As the newest full-service carrier in India, Vistara’s moves are watched carefully by everyone. Vistara is supposed to be the redemption we are all waiting for from the other carriers who are full-service but plagued with issues such as broken planes and bad food. With their own high pedigree in parentage from Singapore Airlines, this of course comes as no surprise.
Now, Vistara’s real long-term plan is to operate an International airline to cater to the Indian flyer. But they cannot get there without first building a sustained local network. Which means they have to have a 20-airplane fleet to even be eligible to fly abroad. Once the rulebook was eased, Vistara decided they wanted to bring in their 20-plane fleet by June 2018 to be able to qualify to fly abroad.
A big aircraft order is coming, however, we don’t know when and with which airframe builder will it be. On my visit to Airbus, there were enough clues they want that big-bird business too, but I won’t know if they are in the lead or is it going to be a Boeing long-haul fleet. Some media members expect a 100 plane order coming up, a mix of narrowbody and widebody planes. This should really depend on where will they head to in the international game. The outgoing CEO Phee Teik Yeo mentioned today,
We are very close to finalizing our plans for international operations. Vistara will fly to places like Japan as that is a very important market. We are very excited by the aircraft order (the airline will place) to support our aggressive overseas plan. At this stage, I cannot share the aircraft type and how many wide and narrow body we will need for our plan. Or how soon will we fly abroad. We will make all these announcements very shortly.
Some guesses, London will be one destination they want. Although just like Mumbai, I don’t know if they can have it. However, there are tonnes of interesting destinations to go to, and I’m sure they are planning a lot of those. After all, services from India are only offered by Air India on a true international network of some sort (flying to Australia, North America, Europe & Asia), while Jet Airways is more an Asian player with some European operations too. I fully expect the first flights to be with the smaller planes though, and these would either head to Singapore or Sri Lanka, who knows. Like the CSCO Sanjiv Kapoor said,
In 2018, towards the middle of the year, we should hopefully be able to start flying international
In a press interaction today, Vistara’s CEO signed up an MoU with Japan Airlines. Here is a hint for a new long-haul flight to Japan sometimes in the future. After all, only the Japanese carriers operate a daily flight into India. The Indian carrier is only Air India, not even Jet Airways. He said,
Japan is on our radar. The question is how, and how many frequencies we start with, what type of aircraft… these are work in progress and we are very close to finalising.
He alludes to the new open-skies agreement with Japan being a part of the reason they are looking at Japan in their map of world domination.
I’m excited to see where this is headed. There are too many variables open right now. On one hand, Air India is up for sale. While the government wants to wrap up this process in a few months, I don’t expect that to happen in at least 6 months from now. There is not even a due diligence being done on Air India by anyone as of now from what I know. And M&A takes time, especially when you are dealing with the Government of India. Vistara will perhaps throw their hat in the ring. It gives them a headstart many years into the future.
And then, there is the new order. I’m guessing the new order will happen regardless of Air India coming into the fold. And then we just have to see what will be the new product about and where all will it take Vistara.
What do you expect from the international expansion of Vistara?