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NEW DELHI : Vistara’s ambitious plan to start flights to the US and other long-haul destinations has received a temporary setback due to delays in delivery of Boeing Co.’s 787 jetliners amid production constraints at the US planemaker. 

Speaking in an interview, Vinod Kannan, Vistara’s chief executive, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Ltd, said the airline is therefore looking to lease 787 planes to expand its overseas operations with the Indian government lifting a two-year-long ban on scheduled international flights from Sunday. Edited excerpts: 

 

Scheduled international flight services resume from 27 March. Are you ramping up your overseas flight operations?

We have opportunities with flights to Bangkok, as we have the rights (under bilateral agreements) to operate on the route. We can ramp up to London. We have five flights a week out of Delhi (to London), which will go up to seven times a week from May. We operate three weekly flights to Frankfurt. But, we don’t have (more) widebody aircraft to increase frequencies. Unless we get more aircraft, we can’t start more (long-haul) flights.

Will you consider buying Airbus 350 planes to expand long-haul operations? 

What we are considering is the temporary options to get Boeing 787 on lease. From an operational and cost perspective, you don’t want to have both 787 and 350 in the fleet. Getting a new fleet and its entry into service is also not easy and is time consuming. Four of our six (Boeing 787) aircraft deliveries are delayed and I have to make up for those. 

What new destinations are you looking at?

It depends on a lot of things. There’s a war going on, so there are certain things I can’t do; there’s covid in certain parts of the world like China and Hong Kong, so these are the routes that I can’t fly (immediately). We will add to other parts of the world wherever it’s possible to add. 

Vistara had earlier evaluated flights to Russia and the CIS region?

I don’t think it’s time to add flights to Russia now, given what’s happening. But Russia has always been a part of our long-term plans. We will evaluate (flights) to the entire region, including the CIS, in future. 

Vistara’s domestic market share during February was up to a record 9.7%. Is there an increased focus on domestic?

This shows that we have come back to pre-covid levels. It’s a function of capacity and load factors, and thankfully commitment and trust of our passengers are paying off. We will continue to expand. International will still be our focus, but we are looking at domestic expansions too. We have added several flights from Hyderabad and Bengaluru. We will continue to add flights. 

How are you tackling uncertainties regarding oil prices? Any plans for fuel hedging?

We are not thinking about fuel hedging at the moment. As far as we can, we will try to pass down the rising costs to customers. Fares will increase not just because of high oil prices but also due to rising demand. 

So far, are you successful in passing down the entire cost increase to passengers?

I don’t think so. If you look at the average industry fares, it has not increased by 50% but fuel prices have. But it is positive that the market hasn’t collapsed despite increasing fares. Also, we expect travel to pick up during April-May, compared to March, which is traditionally a slow month.

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