‘Vistara to fly international routes in second half of this year’

Ashwini Phadnis Hyderabad | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on March 08, 2018

First flight will be to a destination 3-5 hours from India, says CEO Thng

Vistara, set up jointly by Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, will be ready to announce its orders for wide-body aircraft by December this year, Leslie Thng, Chief Executive Officer, said on Thursday. He said the airline’s first international flight could be in the region or in South- East Asia to a place which is 3 to 5 hours from India. In an interaction with select media persons, Thng outlined Vistara’s international expansion plans. Excerpts:

What are Vistara’s plans to go international?

In the second phase of our expansion we plan to go international which will be in the second half of this year. When we go international we are no longer competing with the Indian airlines, we will be taking on the major players who have a very good reputation in terms of product like Singapore Airlines and Emirates.

If you plan to go international you should be prepared to take on a higher level of competition.

We are really re-looking in terms of how we can improve our service excellence. We are trying to do more in terms of digitalisation and providing more digital platforms and information to the customer in a more seamless manner.

When you launch international operations will you do it with the existing narrow body fleet or will you also have wide-body aircraft?

Our 20th aircraft will be delivered at the end of this month. We have leased another two A-320 New Engine Option (NEO) aircraft. The 21st aircraft will arrive in May and the 22nd in June. When I talk about starting international operations in the second half of 2018 these will be the aircraft that we will have. The likely destinations will be within the 3-5 hours range. At the same time, we plan to do a lot more. What I mean by going beyond regional would be 5 hours to 8-9 hours.

We will definitely acquire different aircraft types to be able to support the medium haul mission. Which means we are reviewing the future aircraft type for Vistara.

Any time-frame as to when you will start medium haul operations which would be 5-9 hours from India?

Only after we start international operations. Hopefully within one or two years we will start the medium-haul operations also.

Have you filed for approval with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to start flying to international destinations?

We have started the process of seeking approval.

When you talk medium-haul international operations does that exclude India -US?

When we talk medium haul it is all of Europe, North Asia and the whole of South East. Vistara is interested in going long haul. If you are specifically asking India to US I think it is always a plan for us. Our view is that we would like to do it progressively. When we think it is the right time to go long haul we will. For long haul we do not have a fixed time line at this moment.

What does progressively mean?

Progressively means we will start international operations with flights to regional areas. The next step is medium haul. We will have to ensure that we are successful when we have an expansive network for international that is why even though we are growing international we will continue to expand our domestic network.

Going international does not mean we will neglect the domestic market. We will gear up our domestic market more aggressively.

What about funding for the second phase of growth?

That is something which we are discussing with the promoters.

How is premium economy faring in the domestic skies?

In the past few years we have seen recovery (in premium economy) in terms of pick up for the product. Yield in terms of average fare that we are collecting is more than in the past. Premium economy is similar to business class and it depends on the routes. There are certain routes where premium economy and business class are in high demand like between the metro cities and there are also routes where we need a bit of push creating awareness and demand.

Published on March 08, 2018

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