Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Pandemic forces Vistara to press pause on rapid growth

Indian carrier Vistara entered 2020 with plans for rapid growth, but the coronavirus pandemic has kept the airline from meeting its full potential.

Vinod Kannan is chief commercial officer (CCO) at Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Indian conglomerate Tata Sons. He served in a number of roles within SIA from 2001 to 2017, and spent two years as CCO of SIA low-cost unit Scoot. He joined Vistara in June 2019.

“We started the year on a high note celebrating our fifth anniversary with plans of rapid expansion,” he says. “We launched services to our fifth international destination – Kathmandu - and added India’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to our fleet to start medium and long-haul operations.”

As with the rest of the world’s airline sector, normality ceased abruptly with the Covid-19 pandemic. This saw Vistara suspend operations for two months from late March during a national lockdown. Fixed costs, however, remained, and this depleted the airline’s cash reserves.

Though domestic operations resumed on 25 May, Kannan says that demand has “remained rather muted” owing to individual states imposing various travel restrictions and quarantines. In addition, regular international operations remain suspended.

Ten months into the pandemic, India is among the hardest hit countries in the world. According to Johns Hopkins University India has over 6.1 million confirmed cases. This makes it the second most infected country after the USA.

As with other carriers, Vistara saw cargo as a way to eke out some revenue. During the lockdown period, when passenger travel was non-existent, Vistara operated 34 cargo operations that transported over 220t of goods, relief material, and medical supplies. The airline’s flagship 787-9 was even commandeered for cargo work.

29/09/20  Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

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