Exclusive: In Conversation With Vistara CEO On Merger With Air India, Fleet And More

Vistara, a joint venture between the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, is one of the most premium and well recognized airlines in India. The full service carrier serves both domestic and international markets and recently completed eight years of its operations in India. However, the airline has been in the news ever since its parent brand, the Tata Group, decided to merge the airline with Air India in an effort to consolidate all its airlines and capture a larger market share not only in India but internationally. declare. We recently got a chance to speak with Vistara Airline CEO Vinod Kannan to discuss fleet expansion, 2023 outlook and merger among other things. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

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On completion of 8 years in India

Vistara celebrated its eighth anniversary in January, 2023 by operating a special flight, UK08, which took off from Trivandrum and drew the number ‘8’ in the sky. Tata SIA Airlines Limited, known by the brand name Vistara, is a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Sons Private Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited (SIA). Vistara started its commercial operations on 9 January 2015 and connects destinations in India and abroad.

Air India-Vistara merger

Within days of announcing the Mega 840 aircraft deal with Airbus and Boeing, the Tata group has started the process of merger between Air India and Vistara. The merger will be finalized by March 2024 and Singapore International Airlines will invest Rs 2,058.5 crore in Air India as part of the transaction. Singapore Airlines will retain 25.1 per cent stake in Air India after the merger is complete.

Currently, the Tata Group holds 51 per cent stake in Vistara, while the remaining 49 per cent is held by Singapore Airlines. The merger is part of a larger plan by the Tata group to transform its aviation business. Under it, only two airlines will operate – a premium full service carrier and a low cost carrier. While Air India and Vistara will merge into one, AirAsia India and Air India Express will merge into one airline.

Vistara Fleet and Expansion Plans

The airline has a fleet of 54 aircraft, which includes 42 Airbus A320, 6 Airbus A321neo, two Boeing 737-800NG and 4 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. According to Vinod Kannan, Vistara is now preparing to induct a total of 70 aircraft in its fleet by mid-2024. These will include 7 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for long haul operations. Vistara currently connects three countries in Europe, and will be expanding its reach.

A total of 70 aircraft will also be 10 A321 and 53 A320 Neo, of which 10 aircraft will be all economy class and the rest will be three class. Vistara also deploys its Dreamliner on the Delhi-Mumbai route, operating an international flight.

Vistara Initiative

Vistara is known for introducing several firsts in the airline industry, including providing in-flight WiFi services, On Demand TV, among other things. Vistara also became the first operator in India to fly a wide body aircraft on a long haul route using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). A fourth GEnx-powered Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was used for the partnership flight between Charleston International Airport in South Carolina and Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

By using a blend of 30 percent such sustainable aviation fuel with 70 percent conventional jet fuel, Vistara claimed it was able to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 150,000 pounds over the life cycle of the fuel. Vinod Kannan said that this is an important milestone towards achieving carbon neutrality and will open more avenues for the industry to adopt sustainable technologies faster.