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NEW DELHI : Vistara is in talks with Boeing Co. to modify 787-9 Dreamliner jets it is set to induct over the next two years by adding a resting room for crews, allowing the airline to mount direct long-haul flights to the US and other countries, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The carrier—a joint venture between Tata Sons Pvt. Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd—has so far received two of six 787-9 Dreamliners it ordered in 2018 to operate medium- and long-haul international flights. It took delivery of the first plane in February 2020, and the rest are slated to join by 2023.

Vistara currently flies the two wide-body Dreamliners to select international destinations, including London, as well as on domestic routes. Vistara also has an option to order four more 787-9 planes.

“The airline’s current Boeing 787-9 fleet, however, can’t be used to fly long-haul since these don’t have provisions for carrying an extra set of pilots," said one of the two people cited above, on condition of anonymity. Having rest compartments will allow the airline to carry an extra set of pilots needed for direct long-haul flights.

Vistara is in talks with Boeing to add a crew resting compartment in some 787-9 planes it will receive in the next few years, which will let the carrier start non-stop flights on long-haul routes, the second person cited above said.

“The Boeing 787-9 is integral to the airline’s plan to fly long-haul," the person said.

National carrier Air India Ltd is the only other airline in the country to have wide-body planes capable of long-haul flights. Air India operates direct flights to Australia and the US.

The 787-9 Dreamliner has a flying range of 13,950km and can carry up to 296 passengers in a two-class configuration, according to Boeing’s website. Vistara planes have a three-class configuration comprising economy, premium economy and business.

A spokesperson for Boeing said the company does not comment on customer orders. A spokesperson for Vistara said the airline is working on its fleet plans but “doesn’t have anything to share".

Vistara flew to nearby international destinations like Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the UAE before international flights from India were grounded in March 2020 following the covid outbreak. The airline currently flies to London and Maldives under bilateral agreements.

As things stand, scheduled international passenger flights remain suspended at least till 31 March. Dedicated cargo flights and those under bilateral air bubble pacts with select countries continue. India has air bubble agreements with more than 27 countries, including the US and Canada. “An aircraft flying over 10 to 12 hours non-stop needs what is known as augmented or additional pilots to carry out long haul flights. This is driven by the mandatory rest requirements and not the aircraft type," said a senior industry official, a third person, requesting anonymity.

“Having a resting compartment for crew will give the airline an option to start long-haul flights... I am not saying Vistara will start such flights, but that it will have the capability to fly to such destinations," the person added.

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