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Vistara advances plane deliveries to speed up international debut

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-09-2017 Tarun Shukla tarun.s@livemint.com

New Delhi: Vistara, the airline run by Tata SIA Airlines Ltd, has advanced its plane deliveries by three months that will help it launch international flights after March.

Vistara currently has 16 planes and was scheduled to get its 20th plane in June. That will now join its fleet in March, the airline’s outgoing CEO Phee Teik Yeoh said at a press conference on Thursday.

The airline has leased another two additional planes that will join one each in May and June after these 20 planes come in.

Under India’s rules, a local airline needs to have at least 20 planes before starting international flights.

“International ambition has always been there from day one.” Yeoh said, “If I can get a wide body, then I can go a bit further, but otherwise theoretically, with my 21st and 22nd plane, I can deploy it regionally (West Asia, South East Asia). What is my 23rd aircraft, nobody knows.”

The airline hasn’t announced its wide-body fleet plan yet and declined to elaborate on Thursday as well. Wide-body planes with two aisles are typically used for longer flights.

“We are very close. There are many exciting points (international cities) that we should be operating into. At the same time, we are also very excited about the possible orders that will be required to support aggressive plans overseas,” Yeoh said.

Yeoh declined comments on Air India Ltd disinvestment saying it is a matter for the shareholders - Tata and Singapore Airlines - to comment.

Singapore Airlines holds 49% in Vistara while Tata Sons Ltd holds 51%. Both had earlier tried to bid for Air India about a decade and half back but then abandoned the plans.

At the press conference Vistara and Japan Airlines on Thursday announced a commercial agreement including code sharing.

Japan Airlines’ executive vice-president Tadashi Fujita said the partnership with Vistara provides customers better access to destinations between Japan and India.

He, however, said there are no plans now to invest in Vistara. Japan Airlines has a daily non-stop service between Tokyo (Narita) and New Delhi.

Leslie Thng, the former CEO, Silkair Singapore Pte Ltd and a former vice president of network planning in Singapore Airlines is set to join Vistara as CEO later this year, as the airline prepares to go international.

Vistara could order 50 narrow body and 50 wide body planes and could taken wide bodies on short term lease from Singapore Airlines till ordered planes start arriving, consulting firm CAPA said in its May outlook.

The wide body plane order would need more fund infusion into the airline, analyst have said.

Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines have invested about Rs1,220 crore in the airline since 2015. The privately held airline made a loss of Rs400.90 crore on revenue of Rs714.56 crore in 2015-16, the last year for which figures are available.

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