With the launch of its international operations planned for later this year, Tata-Singapore Airlines joint-venture airline Vistara has agreed to order 13 aircraft of the Airbus A320neo family and six wide-bodied Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner planes. This sets the stage for Vistara to become the first Indian carrier to launch foreign flights since budget airline IndiGo did in 2011. Currently, Vistara has a fleet of 21 aircraft, making it eligible to fly abroad under the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016. Earlier, along with a fleet of at least 20 aircraft, airlines also needed to complete five years of domestic operations to begin international flights.
Apart from Vistara, GoAir has also been eligible for flying international but the airline has delayed its plans so far. The only other carrier with similar plans is another Tata Sons joint-venture airline AirAsia India, which currently has a fleet of 18 aircraft, making it ineligible so far.
In the statement announcing the orders valued at around $3.1 billion, Vistara said that the letter of intent signed with Airbus comprises 13 firm-ordered A320neo and A321neo aircraft, as well as options for seven more aircraft from the A320neo family. In addition, the airline would lease another 37 new A320neo-family aircraft from leasing companies. Together, Vistara will be adding a total of 50 A320neo-family aircraft into its existing fleet
“The letter of intent signed with Boeing comprises six firm-ordered 787-9 Dreamliner and Purchase Rights for four more aircraft from the 787 Dreamliner family. Vistara has selected the General Electric GEnx-1B engines to power the aircraft, which are scheduled to be delivered between 2020 and 2021. The 787-9s are intended for use on medium-haul and long-haul international routes,” it added.
Currently, only Air India and Jet Airways operate wide body aircraft for their long-haul operations. While Air India flies Boeing’s 787 and 777 planes, Jet Airways operates Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s on its fleet. Low-cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, which already fly international on closer destinations such as middle east, southeast Asia, etc, are also firming up plans to fly long-haul to destinations such as Europe.
Vistara’s CEO Leslie Thng said: “India’s position as the world’s fastest growing domestic aviation market and its impressive growth in air passenger traffic that has more than doubled over the last decade, makes us confident of our aggressive plans for domestic expansion and international foray.”
This aircraft purchase plan adds to the already 1,000-aircraft-plus order book from Indian carriers, which makes India the country with third highest number of orders after the US and China. The huge order book has raised concerns over the capacity at larger Indian airports, some of which are already beyond their full capacity. While the industry has called for upgradation and setting up of new airports, airlines have also planned domestic expansion beyond the metros to accommodate growth.