage, which was served by hand (no trolley was used) at 6.30am. The food quality was good and I could feel the grains in my bites.
Orange and apple juices were available, and I went for the apple juice with my breakfast, and requested to have the coffee served later.
The crew member was kind enough to agree and told me that she would get me the Nescafé after the breakfast plates were collected. She later asked me to just press the assistance button whenever I wanted the coffee.
No alcohol was served on this flight, but carbonated soft drinks are available on request. Vistara doesn’t serve Starbucks coffee on flights lasting less than 90 minutes.
Breakfast was warm, and the food quality was good.
Fruits were fresh as well.
The apple juice was just perfect, as I don’t like it too cold, and the golden ribbon gave the cutlery a premium look.
Refreshing wipes were included with breakfast
My plates were cleared at 6.55am. The stewardess offered to get my coffee, and of course I accepted.
We started to descend at around 7am and arrived in Hyderabad at 7.15am - 25 minutes ahead of schedule. I got my luggage early as premium economy check in baggage is marked ‘priority’.
It was a comfortable journey overall, barring a few bumps in the service (although I could attribute that to just being a human error). Given that the flight was 60-70 per cent free, I wouldn’t expect Vistara staff to make such mistakes.
I found Vistara to be a premium airline. Having flown with other domestic carriers as well, I feel Vistara provides the best overall experience. I would fly with them again.
For an extra couple of thousand INR, I felt that the upgrade to premium economy was worth it. I wouldn’t mind upgrading my next flight to premium economy.
What do you make of Vistara premium economy class?