With Jet Airways out of the way, there is an erringly emptiness in the skies and on the ground. Passenger fares have gotten back to being on the higher side, which is, of course, suitable for the P&L and balance sheets, and everyone is trying to get the most out of the situation while it lasts. Vistara, Air Asia, IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, they have all added capacity in one way or another.
However, as we all guessed, this expansion was skewed towards SpiceJet, because somewhere along the way, the bureaucracy decided that slot allocation would be done to the airlines who brought in new capacity rather than redeploy existing aircraft. Owing to this, only SpiceJet could then further take on more routes, given they were the only other 737 operators in the country, and hence, they’ve been adding on ex- Jet Airways aircraft with breakneck speed and even adding a SpiceJet business class soon. That is the only way for them to conquer ground because the 737 MAX deliveries are frozen for the moment due to the grounding of the aircraft globally.
The Airbus operators are, however, counting on their existing orders being hastened up. But, Vistara, now seems to have started looking at a different approach. One, which is lateral thinking, but not free of risk at the same time. Vistara has already managed to get some critical slots out of Mumbai, but not enough to make them a choice out of Mumbai, like Jet Airways was for many years or IndiGo is even now.
Vistara is now going to start inducting 737 aircraft, some of the ones that have been de-registered from Jet Airways into their fleet in the coming days. That means, they also need to get 737 type-rated pilots and also cabin crew who knows how to operate the safety features on that particular aircraft. Cabin crew are easier to recruit, and pilots as well, given the current scenario. And Vistara may have also gotten the confidence, given they have 787s coming in next year, and they had earlier recruited 737 pilots from SpiceJet, who are currently flying for Scoot but perhaps could be called back in to fly these planes temporarily.
Vistara will not have the time to put the Vistara cabin product inside on these aircraft for sure, but I am hoping they are not donning the Jet Airways colours on the outside when these aircraft are inducted in the Vistara fleet. Also, that means there will be the 17″ seat width on some planes.
That would also mean Vistara will end up having a sub-fleet of aircraft which won’t have the Premium Economy product. I’m of the view that Vistara could perhaps select routes where they don’t see high uptake on Premium Economy and replace their A320s with this subfleet of aircraft. It sounds good in theory to me, but how it works is something we need to see, given I don’t know their route economics.
Mixed fleets are not new and usually do end up coming as a part of mergers and acquisitions. For instance, look at American Airlines, which offers a fleet of A320 family aircraft, as well as 737 aircraft. But in the case of Vistara, a sub-fleet of 6 aircraft sounds small. Unless the 737 deal was so sweet as offered by the lessors that they had to jump on it.
It looks like their best shot at the moment to add to capacity and take the routes they want to take over in Mumbai. In the short run that may mean a non-uniform product on some routes, but in the long term, that means Vistara gets to expand across the country, a moment they have been waiting for over the years as one of the most premium market in India, Mumbai, continued to stay slot constrained.
What do you make of Vistara’s move to induct the Boeing 737 aircraft?