Getting into airline partnerships, boosting its domestic network to have a robust feed, creating more hubs in India and outside are what Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines (SIA) joint venture Vistara is focusing on as it plans to fly international on the regional short haul routes by the second half of this year and on launching its medium and long haul international operations from 2020 onwards, Leslie Thng, CEO, Vistara, told FE.
Vistara announced an order for 56 Airbus and Boeing aircraft worth $3.1 billion last week which, Thng says, with a mix of narrow and widebody aircraft type, fits the airline’s international expansion strategy perfectly both for the regional short haul routes and the long haul and medium haul flights, at least till 2021.
Vistara will take deliveries of all its 56 Airbus A320neos within the next four to five years and the deliveries for its Boeing 787 or the Dreamliner will start from 2020 till 2021 and this is when it plans on launching the medium to long haul flights that are more than seven hours of flying time. “The narrowbody fulfills our commitment to continue serving on the domestic and regional short-haul markets (three to five hours from India), domestic market and also provide the connectivity and the leverage for partnership with other airlines,” Thng said.
Commenting on Vistara’s international plans, Kapil Kaul, CEO and Director, CAPA South Asia, a Sydney based aviation consultancy said that Vistara’s international operations will be in three phases first of which will be the regional short haul routes on the Airbus A320neos followed by the A321LRs which will give the airline the capability to do flights raging from five to six hours and then three will be a progression onto the Boeing 787s where they will launch medium haul to long haul flights with the airline deploying 20-25 aircraft for international operations over the next four to five years.
Expanding to the Southeast Asian region as it launches international operations is where Vistara sees itself on a strong footing as it plans to leverage the extensive network of Singapore Airlines, its shareholder to capture the market as the Brand Vistara goes international, though Thng clarifies Vistara will not be a feeder airline for the Singapore carrier.
“Singapore Airlines is a shareholder in Vistara and a strong international airline based in Southeast Asia and there will be alignment with Singapore Airlines when we fly to that region. We will be working on very closely to tap onto their network when we start our international operations,” Thng said.
“We see Bangalore as a next possible hub for Vistara and it is logical to expect the airline to fuilly leverage Changi (Airport) hub,” Kaul said.
Vistara currently connects 22 destinations with over 800 weekly flights with a market share hovering around four percent for some time now. It is focusing to grow its market share meaningfully in the Indian aviation market and also to have a robust feed for sustainable international operations as it evaluates its domestic network strategy over the past couple of months where it has provided connectivity to Chennai and Bangalore in the South in February and is plans to add more flights connecting other Indian cities as more narrowbody aircraft join the fleet 2019 onwards.
“We will definitely look at a couple of things in the domestic market – one is to increase the frequency we have to some of the routes as it make sense for us especially for connectivity to international operations. Likewise we would then have to evaluate whatever opportunities available on the Tier II and Tier III markets,” Thng said.
And while it is doing this creating more hubs is also what the airline is mulling to bolster its presence and also have meaningful partnerships with other airlines as it fixes the network strategy for hubbing in India outside of Delhi, its primary hub and also in international markets. “As far as another hub outside of Delhi is concerned , Delhi will continue to be our main hub but we do not rule out setting out a secondary hub as long as there is a business case. We will look at what are the opportunities that are available for Vistara to tap on the growing market of India both on the domestic front as well as on the international market front,” Thng said.
As Vistara is looking to fly beyond the Southeast Asian region apart from the short haul regional markets and become a global carrier it will also seek airline partnerships apart from a partnership with Singapore Airlines. “We just don’t want to fly to Singapore or Southeast Asia, our intention is to be a global airline which means that we will have to explore other regions like Europe and may be North Asia and when we go to this region we would have to look for other airline partners to work closely with,” Thng said.