Vistara, on Wednesday, announced a firm order for 19 Airbus and Boeing aircraft as the Tata-SIA venture looks to fly overseas. In a telephonic interview, the airline’s CEO

Leslie Thng

spoke about Vistara’s plans for international flights, infrastructure constraints at Indian airports as well as the impact of rising fuel prices.

You have announced plans to induct Airbus A320 neo family of aircraft as well as Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Won’t it be challenging to shift to a mixed fleet?

This is where our hub is located and we will continue to further expand and penetrate into the domestic market for which the Airbus A320neo family [of aircraft] will be the best fleet for us so that there is continuity in terms of the aircraft we already have.

At the same time, to be a global international airline you just don’t restrict yourself to domestic and regional operations. You look into medium-haul and long-haul eventually. When we look at the aircraft type available for Vistara the conclusion is that the Boeing 787-9 aircraft is the best fleet for us to fulfil our ambition to go medium- to long-haul.

The addition of Boeing 787-9 to the fleet indicates you are looking at European destinations, non-stop flights to U.S. and to Australia. What are your international plans?

Our intention is to fly globally in a progressive manner. We will definitely start international operations on regional to short-haul with the A320s we have right now. If you look at the capabilities of the Boeing 787-9 aircraft, it gives an airline the opportunity to go beyond medium-haul. I think that is something within our interest. As to the exact destinations, it is a bit premature at this moment to speculate about, but it is always our intention to operate 5-9 hours flights and eventually 12-13 hours flights.

When can we expect a formal announcement on international operations?

We have 21 aircraft which makes us eligible to fly overseas. We are in the process of seeking approvals from relevant authorities.

What synergies would you look to develop with Singapore Airlines and its units Scoot Air and Silk Air?

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is always one of our partners in Southeast Asia. But when we fly to Europe, we will have to look for like-minded partners there. Of course, in Southeast Asia the extensive network that the SIA group has will be a good thing for us so that so we can tap more destinations we ourselves would not be flying to.

What is the impact of rising oil prices on your operational revenue?

Fuel prices are significantly higher than the last year, which increase the airline’s operating cost. We are looking at measures to keep our costs competitive as well as to improve our revenue. But, having said that we do a bit of hedging [agreement to purchase jet fuel at a predetermined price], which helps us to moderate the eventual impact of the rise in oil prices.

Delhi and Mumbai airports have capacity constraints. As you look to expand operations are you exploring a different airport as a hub?

Delhi will continue be the main hub. But we will have to take into consideration all the different opportunities that would be available at some other airports. So, we may explore if there is a business case for us to set up a secondary hub outside Delhi for our international operations.

The government is reported to be considering ways to improve operational efficiency and measures may include some steps to penalise airlines. Do you support such moves?

Vistara as an airline would be keen to support any initiative that would improve the operational efficiency and infrastructure available at an airport.

Vistara will support any initiative that would improve efficiency at airports

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