Intention is to fly globally in a progressive manner, says Vistara CEO

“To be a global airline you just don’t restrict yourself to domestic and regional,” says Leslie Thng.

July 11, 2018 02:15 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 08:44 am IST

Vistara announced on Wednesday a firm order with Airbus and Boeing for 19 aircraft as it looks to fly international. In a telephonic interview with The Hindu, the airline's CEO Leslie Thng talks about Vistara's plan for international flights, infrastructure constraints at Indian airports as well as the impact of the rise in fuel prices.

You have announced plans to induct Airbus A320 Neo family of aircraft as well as Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Is it going to be challenging to shift from from a single-type fleet to a mixed fleet?

To answer that it is relevant to look into what is Vistara’s vision and mission. We all along wanted to be a global international airline, which means we will go international but at the same time the domestic market will be a very important and a key asset for Vistara.

When we look at the mission for Vistara, we divide it into two categories — the first is the domestic, regional- and short-haul, and the second is medium- to long-haul.

Vistara is based in India and this is where our hub is located and we will continue to further expand and penetrate into the domestic market for which the Airbus A320 neo family (of aircraft) will be the best fleet for us so that there is a continuation in terms the aircraft we already have.

At the same time, to be a global airline you just don’t restrict yourself to domestic and regional. You look into medium haul and long haul eventually. When we look at the available 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.

When you announce that Vistara is adding Boeing 787-9 to its fleet it becomes clear that you are looking at European destinations, non-stop flights to U.S. and Australia. Can you confirm this?

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 (we intend to serve), it is a bit premature at this moment to speculate but it is always in our intention to operate 5-9 hours flight and eventually 12-13 hours flight with the capability of this aircraft.

Vistara CEO Leslie Thng

Vistara CEO Leslie Thng


When can we expect a formal announcement from you on international operations?

We have 21 aircraft (in our fleet) which makes us eligible to fly overseas. We are in the process of seeking approvals from relevant authorities. When we are ready to announce we will be more than happy to share the news with you.

How will you be looking at developing synergies with Singapore Airlines and its subsidiaries such as Scoot Air and Silk Air?

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

What is the pricing model you are looking at and will you continue to offer premium economy to your passengers on international flights?

We are a full service airlines. So, when we go international we will ensure that our pricing is competitive enough to attract the market segment we are targeting. As far as premium economy is concerns, that is definitely an option for us to consider.

I think premium economy is always more relevant, especially, when you fly further and longer.

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 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 for a specified future time period), which helps us to moderate the eventual impact of the rice in oil prices.

Both Delhi and Mumbai airports have severe capacity constraints. As you look to expand your operations do you plan to develop a different airport as your 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 considering different ways to improve operational efficiencies, which include penalising airlines if they are not punctual. Do you support such moves in the larger interest of the aviation sector?

I think from an airline perspective we do understand that there are constraints currently. The government is very proactive and is trying to address some of these challenges to further improve operational efficiency.

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

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