NEW DELHI : Vistara will add a dozen planes next year to supplement a fleet of 42 by March-end, with which it aims to create a unique “hub-and-spoke" arrangement linking its domestic and international operations, chief executive Leslie Thng said.

The fleet expansion will see the induction of Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner), and Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft into the airline’s fleet, which will be utilized across its domestic and international operations.

In aviation terminology, a hub refers to a central airport that flights are routed through, and spokes are the routes that planes take out of the hub airport.

Vistara, a full-service airline that is jointly owned by the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines Ltd, will start medium- and long-haul international services from next summer after it takes delivery of two Boeing Dreamliner planes by March 2020.

The airline plans to add destinations to Europe, including London, as well as Japan to its network. It also aims to add several neighbouring countries in the region, wherein travellers often look for direct connections to various Indian cities.

“Domestic operations play two roles for us. One is catering to the full-service demand and second is catering to the international operations, especially on the wide body," Vistara’s Thng said.

“Other airlines will not be able to replicate this in India as they focus on a mix (of) nationalities. But, our product is primarily for Indians," Thng said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said Vistara’s business model will allow passengers within India to travel abroad through Delhi or Mumbai as well as from overseas to within the country.

To strengthen the linkage between domestic and international network, Vistara has entered into discussions with a number of foreign airlines.

It already has a code sharing arrangement with United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and an inter-line arrangement with the Lufthansa group.

“We are not going to fly to a dozen destinations in Europe overnight. So we would need partners that will be able to give us connectivity," Thng said.

The airline currently has 26 Airbus A320 and nine Boeing 737-800NG aircraft in its fleet. It will add another six aircraft, taking its fleet size to 42 at the end of 2019.

An industry analyst said Vistara’s strategy appeared to be driven largely by Singapore Airlines.

Most Indian airlines have hit a wall in expanding profitably in the domestic market, which is why expanding international operations made economic sense. However, a hub-and-spoke arrangement between domestic and international routes also involved higher costs, and was an arrangement that Air India had tried in the past without much success, said Mark D. Martin, founder and chief executive of Martin Consulting LLC.

Last July, Vistara ordered 19 planes worth $3.1 billion from Airbus and Boeing.

While it will use Boeing Dreamliner planes on long-haul international routes, it will use Airbus A321 planes on medium-haul routes and Airbus A320 planes on short-haul international routes. The planes will be added through a mix of direct orders, leases and options.

The airline plans to induct all six new Dreamliners by 2021, while it would take the delivery of narrow-body planes like Airbus A320 family planes by 2023, Thng said.

He added that the airline is continuously reviewing its fleet expansion plans—including taking planes on lease—depending on market opportunities.

The Gurugram-based airline currently flies to over 30 domestic destinations, apart from offering international services to Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok and Colombo.

Vistara is looking to fly to Europe and Japan by next summer, Thng said.

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