India's Vistara Airlines will begin flying its flagship Boeing 787-9 between Delhi and London next week, with plans for Paris and Frankfurt to follow.
Vistara – a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and the Tata conglomerate – has scheduled three Delhi-London Heathrow flights per week between August 28 and September 30 as part of a bilateral ‘transport bubble’ between India and the UK, and will go up against incumbents British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on the route.
The nine-hour treks also mark the Dreamliner's debut on long-range international routes, and Vistara hopes that London is just the start.
"Vistara is also seeking necessary regulatory approvals to soon operate similar special flights to Paris and Frankfurt," a spokesman for the airline tells Executive Traveller.
As to what happens on the Delhi-London route after September 30, "this depends upon the bilateral ‘transport bubble’ formed between India and the UK and necessary regulatory approvals."
Vistara now has two of six ordered Boeing 787-9s in its fleet, crowned by a comfortable pod-like business class cocoon with direct aisle access and a fully lie-flat bed.
"As the world starts opening up in a phased manner following an extended global lockdown, these special flights give us the privilege of facilitating travel between the two countries," said Vistara CEO Leslie Thng.
"The arrival of our second Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner further strengthens our fleet and underlines our commitment to expanding globally."
Thng has previously remarked that “we do have plans to eventually fly to Australia.”
Vistara is eager to position itself as a high-end alternative to national flag carrier Air India, with Thng describing the Boeing 787-9s as a “milestone (which) reflects Vistara’s deep-rooted commitment to providing our customers with a premium travel experience like no other carrier in India."
Inside Vistara's Boeing 787 Dreamliner
For business class, Vistara settled on the same seat as used by Singapore Airlines for medium-range ‘regional business class’ on its Boeing 787-10s and selected Airbus A350s: the Symphony, from Stelia Aerospace.
Each of the 30 leather-clad seats pairs direct aisle access with a good degree of privacy and personal space, and converts into a fully lie-flat bed.
The seats are a nominal 20 inches wide, with an extra six inches once the armrest is lowered, and face an 18-inch HD video screen.
The 21 premium economy seats, ranked in three rows of 2-3-2 in a dedicated cabin, are 19 inches wide, with a 38-inch pitch, 7-inch recline, a calf rest and extendable footrest.
In addition to a 13-inch touchscreen display, each premium economy passenger also gets their own AC and USB power outlets.
There are no surprises in Vistara’s Boeing 787-9 economy cabin, with 248 17-inch wide seats arrayed in rows of 3-3-3, with 31 inches of pitch, five inches of recline, 12-inch video screens with their own USB charging sockets, and shared AC outlets.
Vistara is also spruiking a ‘Human Centric Lighting’ system which sets the LED cabin lighting scheme to “incorporate the chronobiological impact, corporate design and effect on colours and materials used in the cabin.”
“By adjusting light colour and intensity throughout flights, it helps travellers to adjust their sleep schedules and arrive well-rested and feeling less jet-lagged.”