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Air Bubble: India's Vistara eyes operations to Paris, Frankfurt

Air Bubble: India's Vistara eyes operations to Paris, Frankfurt

New Delhi: Even as uncertainty looms over a possible second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, full-service air carrier Vistara is eyeing opportunities to expand internationally under the ‘Air Bubble’ transport agreements.

According to Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan, the airline is reviewing opportunity to ferry passengers to and from Paris and Frankfurt using its recently acquired Dreamliner aircraft.

Last month, the airline commenced ‘special, non-stop’ flight operations between Delhi and London’s Heathrow airport by deploying its Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft.

“In less than a month since starting our services to London Heathrow, we have been seeing a reasonable demand on the route,” he said.

“In view of this reassuring response, we have increased our frequency from three to four flights a week between Delhi and London, effective September 27, 2020.”

“We are reviewing the opportunity to operate similar flights to Paris and Frankfurt as well which will also be operated by the Dreamliner.”

Accordingly, the airline is also exploring additional, viable revenue-generating opportunities including that of long-haul charter flights.

In terms of domestic sector, Kannan observed a steady return of demand, especially to major metro cities.

“We are now operating at 40-50 per cent of our pre-Covid capacity and look forward to increasing flights to around 60 per cent of our pre-Covid capacity,” Kannan said.

Improving demand

“While demand is still far from pre-Covid levels, it is improving consistently which is an encouraging trend and gives us confidence.”

Vistara had recorded an increase of 15.2 percentage points in PLF between July 2020 and August 2020.

The airline had a PLF of 68.3 per cent in August 2020.

Besides, Kannan cited that most of the pent-up demand was exhausted in the first few weeks of resumption of domestic air travel.

“While in most cases it is still directional, the demand we see now, especially to major metro cities, is a sign of a gradual return to normalcy. The safety and hygiene measures being followed by the industry are helping restore people’s confidence in flying,” Kannan said.

“We now see that people are starting to travel for business, to meet friends and relatives, and in some cases, even taking leisure trips.”

Significantly, Kannan’s assessment that a consistent build-up in traffic has been witnessed belies the theory of pent-up demand driving sequential traffic growth.

“We have been constantly monitoring passenger demand and have been scaling up our operations in a calibrated manner,” he said.

“We are currently operating over 80 flights a day and plan to increase to over 100 flights per day by end of this month.”

In the pre-pandemic period the airline was flying close to 200 flights daily in domestic sector.

Furthermore, he noted that leisure travel is expected to pick up around the festive season, but the pace of traffic will largely depend on health and safety measures as well as state requirements.