Vistara to start NE flights soon

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New Delhi, Feb 9: Tata Sons’ start-up airline Vistara will start flights to south and north-east India over the next few weeks as part of the airline’s second phase of expansion.

Vistara, launched in partnership with Singapore Airlines Ltd, started commercial operations on 9 January, with its inaugural flight between Delhi and Mumbai, and has got clearance from the aviation regulatory authority Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to expand further. Vistara, which operates three aircraft, will expand to six by April.

It has been cleared to launch flights to Goa, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Guwahati, according to a person with knowledge of the subject. Most of these flights will be launched from its hub in Delhi.

It already connects Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Most of this expansion will start after 15 February when the fog season restrictions will be lifted. “Delhi-Mumbai flights will be increased from three to five both ways and there will be an additional Mumbai-Ahmedabad flight,” said a Vistara spokesperson without giving details on the new routes.

The Tata airline is also likely to fly to Bagdogra in West Bengal for which DGCA clearances have been secured. An announcement is likely to be made by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee soon, according to a second person aware of the situation who also declined to be named.

Vistara’s spokesperson confirmed it “is looking at Bagdogra” but declined to say when the airline will start flights. The summer schedule for airlines in India is cleared by the DGCA and runs till October. Vistara is the only airline in India to have three classes in India.

It operates Airbus A320-200s with 148 seats—16 business class seats, 36 premium economy class seats and 96 economy class seats. The airline launched its fares for Delhi-Mumbai at approximately Rs.6,500, Rs.9,200 and Rs.25,000, for economy, premium economy and business class, respectively. It has recently lowered its economy fares to Rs.5,500 for economy class to match rival airlines like GoAir, IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India, which are selling tickets at Rs.4,800, Rs.6,000, Rs.6,500 and Rs.6,500, respectively, for the same route for travel in the next one week.

The premium economy and business class fares have remained the same, according to online travel agencies. An official with a travel website, who did not wish to be named, said Vistara is facing lower occupancy, especially in its premium economy class, but people are curious to try out a new product in the market.

“Vistara launch has been well-received and feedback is positive,” said Kapil Kaul, chief executive officer, South Asia, for consulting firm Capa. “But making such a premium product for the domestic market work in India is real hard work and needs a lot of patience and perseverance.” Kaul said as the airline’s network expansion takes place, the competitive strength will increase and impact will be more visible.

“Vistara has the right cost base, strong product and brand, and adequate capitalization, which give it the holding power required and, more importantly, committed team to make it work,” he said. Tata Sons holds the majority stake of 51% in Vistara and SIA the remaining 49%. It’s the third full-service airline operating in India after state-run Air India Ltd and Jet Airways (India) Ltd. The airline has hired several of its staff from erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, which was grounded in 2012, leaving a huge gap to carry business class fliers for a new start-up.

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