Just yesterday I wrote about how Jet Airways was planning a third order of the Boeing 737MAX aircraft, taking up their tally of aircraft on order to over 200 aircraft. Other airlines similarly have big orders. IndiGo has a large narrowbody aircraft order book with over 400 Airbus A320 family aircraft on order. SpiceJet has over 200 Boeing 737MAX on order. GoAir has a big order as well of over 144 aircraft.
Amongst all this, we are expecting to hear big news from Vistara in the coming days. Almost one year ago, today, I was in Toulouse, along with the Vistara team to bring home their first A320neo. Vistara has been an Airbus operator from day one, and they are currently about to close their first order of 22 aircraft from Airbus.
So, a lot of speculation has been ongoing about what kind of big aircraft order will they place. In this industry, almost everyone chooses an airframe family and sticks with it. It makes easy to schedule flights and replace aircraft if something goes wrong. For instance, Jet Airways has been a Boeing 737 family operator on all their domestic flights, along with ATRs for the turboprops. Similarly, British Airways runs an all A320 family on their short haul.
However, it seems that Vistara is now at the point they are considering a bigger order. The airline has been considering the 787 and the A350 for their long-haul operations. But it now seems, they are also taking the opportunity to move to an all Boeing 737MAX fleet.
Via the Financial Express today, we know that the airline is hiring pilots who are type-rated for the Boeing 737, and telling them they don’t need to convert from the Boeing to Airbus aircraft. They also comment that this is not a done deal yet, but this could follow in the footsteps of parent Singapore Airlines, who is going to migrate their Silkair product into an all Boeing airline over the coming years.
Needless to say that Vistara’s ambition is, of course, to create a long-haul quality airline out of India, something that merges the SQ service with the Tata ambition to be back in the saddle of offering one of the finest airlines in India. So, sooner than later they will be announcing their order for a wide-body fleet. Because full-service carriers don’t fly long-haul on single-aisle aircraft.
And while I may be totally off on this, any airline who’d like to fly abroad would also need a feeder network in the country. Jet Airways and Air India have such networks. Vistara would, of course, need to do a big investment on smaller planes as well, to connect people within India. Their key stumbling block has slots, for instance at Mumbai. But I don’t see that as a reason to not to expand in the rest of the country.
In which case, they’d perhaps make the choice now for what would reflect their long-term ambitions. Given they only have their aircraft on lease so far, it shouldn’t be any problem to return them to the lessors. Boeing may have offered enough sops to Vistara as well.
At the end of the day, it would be about the best number for the airline, and if Boeing would be able to give a compelling offer, it may be a great opportunity for the airline to make the switch.
What do you think of the move from Vistara to move to an all Boeing fleet? I’m wondering about the .7″ of economy space I’ll let go if that happens!