Pooja Yadav

Vistara ramping up frequency on international routes

The airline recently became the second-largest domestic operator by market size.

Vistara, the Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, recently emerged as the second-largest airline in India, in terms of market share. With a 10.4% domestic market share, the airline’s fleet and network size grew by 25%, the company states.

afaqs! spoke to Deepak Rajawat, chief commercial officer, Vistara, to find out more about the airline’s expansion plans, marketing strategies, and long-haul operations.

Edited excerpts:

What worked in favour of Vistara in order to become the second-largest domestic airline?

In July 2022, Vistara registered a domestic market share of 10.4% to become the second-largest airline, and crossed the one million domestic passenger mark for the first time since inception. We achieved these milestones because of the measured pace at which we grew, and the unwavering commitment exhibited by the entire team. This is a great achievement for the Vistara team. We have close to 5,000 employees now.

We are the only airline that has surpassed the pre-COVID levels of business and increased our capacity. As compared to March 2020, we have grown by over 25%, in terms of fleet size. Since travelling was restricted during the pandemic, all our employees contributed towards the successful launch of the many routes. This has resulted in good passenger traffic as well as revenue over the last 8-10 months. We are determined to reach new heights, as the spirit to keep growing is integral to Vistara.

The Indian skies will have more airlines soon. Akasa Air is already operational and Jet Airways is getting ready to fly again. How do you plan to stand out in the midst of rising competition?

Since we are a premium brand, we are focussing more on our strategy and clientele. The impact of new aircraft, new age technology aircraft and the three-class product that we are offering, is unique to the Indian market.

Even though there will be more competition, we will still try to stick to our strategy, in terms of offerings and letting the consumers make their own choices.

We have built this brand over the last eight years. We started with two aircraft in 2015 and now operate 54 aircraft to 10 international and 31 domestic destinations.

What kind of growth are you looking at, as far as international flights go, in this fiscal year?

Regarding international expansion, we currently operate close to 10 points across the globe. We are going to ramp up frequency on those routes. For instance, on the Delhi-London route, we operate weekly daily flights, i.e., seven flights a week. But now, we are going to add the third wide-body aircraft towards the end of October.

Additionally, we are going to increase the frequency, as far as Frankfurt (Germany) and Paris go. Earlier, we used to operate three flights a week from Frankfurt and two flights a week from Paris. But now, we will go up to six flights a week and five flights a week for Frankfurt and Paris respectively.

As Boeing has started delivering the 787-9 Dreamliner, post-FAA clearance, Vistara is waiting for its Dreamliner aircraft deliveries. The deliveries will start towards the end of this year.

Looking at the expansion on the narrow-body front, we have grown significantly. We launched a flight to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) recently, and one to Abu Dhabi will be launched on October 1. We have also increased frequency on our existing routes. For Singapore, for instance, we have started daily flights from Mumbai and Delhi. We have inaugurated Bangkok from Mumbai. We have also increased daily frequency from Delhi. We will try to expand, as we continue to add aircraft in the coming months.

There is a strong demand in the international segment. We saw some pent-up demand in the first six months. Since colleges and universities are opening now, we are seeing ongoing student traffic. Plus, upcoming sporting events will also lead to a rise in demand on international routes.

What are the latest trends in domestic travel?

The domestic demand has been very good. Around 6-7 months of the year are really good. July to September is usually a weak season because of monsoons and schools. But by the end of September, the traffic goes up, with the festive season/holidays. We see decent passenger traffic from October to December.

Vistara ramping up frequency on international routes

How has your overall marketing strategy evolved over the last 2-3 years?

A couple of things became important since the onset of the pandemic. One was customer safety, in terms of COVID-compliant protocols. The second was following regulatory norms issued by DGCA, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health. Now, the market is completely open. We are focussing on the product and services that we offer.

We are currently working on various initiatives, such as Vistara has partnered with the health and wellness app ‘Shyft’, to develop unique content. The airline announced enhancements to the ‘wellness experience’ and even added healthier meal choices. A host of relaxing audio-visual content has been added to its in-flight entertainment offerings and amenity kits by Forest Essentials have also been introduced.

Vistara ramping up frequency on international routes

What is your short-term view of the airline industry from an airfare perspective?

With new airlines expanding the number of their aircraft, we will see how immense the competition becomes. At the same time, there will be a lot of focus on how the fuel prices and other factors play out.

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