Vistara ramps up Europe operations, launches daily direct London flight

Europe has been flagged as a focus point for Vistara, India’s newest full-service carrier which expanded its international offering with daily flights between London and New Delhi this month. The Tata Group and Singapore Airlines joint venture celebrated its daily route connecting Heathrow with the Indian capital, with the news that a second flight would be on the cards once more aircraft and slots become available.

The Gurugram-headquartered airline welcomed the high load factors it has been enjoying ever since it went daily with its London flights at the beginning of this month. “Internationally, we cover a total of 10 cities, London being the crown jewel which we have ramped up to a daily service this month,” Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan told reporters at a briefing at Taj Hotel in London.

“For now, we are very, very happy with the route, the load factors are very strong. The average load factors are in excess of 80-85 per cent and the front-end cabins are well subscribed. If we did have the aircraft, Europe would definitely be a focus point, probably with a second London-Delhi [flight] if we get the slots, and Paris and Frankfurt would go up to daily. The US is a sector we would look at further down the line,” he said.

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Operating Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners on its London route, Vistara like many other airlines is constrained by the supply of the aircraft from the US aerospace major. Kannan revealed that his airline’s requirements are for six Dreamliners but is currently operating with just two, with conversations on supply ongoing with Boeing as part of its post-pandemic expansion plans.

“The name of the game over the last two years has been flexibility. We planned, re-planned, un-planned like every other airline because everyday things were changing, with varying requirements and necessities. But then after all that we are finally here and what matters is looking ahead, things are looking bright. We are not out of the woods, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kannan.

Vistara, which launched in the UK in the midst of the pandemic in August 2020, hopes its hub-and-spoke model and code shares with several leading airlines, including British Airways, will prove popular with travellers as international travel gradually opens up in the wake of COVID restrictions.

“We are probably one of the few airlines that opened more destinations during the pandemic, something we are proud of. Now that we have gone through the tough part, we look forward to what the future holds. With our product offering, we feel very well placed to operate in this part of the world and provide a viable alternative to customers flying to and from the UK,” said Kannan.

The airline executive admitted that the current high fares on most long-haul routes are here to stay for some time due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, rocketing fuel prices and strong demand in the face of constrained capacity.

However, he expressed confidence about the prospects of Vistara, which is backed up by factors such as widespread connectivity with all the key cities of India, touchless technology, and softer elements such as Starbucks on board – the coffee brand being a Tata Group venture in India.

“We are very well known for our food and beverage and have won a lot of praise domestically and that transcends borders to be offered internationally as well. We are the only airline to serve Starbucks on board,” said Kannan.

“The proof is in the pudding, in that people have to experience what we offer. What we do offer is a viable alternative to existing contemporaries and perhaps the youngest aircraft fleet. Those are all points in our favour and the fact that we are an Indian brand, bringing the warmth and hospitality that India is known for, and the food goes without saying,? he added.

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Sagar Biswas

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