Friday, April 02, 2021

Vistara eyes non-stop US flights: May tweak remaining three Dreamliners on order

New Delhi: Vistara could soon be operating non-stop flights to the east coast of North America. The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines (SIA) JV had in mid-2018 placed a firm order for six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

The airline has so far inducted two of these aircraft that have a range of flying non-stop to Europe, Far East and Australia and the third one will also come with this range.

It is learnt that Vistara is likely to opt for the remaining three Dreamliners with “overhead flight crew rest” (OFCR) option that will have a bunk for crew members. This will enable the airline to fly non-stop to north coast destinations like New York, Washington and Toronto with two sets of crew operating aircraft by turn.

At the moment, it is learnt that the airline is not considering the option of getting Dreamliners with additional fuel tank for extra range and is likely to go in for OFCR change only in the remaining three B787s.

A Vistara spokesperson said: “The third Dreamliner will have the same configuration as the existing two (in our fleet). For the rest, we may be able to share details closer to the deliveries.”

At the moment, Air India — with Tata group widely seen as the frontrunner to acquire the Maharaja in next few months — is the only Indian carrier that flies non-stop to North America.

AI deploys its Boeing 777 extended range and long range versions for the east (Washington, New York and Toronto) and west coast (San Francisco and Vancouver), respectively.

The Maharaja uses its B787-8 for the Delhi-Washington direct as passenger loads are relatively light.

The Tata Group has two JV airlines in India — low cost AirAsia India, the vehicle for bidding for AI, and full service Vistara. While the group is trying to bring SIA — with its proven credentials as a leading long haul operator — onboard for the AI bid, the southeast Asian major is yet to give its nod given the Covid-induced crisis.

“Eventually if Tatas get AI and SIA comes on board to form one big Tata-SIA JV airline by merging all the three (AI, AirAsia India and Vistara), some of AI’s older aircraft will need to be replaced by newer ones for fuel efficiency and better passenger experience,” said aviation industry insiders.

01/04/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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