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The Vistara Experience - Off to Bagdogra

Traveling towards your destination on a vacation is an exciting experience. So was ours on the Air Vistara flight from New Delhi to Bagdogra via Guwahati.
As per the trip plan, we were ready with packed luggage and performed a final check of preparations on the eve of the start of the visit. We had the tickets printed and all vouchers in hard copy. We had confirmed our bookings with the airlines and hotels individually to ensure that the message has passed on to the end service providers. The tour operator had sent in contact numbers for the driver supposed to pick us up at the Bagdogra Airport. So, in short, we were all set for the long looked forward to vacation. The excitement was inevitable as it was after a really long time that we were going to truly be disconnected from the world and have some time purely to ourselves.

A video blog on the journey from New Delhi to Bagdogra

We were booked on Air Vistara flight to Bagdogra scheduled to depart at about 10 AM from New Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport's Terminal 3. We were up early at about 6 AM on May 6th, 2017 to have ourselves and the house ready for a long separation. The windows needed to be sealed and curtains drawn to prevent dusting of the place. Cooking gas connection needed to be put to off position and electrical appliances needed to be taken off-socket. We booked our cab for the airport and gave the house a final look before proceeding with the vacation. We were in the cab by a quarter to 8 and were rushing away from our Princeton Estate abode. We reached the airport by 8:15 and trolleyed into the swanky terminal of the Airport.

We proceeded to the Air Vistara counter after passing through the first check-post of the airport where the tickets and identity cards are validated. The experience of premium economy travel on the airline starts from check-in itself. There are separate counters to receive Premium Economy and Business class travelers and we walked up to the counter and the lady greeted us with a wary smile which seemed odd for an airline with Tata and Singapore Airlines behind it. I presume that she was preoccupied with some other issue on the job and hence gave her some benefit of the doubt. The good thing with Air Vistara is the ability to choose seats online at the time of booking tickets (or alternatively through manage booking option after making the reservations) and we had opted our choice already. The lady checked in our luggage and gave us our boarding passes along with the cabin luggage tags.

Views - Clouds, Farms, and Speed
 We gave a final look to the terminal and moved to the security check area. After clearing the security we realized that new rules have come in and the cabin luggage is no longer stamped. While we have for long believed that stamping of cabin luggage after passing through the X-ray machine was a redundant exercise and showed a lack of confidence in the capability of our security forces. It is only a pilot run as of now at 7 largest airports in the country but is still a good start. We collected our luggage and electronic gadgets (laptop and camera had to be removed and kept in a tray for the security check) and made a move to the waiting area of the terminal.

Courtesy to Diners Club Credit Card, we enjoy unlimited access to airport lounges across the country and hence we went straight to our familiar Plaza Premium lounge in the domestic gates area of the Terminal 3. We checked into the lounge and settled on comfortable sofas (at least compared to outside seating) and plugged into the wireless internet. We enjoyed the breakfast from the decently spread out menu at the lounge. The live counter was serving dosas (a South Indian cuisine) and eggs. There were fruits, a few continental stuff and tea/coffee and juices for the guests to choose from. We filled our belly just enough to keep space for the airline breakfast and relaxed for a while. The ambiance at the lounge was good and allowed a brief rest before the whirlwind tour we were heading to. I would actually say that even if one has to spend a bit on the entry fees to the lounge or for a membership fee, it is actually worth given all that it offers. A decent meal outside will easily outdo the lounge fee and the relatively private area for yourself is just a bonus. We left the lounge about half an hour prior to the flight departure time keeping in mind the 20-minute window when the boarding gates close before take off.

