Saturday, September 1st was a blustery and rainy day at New Delhi’s IGI airport. However, the excitement and warm hospitality by the team members of Vistara and their agency Avian, removed any gloom from the minds of us aviation geeks and press present for the occasion.
Vistara, the brand of the Tata SIA Airlines joint venture of the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, was unveiling its 22nd and newest Airbus A320-251N neo. The aircraft is a tribute to the sesquicentennial of the Tata group, founded in 1868 by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. On the left side of the aircraft is the URL www.tata150.com which takes a visitor down memory lane.
The most significant milestone for us aviation geeks, in the history of the Tatas, is the famous 1932 flight performed by J.R.D. Tata carry mail from Karachi to Bombay (now Mumbai) via Ahmedabad and then on to Madras (now Chennai) via Bellary (now Ballari). That gave birth to Tata Airlines which was later nationalised to become Air India. The Tatas newest venture in to the airline business is nearing its own fourth year anniversary.
The Vistara Retrojet
One of the DC-3 (Douglas Commercial) ‘Dakota’ in the Tata Airlines fleet was VT-ATV, and Vistara has used this palindrome registration for the new A320neo.
The aircraft is painted with a special Mica coating which provides not just a metallic look reminiscent of the metallic silver of the DC-3, but changes hues, depending on the light, to give an old-world sepia tone too.
Leslie Thng the CEO and Sanjiv Kapoor the COO personally greeted the attendees and took time to explain the thoughts and motivations for the livery, and the challenges faced in getting the livery to have the look of yesteryears in the modern era of colour. The only photo of the old VT-ATV was in black and white, so what were the colours of the lettering? In a black and white photo both black and red appear as black. What colour should the cheat lines be? Red is already used by another airline.
Minutes later the red curtains parted and VT-ATV was present to all us in her full glory. Most of us aviation geeks have already seen pictures of the plane floating on the internet, but they just did not convey the shimmering beauty in life. The new pain weighs just 25 kgs more compared to the regular paint, and despite many attempts by those assembled, the Vistara executives refused to say how much extra did the special paint job cost.
Retro crew uniforms
Vistara had one more secret which was only revealed that day. A set of cabin crew in full retro uniforms, right down to the doubled breast jackets, pump shoes and pillbox shaped vanity bags. A Vistara executive confided, that they tried getting the old square vanity cases but could not. The crew will use these retro uniforms for the seven special flights Vistara has planned through the year
Interior of the retro jet and IntelliLavs.
The interior is almost the same as other A320neos in the Vistara fleet. Extensive use of mood lighting. The signature purple colour on the seats.
The rear toilets are the new slimmer “IntelliLav” which allows Vistara to fit an extra row of seats. The seat pitch of these newer seats is reduced, presumably for the ultra-low “freedom fares” the airline has introduced.
There is much concern about the size of these new lavatories. But as you can see, while my 30 inch wide shoulders fit inside the lavatory, they were snug. So a normal passenger should not have problems.
The new “SpaceFlex” lavatories located in the rear galley of the low cost carries are another matter. They are just too small for me.
Special commemorative flights
Vistara will operate seven special commemorative flights through the year to mark milestones in the 150 year history of the Tatas. Stay tuned to Bangalore Aviation for updates.
The first flight is scheduled for September 5th as UK963 from New Delhi to Mumbai 08:45 – 11:10. The return flight from Mumbai to New Delhi is UK902 scheduled to depart 15:40. Seats are still available for booking.
The flights will feature favourite dishes of JRD Tata, as remembered by the Chefs of the Taj Hotels who used to serve him.
- Cheddar Cheese and Onion Omelette (served with chicken roll and sable potatoes)
- Crêpe au Champignon (mushroom and egg crepes served with chicken sausage and a hash potato)
- Meat Medley (chicken sausage, egg and onion pie served with tandoori chicken kebab and a cashew spinach cutlet)
- Waldorf Salad, Minestrone Soup, Herb Roast Chicken (served with Vichy carrots, green beans and rosemary potatoes)
- Goan Prawn Curry (prawns in tangy coconut curry, served with cabbage beans foogath and steamed rice)
- Crème Caramel
So if you want to fly a recreation of history, visit www.airvistara.com and book your seats.
My thoughts and thanks
It is heartening to see Vistara bringing out a special retro liveried aircraft. In addition to remembering its heritage, the plane serves as a flying marketing billboard. At Spicejet too, Sanjiv Kapoor, painted a special livery on one of their Boeing 737s VT-SZK, called “With All Our Heart”.
The other Indian airline that does special liveries on its planes is another Tata joint-venture, AirAsia India. It’s a pity that Air India, which many regard having one of the most beautiful and distinct liveries in the world, chooses to not remember its glorious heritage. I truly hope that changes soon.
Lastly, I thank Vistara for the lovely scale model presented to me to remember the occasion and inviting me to the unveiling.