Singapore Airline’s India venture Vistara eyes direct flights to US

Reuters New Delhi | Updated on November 23, 2020

Pandemic increases the demand for non-stop travel

Vistara, an Indian full-service airline owned by Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, is considering starting direct flights to the United States as the pandemic increases demand for non-stop travel, a senior executive said on Friday.

While the specific timeframe and aircraft requirements are yet to be finalised, Vistara is studying various scenarios for direct flights, Vinod Kannan, said chief commercial officer.

Covid-19 brought air travel to a grinding halt earlier this year as nations imposed travel bans. While travel has resumed to some extent, passenger numbers remain far below previous levels and a full recovery could take years.

Non-stop flights

Vistara has seen a rise in demand for non-stop flights, as passengers try to avoid stopovers to reduce the risk of getting infected - a trend it expects will continue in the future.

Flag carrier Air India is the only Indian airline currently offering direct flights to the US.

“This means there is definitely an fly direct to the US, and it is an opportunity we are looking at,” said Kannan.

Vistara’s potential Air India buy will be a win-win

The airline, which started international flights last year, currently operates two Boeing Co widebody planes and has four more on order, but Kannan said the specifications and layout were not suited for direct flights to the United States.

Whether Vistara would look at ordering new planes or leasing them is under discussion.

“In today’s situation it is much easier to lease a widebody compared to one year ago. Those opportunities and scenarios are being worked on,” said Kannan.

Prior to Covid-19, the airline flew to destinations like Bangkok and Singapore and had plans to start flying to Japan and Europe. Its international flights are now limited to destinations such as London and Dubai with which India has a bilateral “air bubble” arrangement to operate direct flights.

Vistara expects to end fiscal with fleet of 47-48 aircraft

It is in talks to start flights to Paris and Frankfurt under the same bilateral agreement, said Kannan.

By mid-2023, Vistara expects 20 per cent to 30 per cent of its total seat capacity to be deployed on international routes, up from less than 10 per cent last year.

Published on November 23, 2020

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