India’s airline Vistara eyeing direct flights to the US
NEW DELHI, Nov 22: As the Covid-19 pandemic increases demand for non-stop travel, the Indian full-service airline Vistara has begun preparations for direct flights to north America. At present, Air India, the only Indian carrier with direct flights to the US and Canada, faces an uncertain future.
The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines JV currently has two Boeing 787s in its fleet with firm order for four more of this twin aisle. But this particular version of the Dreamliner can't do nonstops to the US and the airline is looking at aircraft options for its longhauls (say a Delhi/Mumbai-New York) and ultra longhauls (like Delhi-San Francisco/Los Angeles).
Vistara chief commercial officer Vinod Kannan said: "We are working on (US nonstops). There are no specifics yet. The current B787 (in Vistara fleet) cannot operate to US directly, so we are looking at options for now."
Among the aircraft options are the long-range Dreamliner, B777, Airbus A350 and A330.
AI operates the B777 (extended and long range) to US, except Delhi-Washington that is served by a Dreamliner.
Like almost all airlines worldwide, especially long haul ones, Singapore Airlines has a number of wide body aircraft on the ground during the pandemic due to global travel restrictions. So wet leasing planes to mount US operations can be among the lowest hanging fruit options for Vistara.
India has an air bubble agreement with the US under which people eligible to travel between the two countries as per current pandemic government norms can do so on direct flights of Indian or American carriers. Recently, India allowed Delta to codeshare with Air France to fly people between here and the US via Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
At present Air India has nonstop flights to New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Washington and San Francisco (SFO). US carrier United flies between Delhi and Newark, SFO and will soon connect Chicago to the capital and then Bengaluru to SFO next May. Delta stopped India flights this March and is yet to resume them. American Airlines plans to launch Bengaluru-Seattle next winter.
India is trying to sell off Air India and the government has hinted that failure to find a buyer could mean curtains for the Maharaja. Vistara is seen as the most likely bidder for AI. An aviation industry insider said: "A Tata Group airline will for sure have direct flights to the US very soon - whether it is through AI, if Tatas bid for it and get it; or Vistara on a standalone basis minus the Maharaja, that remains to be seen." -TNN