David Lim, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for India.
David Lim, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for India.

Vistara may tap Singapore Airlines’ reach to fly abroad

Vistara has an existing codeshare partnership with Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir, which can be leveraged to tap into their extensive networks once Vistara starts its overseas flights

Mumbai: Vistara, the full-service Indian airline, could tap into the global expertise of one of its founders, Singapore Airlines Ltd, as it gears up to start international flights from the end of this year.

A joint venture between Tata Sons Ltd which controls India’s diversified Tata group, and Singapore Airlines, Vistara may collaborate on areas such as revenue sharing, frequent flyer programmes, lounge facilities and codesharing of flights, David Lim, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for India, said.

Vistara plans to launch its international services with short-haul regional flights using its fleet of Airbus A320 jetliners. The airline is expected to leverage Singapore Airlines’ extensive network in South-East Asia although Vistara executives have maintained that it won’t be a feeder for the Singapore carrier.

“There could be partnerships between Vistara and Singapore airlines, that will benefit both airlines in time to come," Lim said in an interview on Tuesday. “This could include revenue sharing on flights, something similar to Jet Airways-Etihad and Jet Airways-Air France model".

A spokesperson for Vistara said the carrier has an existing codeshare partnership with Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir, which can be leveraged to tap into their extensive networks once Vistara starts its overseas flights.

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Vistara is expected to follow up the launch of its short-haul regional international routes (three to five hours long) to longer flights (five to six hours) using Airbus SE’s 320 family of planes followed by a progression into long-haul routes using Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Last week, Vistara said it will place an order for 19 planes worth $3.1 billion from Airbus and Boeing with options for seven more narrow body planes from Airbus, besides leasing another 37 new A320neo planes. Vistara had also signed a letter of intent with Boeing for six wide-bodied 787-9 Dreamliner planes and purchase rights for four more from the Dreamliner family.

Vistara’s chief executive Leslie Thng told Mint on July 11 that the airline would consider codeshare partnerships with like-minded partners once it starts international flights. “Singapore Airlines being a very strong player in South-East Asia will be a natural partner for us when we fly there," Thng had said, adding Vistara would also scout for “like-minded partners in Europe and North Asia."

Aviation consultant CAPA India’s chief executive Kapil Kaul said he expects Vistara to fully utilize Singapore Airline’s hub—Changi airport—and significantly cooperate with the bigger airline. However, Kaul doesn’t see Vistara to be a feeder airline to its larger Singapore-based parent.

“(We) see Vistara as a global Indian carrier in the medium to long term, strategically pursuing their business plan independent of Singapore Airlines," Kaul said. He said commercial cooperation between both airlines is logical and could include codesharing, FFP (frequent flyer program) partnership, joint pricing, shared lounge facilities, optimizing distribution strengths including synergy in corporate travel programs.

Kaul expects Vistara to be the second Star Alliance member from India, after national carrier Air India. Singapore Airlines is also a member of Star Alliance, one of the largest global airline alliances.

“Next steps (for Vistara) will possibly include Bangalore as (its) second hub and (the airline dedicating) 20-25 aircraft for international operations in next four to five years," Kaul added.

However, Singapore Airlines, which will launch non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles using the new Airbus A350-900ULR (ultra-long-range) aircraft in November, doesn’t see Vistara replacing its subsidiaries Silk Air and Scoot as an option to fly one-stop to the US in future. “If I have to fly from a smaller Indian city like Amritsar to US, I will take Scoot to fly to Singapore and then non-stop to US. It will not make sense for Vistara to fly from smaller Indian towns to its hub in Delhi, and then to US and other Western destinations through Singapore," Lim said.

Scoot flies from Chennai, Amritsar, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Trichy and Lucknow. Silk Air meanwhile flies to and from Visakhapatnam, Coimbatore, Kochi, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

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