I was getting done with a workout when Vistara announced the first commercial flight of their brand new A321neo - and it was going to be the very next day! I was determined to be the first (and so far only!) blogger to fly this very special jet, and here’s the full review...
Chennai (MAA) T1 - Delhi (DEL) T3
Date: August 20, 2020
Aircraft: Airbus A321neo
Cabin: Business class
About the flight
Vistara’s A321neo - the first plane in south Asia to offer flat-bed seats on a narrow-body aircraft - has the potential to open up more medium-haul routes for Vistara (we recently carried out a poll on Twitter and the Seychelles was the top pick for new destinations!).
Due to Covid restrictions, there was no service available on this flight, so my review will only focus on the hard product (the business class seat). My flight was between Chennai (MAA) and Delhi (DEL), with a flight duration of 2 hours and 40 minutes (the plane had just arrived from Delhi, so I actually took the second commercial flight of Vistara’s A321neo).
Booking the flight
With just 24 hours’ notice, business class seats were expensive at around INR 39,000 (USD 528).
We therefore decided to use a combination of miles plus a one-cabin upgrade voucher. This business class flight between Chennai and Delhi cost 13,500 miles plus one upgrade voucher and INR 400 taxes.
While we are on the subject, it’s good to remind you that Vistara is currently offering Club Vistara members a 20% reduction on the price of Award Flights and Upgrade Awards for all Vistara flight bookings made between now and September 3, 2020 (for travel until October 31, 2020).
My experience at Chennai airport
I had a four-hour layover in Chennai before I could get on the Vistara A321neo, and the airport was operating at a very low capacity.
Lounges were shut, and most of the outlets were closed as well (which meant very limited food options for me). I had a couple of samosas and a cup of filter coffee before I got on the flight.
I was printed an economy boarding pass, which was corrected after I pointed out the error (though it did consume extra time and cost me more exposure to the airline representatives).
Boarding began as scheduled (at 12.55pm) with wheelchair passengers given priority, followed by the premium class passengers. All the passengers were provided a safety kit, including a face shield, a face mask, and a small bottle of hand gel, before boarding the flight.
Everything was smooth and simple, and boarding was completed at 1.50pm.
Vistara A321neo business class review
The flight pushed back at 1.55pm, and welcome announcement was made. Immediately after that, the safety instructions were given and the flight took off at 2.10pm. The crew members, lead by Mac, seemed excited about serving in the new aircraft.
The business class cabin felt very fresh and almost instantly put a smile on my face the moment I stepped in. Business class has a total of 12 seats, set up in a 2-2 configuration and there’s a cabin divider at the rear of the cabin, separating business class from premium economy.
I was seated in 3C (aisle), and was one of only four passengers in the cabin.
I spent the first hour working, and then tried using the IFE system but gave up as soon as I had to make a second attempt at getting a hang of it. I had to alternate between the IFE screen controller and the touchscreen a couple of times to get the screen to respond, but it didn’t.
I decided to move to seat 3F because I found it more comfy to take a nap. I turned the seat down, along with the hand rest, curled up and got cozy (though no blankets and pillows were provided on this flight).
I woke up around half an hour out and used the toilet before moving back to 3C, where I realised the cushion on the ottoman was loose and shaking.
The toilet was really small and there wasn’t much room to move, plus it didn’t have anything available inside other than a hand wash bottle, which only had a little fluid left in it.
Seats 3C and 3D weren’t functioning (perhaps why my IFE wasn't working?), so I was requested to sit on the other side while the crew checked out the problem. I was told that it was some technical issue, which was resolved when they rebooted the system of the seat (a process that took around 10-15 minutes).
According to a crew member, the cockpit had some sort of problem when they landed in Chennai - this probably caused an error in those business class seats.
It was nice to see that the crew knew what they have to do, even though the aircraft was very new. They were calm and composed, and gave me assurance that it is a minor issue (they also added that if I didn’t want to switch seats, there were manual functions as well, meaning they could still adjust my seat).
The seat had multiple setting options. It could be reclined to your liking, and even turned into an 84" fully flat-bed.
The seats have a seat pitch of 63” and can be positioned to your liking using the seat controls.
Aisle seat or window?
I am pointing out some vital information over here which will help you decide which seat is better for you. There is not a clear choice as it completely depends on your preference and I will do my best to present the several differences I noticed in both the seats.
In terms of privacy, the window seat is a clear winner, as the neighbouring passenger is mostly out of your view.
The aisle seat, on the other hand, is exposed to the opposite aisle, as well as the passenger on the window seat, as the view of the window passenger isn’t blocked completely from this position.
Since most of the cabin was empty, I had the chance to try out both the seats by turning them into a flat bed. The aisle seat feels more open and has the privacy issue where everybody walking down the aisle is visible, though the aisle passenger on the opposite side gets blocked from the view.
The armrest can be dropped down, so that makes some room for movement, but doesn’t make as much difference as it does in the window seat.
For sleeping, the window seat is the winner for me - for multiple reasons. First of all the bed is slightly longer, plus there's extra room in the footwell. If you are tall, I’d definitely suggest you go for the window seat.
The second thing is that when you drop down the arm rest, you get to access a lot of extra space, which is a huge plus for when you decide to lay down, as it gives you a lot more room than the aisle seat.
The only catch with the window seat is that if the aisle passenger decides to turn their seat into a bed, then you’ll either have to request them to move the seat or hop over them, which shouldn’t be much of an issue as the seat is quite low and there’s enough standing space between both the seats.
If, at the start of the flight, you take your seat mate’s permission to hop on to the aisle if need be, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Both the seats have the same ample storage space - enough to comfortably stow your laptop, phone, passport and other handy items. Storage is divided into two different compartments, one is under the IFE screen and the other next to the headrest.
The one next to the headrest has a 3-pin plug point, though my iPhone 18W USB-C power adapter somehow wasn’t working. There is a USB port above the plug point as well, and in the same compartment you’ll also find a cupholder and the headphone socket.
There is storage space for you to keep your shoes as well.
There is a reading light next to the seat which has three brightness settings to meet your needs, unlike Air India B777-300 business class, which only has two brightness settings in their reading lights.
The tray table is located next to your leg and is conveniently positioned.
While the size is adequate, I expected the tray table to be slightly bigger.
There is a coat hook provided at the seat as well.
I was able to check out the premium economy and economy cabins towards the end of the flight. I have added some pictures here…
While we were approaching Delhi, the clouds decided to put up a bit of a scenic show...
I asked to click pictures with the captain and the crew, though my request was turned down (perhaps due to Covid?).
Apart from a minor glitch in my seat (which was corrected), the flight was a very comfortable one. It was a great experience flying the brand new aircraft, and when the crew welcomed us to “Fly the new feeling” (Vistara’s tagline), I could feel it. 😉
With this aircraft, Vistara has become one of the few airlines offering flat-bed seats on narrow-body aircraft. The efforts I had to put in to position myself in Chennai so I could fly this on the very first day were worth it.
Although my interaction with the crew was very limited, they were warm and made me feel at home. Though I would have liked the airline to at least offer water, as Air India is doing.
Overall, I was a happy and satisfied customer walking out of the plane in Delhi. I can’t wait to fly on this aircraft when the full service is back on, and be able to get a full feel of this on a longer route.
What do you think about Vistara’s A321neo business class? Where would you like to fly in it?