Vistara to announce fleet expansion, international plans soon

With bidding for Air India out of its way, Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines (SIA) JV Vistara is all set to announce its fleet expansion plans — including a significant order for wide body planes for medium to long haul foreign routes — early this week. The full service airline will also give its international flights roadmap as it is now eligible to go abroad with over 20 planes in its fleet. Sources say the announcement may be made as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Vistara had expressed interest in AI divestment. Once it did bid for the airline it was clear that the airline will grow organically. The airline has been in talks with both Boeing and Airbus for fleet expansion order for a while now and the order is ready to be announced. In fact, while big Indian airlines — AI, Jet, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir — changed their baggage policies last week, Vistara did not announce any change as the same will be made once the international plans are rolled out in coming months, say sources.

The airline did not officially comment on its plans and its stand has been it will do so at the right time. “Tata’s deep pockets and SIA’s long haul experience will ensure a steady expansion of Vistara’s overseas footprint. The only thing holding its growth will be the crippling lack of airport infra in India where big airports like Delhi, Mumbai and major traffic growth centres like Patna have no slots to offer. India has been the world’s fastest growing aviation market in last few years but surprisingly no attention has been paid to augmenting airport infra,” said an aviation industry insider.

Vistara, which currently operates Airbus A-320 fleet, is learnt to be eyeing the Boeing’s wide body B-787 Dreamliner for its medium haul international flights. The airline is reported to have opted to buy six Dreamliners with an option to buy four more. These planes can fly nonstop to places like Europe and Australia from India. AI has been using the B-787s on these routes. Jet also has Dreamliners on order but it is not certain when — and if — it will eventually take those planes. On its plane orders also, Vistara has said it will comment at the appropriate time on its fleet plans.

Vistara had earlier this year sought the aviation ministry’s clearance to start international operations to a number of places in Gulf and southeast Asia like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai. In February, Vistara had said told TOI: “: “Our plan is to start international operations in the second half of this year with our existing fleet of Airbus A-320s and fly to destinations within the aircraft’s range. At the same time, we are reviewing the type of aircraft we’ll need to support our future plans of international expansion so that we can commence medium haul routes (between 5-9 hours) after launching the regional/short-haul international routes. (We’re) interested in long haul flights and will commence when the time is right.”

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