We strolled through the huge corridors of this one of the biggest airport terminals in the world. The T-3 at IGI has always managed to awe us whenever we travel through this and this time was no different. Of course a few better airports have come up in the country, however, this has been the first test case for the success of public-private partnerships in managing airports in India. We reached the gate in time to see a huge queue of people waiting for their turn towards boarding. We again flagged our priority boarding rights and walked in straight to the aircraft through a separate channel for "esteemed guests" 😈

Onboard Meal Service Menu
We found our seats - 3E and 3F and settled in beside a young sales manager from Yatra (a leading travel portal). After belting ourselves we glanced through the in-flight magazine in preparation for the takeoff. The crew meanwhile went through the usual routine of welcoming guests and running through the security drill. Soon the plane was racing on the runway in the run-up to the takeoff and soon we were airborne with only the glimpse of the city of Delhi, becoming smaller by the moments. Once we were at the cruising height and seat belt signs were off, the flight service began. They started with the welcome drink - fruit juices - for the premiere classes and provided hot towels to freshen up. This is one of the many special touches they provide to upper-class passengers.

 The crew provided us the menu of the flight on bookmark kind of card. Next in the service was a light breakfast with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian option. The vegetarian option had aloo tikki with chole (shallow fried potatoes with curry) along with a sweet dish. I was impressed with the steel cutlery that was offered along with the breakfast. After the breakfast, they served the hot drinks - tea or coffee. We opted for the coffee as they serve the famed Starbucks coffee on the premium economy and business class. The coffee was definitely up to the standard of the brand it represented. The choice of Starbucks as the premium coffee is obvious given that both the airline and the coffee brand has Tatas as the Indian partner. As we sipped the coffee, we imagined ourselves in the lap of nature and its beauty in coming days. We excitedly discussed all that we would do during the week coming up and looked forward to all the moments this vacation had in store for us.

Time for Food - Meal Service at Air Vistara

After about a couple of hours of flight, we landed for a short layover at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati at half past noon. I was super happy to be stopping there, though only for a few moments. The city of Guwahati is really close to my heart as this is one of the few cities where I have spent the longest and special time of my life. This is the place where I did my bachelor's in engineering and the memories from that time did begin swarming across my eyes. The nostalgic feelings did try to set in and had it not been the upcoming trip, I would have probably broken the barriers to getting back to the city. However, it was not going to be so as we were just there for about half an hour to drop some passengers and pick a few others.

As soon as the plane landed and those destined to this city deplaned, the ground crew entered the aircraft and began hectic activities - cleaning, replacing stuff, setting seats - to have the craft ready for its further journey. They were meticulous in their approach and thorough in their work while maintaining the speed to have the plane turn around in quickest possible time-frame. While the ground staff did their work, the flight crew validated the remaining passengers by verifying the boarding passes and cross-checking the cabin luggage to confirm their owners. By 1 PM, we were pushing off the parking bay for another takeoff. This time the flight was relatively empty and had about one-fourth of its earlier set of passengers. Soon, we were again in the air, this time going backward towards Delhi, just to drop us on the way at Bagdogra.

Again, the crew served us a drink - Appy Fizz tetra packs - and cookies to munch on during the short flight. It wasn't long after the take off that the captain announced the preparations for landing and we realized that the moment we were waiting for was just there. We touched down at Bagdogra Airport at about 1:45 PM, about half an hour ahead of the schedule and were greeted by awesome weather - cool winds and light drizzle. As we disembarked from the plane, we were rearing to go. This is a small airport and we could walk to the terminal from the plane. We strolled through the arrival area and reached the belt where our luggage was to arrive. We waited for a couple of moments before the bags began arriving. We were taken aback a little when our bags were not in sight as we expected priority luggage handling. However, wifey looked around to find our bags already loaded on the airport trolley. We approached the gentleman with the trolley, apprehensive that our bags were going to be whisked away had we not noticed. The gentleman was an airline employee who had prepared our bags for us as part of priority handling. We thanked him and made way towards the exit. On way, I called the driver and confirmed the meeting point. We met our driver and boarded the car to begin our vacations.

Bagdogra Airport

This was our experience on Air Vistara, the newest star in the civil aviation sector of India. The airline as of now definitely meets expectations of a guest and in some ways goes beyond that. We had a great start to the holiday. Continue reading for our experiences in this blessing of nature - the North Eastern part of India.

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