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Vistara’s ambitious plan to become the second Indian carrier to fly to the US has been delayed due to a global halt in deliveries of Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner jets pending approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

A senior Vistara official said the carrier will have to wait for additional Dreamliners to be able to start US operations as its existing lot of two 787 planes have been deployed on other international and domestic sectors.

“We have received approvals for US flights. But we will have to see when we can receive the third aircraft, and only after that can we do a more comprehensive kind of expansion plan," said Vinod Kannan, chief commercial officer at Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.

“At present, London, Tokyo, Frankfurt flights, and occasional domestic and charters are using up the aircraft (Boeing 787) time," Kannan said.

Vistara has firm orders for six Dreamliners, with options for four more. It is the only wide-body plane in the airline’s fleet capable of flying directly to long-haul destinations like the US.

Vistara has a fleet of 48 aircraft—37 Airbus A320; three Airbus A321neo; six Boeing 737-800NG; and two Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Delivery of the Dreamliners will likely remain halted until at least late October as Boeing has been unable to persuade air-safety regulators to approve its proposal to inspect the aircraft, The Wall Street Journal reported on 6 September.

FAA had on 12 July said some undelivered Boeing 787s have a new manufacturing quality issue which the company needs to fix before shipment.

“We have engaged with FAA on this issue in meetings and working sessions over hundreds of hours and will continue to do so," Boeing said in a statement on Tuesday.

Starting flights to markets like the US, which Air India and few US carriers currently service, is an opportunity for Vistara to place a good product at a competitive price and quickly gain market share, a senior industry official said, seeking anonymity.

“Prolonged delay in deliveries of Boeing 787 could, however, lead the airline to consider leasing other wide-body planes," the person said.

Meanwhile, Vistara is exploring opportunities to connect more tier-II and III cities and towns with major metros.

“We have seen that there is demand that has come in from metro cities to tier-II and III towns and cities like Delhi-Ranchi, Delhi-Raipur, Bangalore-Guwahati, Bangalore-Bagdogra," Kannan said, adding that the cost of operating flights to such airports is low.

“At the end of the day, we also want to make the most of opportunities, whether this is to feed our international flights from smaller cities through the metros or feed traffic to our international airline partners," he added.

Vistara recently restarted flights to Dubai, Sharjah and Male following the easing of covid-related curbs in those regions.

“Our preference would be to go back to cities where we used to operate like Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Colombo, and so on," he added.

As things stand, India has kept a ban on scheduled international flights till at least 30 September. Dedicated cargo flights and flights under the bilateral air bubble pacts with as many as 28 countries continue to operate.

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