After “packing a punch” in the domestic aviation space, two-year-old airline Vistara is preparing to take to the international skies even as it admits that the journey will not be a “walk in the park”.
A joint venture between Tatas and Singapore Airlines, Vistara — a full service carrier with a fleet of 13 planes at present — is battling intense competition in the high growth market.
Vistara, which completes two years of operations this week, may be small in terms of fleet size but it has “packed a punch,” Chief Executive Officer Phee Teik Yeoh said in an interview to PTI.
Referring to Vistara in general, Yeoh said, “I have not gone overseas yet but one thing is sure, we take no chances. We are not disillusioned to think that international operations is a walk in the park, both from competitive as well as operational stand point”.
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According to him, the board is likely to soon discuss the airline’s plans for overseas flights.
In the joint venture, Tata Sons holds 51 per cent while the rest is with Singapore Airlines (SIA), a well established international carrier.
Vistara took to the Indian skies on January 9, 2015. Currently, it operates to 18 domestic airports with a fleet of 13 Airbus A320s.
Emphasising that operating in the overseas market was far more complex than flying on domestic routes, Yeoh said then “We are dealing with weather and climate of huge differences and diversity from our experience here”.
Vistara would go overseas only when it is ready (to take on competition, the airline CEO said, adding that competition is probably “far more keener than what we face here (in the local market)”.
“We are going to be exposed (when flying overseas) to competition from airlines of far bigger pockets, and they are the ones who have invested heavily in product and services… the competition is just not going to be of pricing alone, but also on the unique customer value proposition that everyone goes after,” Yeoh said.
Admitting that there were many “hits” and some “misses” during the two-year period, he said the greatest achievement was the launch of the airline in a record period.
“In the first year (2015), when we started, the number of aircraft we had were just seven and ended the calendar year with nine. Second year, we ended with 13 (aircraft) and now we have 13 today. Small number of aircraft… we may be small but we have packed a punch,” he said.
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About plans to fly overseas, the Vistara chief said the airline management is keeping its board in the loop.
“We engage them on the strategy of our international operations. There have been few rounds. We are now looking on further refining the plan and hopefully very soon we will be able to secure approval before bringing the proposal to the promoters,” he noted.
In the run up to start international operations, the airline continues to strengthen its customer value proposition with a slew of product and services.
“Last year we have introduced a quite number of ancillary services like fly early scheme, excess baggage purchase, corporate upgrade, affordable luxuries, lounge vouchers, upgrades at the airport essentially to ensure that we do not lose our footing on the ground in domestic when we go overseas,” Yeoh said.
Besides, the airline is in the process of securing the mandatory IOSA certification for international operations from global airlines grouping, International Air Transport Association.