8:04 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Vistara to fly on 9 January, readies plan for international routes

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Vistara plans to start international operations as soon as the Government lifts the 5/20 rule.

The airline, a 51:49 venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines (SIA), will be starting operations on 9 January with domestic flights on Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad sectors. As of now, 5/20 bars it from international operations for the next 5 years.

But make no mistake. Till 5/20 is lifted, it will anyway partner Singapore Airlines and other international carriers to offer a near seamless international connectivity to passengers.

CCO Giamming Toh told CNBC-TV18 that interline arrangements will be signed with SIA and other airlines. “We can offer single ticket to say someone coming from Australia to India via Singapore Airlines or SilkAir on our network. Indian rules make it compulsory for the traveller to go through security etc as first port of call here but his baggage will be checked through”.

CEO Phee Teik Yeoh said the “writing is on the wall” that 5/20 restriction will be lifted and then, the airline may look at ordering wide body aircraft. As of now, Vistara is committed to A320s which suit domestic and some short haul international operations.

Will Vistara, which is the only airline as of now to offer premium economy class on domestic travel, participate in fare wars launched by competition? Toh merely said pricing will depend on supply-demand situation, hinting that it may also reflect competitive situation.

Vistara has spoken of several innovative service offerings like multiple check-in options. If the passenger does not have check-in luggage, she can be checked in by the airline automatically within four hours of the flight and her boarding card mailed to her.

The airline will offer check-in facility through web, mobile, through cabin class-wise counters at the airport and even through roving agents at the airport. Return check-in also available. The meal options will be rotated every 6 days on its flights and the airline is also speaking of “intuitive” service.

In the Indian market which is notorious for its high-cost operations, how will Vistara offer meals, myriad check-in options, three class fares etc – the entire gamut of full service options. Will it yet remain competitive?

Yeoh said there is a lot of focus on IT, technology plus being a new airline gives it several advantages legacy carriers do not have at present.

The airline’s pricing for its inaugural flight is on the high side but it seems competitive on 20 and 30 day advance purchase basis. Yeoh said there are no plans to offer any discounts.

The airline will begin operations with two aircraft, scale up to 5 by March and is slated to expand fleet to 20 aircraft in four years

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