Vistara, the full-service Indian airline which is a joint venture between Tata Sons of India and Singapore Airlines Limited, launched wide-body international operations in 2020 with flights to London Heathrow and expanded to Paris Charles De Gaulle and Frankfurt on the back of the two 787-9 aircraft that were delivered to them from Boeing in 2020. Since May 2021, the FAA imposed an embargo on Boeing for delivering 787 aircraft due to issues found with aircraft under production, and the remaining 4 aircraft on order have not been delivered.
As scheduled international aviation has opened up as of the Summer Schedule 2022 in India, Vistara is now unable to keep up with the demand for international travel. Vistara received approval from the US Department of Transport to start flights to the US, however, due to the lack of suitable aircraft, they have been unable to do so. In the meantime, United has withdrawn two of its flights to India due to its inability to overfly the Russian airspace as well.
Vistara has, hence, started to look at the option to lease long-haul aircraft from lessors while its own 787 deliveries are stalled. Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan spoke to the media on the sidelines of the Wings India aviation event organized by the Government of India recently.
Vistara is interested in adding more international capacity as it offers stronger pricing compared to domestic yields. Vistara intends to add flights to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, as per the CEO.
Vistara has a fleet of 50 aircraft at the moment, which mostly consists of Airbus A320 aircraft apart from four A321neo and two Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Vistara is not considering adding new aircraft orders at the moment given the volatile business environment, but it believes that there is enough spare aircraft around to fill the temporary gap in their capacity.
It is of note to see how Vistara proceeds on capitalizing on this opportunity. A good move would have been to wet-lease aircraft from parent Singapore Airlines which has the same product installed on their A350 and 787-10 aircraft as used by Vistara, from a product harmony perspective. However, wet leasing is not permitted per India’s rules, apart from exceptional circumstances on a case by case basis, that too, on approval by India’s DGCA, at most for a period of three months. These rules make it untenable to do a wet-lease in India.
Vistara’s new move will likely delay further its plans to expand international operations in case it cannot find 787 aircraft for lease. Boeing has yet not determined when will it be able to start delivering the 787 aircraft again, and the existing ones are in high demand and already placed at airlines, wherever on lease.
Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.