Vistara considers direct flights to US, examines plane options: Vinod Kannan


NEW DELHI: As the Covid-19 pandemic increases demand for non-stop travel, Indian full-service airline Vistara has started planning direct flights to North America. At present, Air India, the only Indian carrier to offer direct flights to the United States and Canada, faces an uncertain future.
JV Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines currently has two Boeing 787s in its fleet with a firm order for four more from this dual-aisle. But this particular version of the Dreamliner cannot make direct flights to the United States, and the airline is exploring aircraft options for its long-haul (say a Delhi / Mumbai-New York) and ultra-long haul ( like Delhi-San Francisco / Los Angeles).
Vistara Commercial Director Vinod Kannan said, “We are working on (the US nonstop). There are no details yet. The current B787 (from the Vistara fleet) cannot operate directly to the United States, so we are looking at options at this time. Aircraft options include the long-haul Dreamliner, B777, Airbus A350 and A330.
AI operates the B777 (extended and long range) to the United States, with the exception of Delhi-Washington which is served by a Dreamliner.
Like almost all airlines around the world, especially long-haul ones, Singapore Airlines has a number of jumbo jets on the ground during the pandemic due to global travel restrictions. Thus, rental planes with crew to mount operations in the United States may be among the lowest fruit options for Vistara.
India has an air bubble deal with the United States under which people eligible to travel between the two countries under current government pandemic standards can do so on direct flights from Indian carriers or Americans. Recently, India allowed Delta to share codes with Air France to transport passengers between here and the United States via Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Currently, Air India offers non-stop flights to New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Washington and San Francisco (SFO). The American carrier United flies between Delhi and Newark, SFO and will soon connect Chicago to the capital then Bengaluru to SFO next May. Delta stopped flights to India in March and has yet to resume them. American Airlines plans to launch Bengaluru-Seattle next winter.
India is trying to sell 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: “One Tata Group airline is sure to have direct flights to the United States very soon – whether through AI, if Tatas bid and gets it; or Vistara on a stand-alone basis minus the Maharaja, that remains to be seen. ”
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