Vistara codeshares with Japan Airlines; connecting the dots

Vistara was formed with the ambition to redefine air travel in India to provide Indian travellers with seamless and personalized flying experience. One of the main aims was to fly international as soon as possible. The Government even relaxed the 5/20 rule. Vistara took delivery of its twentieth aircraft last year and applied to start international operations with the Government. But the process is slow and has stuck now, but in the meanwhile Vistara Codeshare partners list is growing.

While it may take some time to get the necessary approvals, Vistara has proactively been doing all the groundwork. Vistara placed an order for 50 Airbus A320 family aircraft and 6 Boeing 787-8 with another 4 as options last year. It also has 6 A321neos as a part of the order.

Vistara international flights

Vistara RetroJet

Vistara has been making ties with various airlines since the start of its operations. As of now, Vistara has signed an interline agreement with almost all international carriers operating to Delhi airport, which is Vistara’s hub. It is competing with Jet Airways out of Delhi for the connecting passengers market.

What helps Vistara is the brand recognition it gets among the connecting passengers. The three-class cabin configuration helps in seamless interlining of operations. This also helps them as they have the ambition to be an integrated domestic-international carrier.

Vistara already has a codeshare agreement in place with its parent airline, Singapore Airlines and subsidiary Silk Air. It also signed a codeshare agreement with British Airways.

Vistara international flights

Singapore Airline Vistara

So while essentially a codeshare happens both ways, Vistara cannot put its code on British Airways flights or any other international flights currently. It can only do so once they get permission to fly abroad.

Recently, Vistara added another codeshare partner, Japan Airlines. Vistara and Japan Airlines partnership go way back. It all started in 2017 when both the airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the possibility of an extensive partnership between the two.

As part of this partnership, Japan Airlines will add its ‘JL’ designator code to approximately 32 Vistara-operated flights each day across India covering 7 Indian cities, namely Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune. Japan Airlines Mileage Bank members can also earn miles when booking on ‘JL’ coded Vistara flights.

Will this also cover Japan Airlines new Tokyo Narita-Bengaluru flight? It may in the future when the route is operational.

Vistara Codeshare Partners

Vistara-Japan Airlines Codeshare

What’s the idea behind the codeshares?

An airline is always selective when it enters into a codeshare agreement. There is always an underlining agenda. One just doesn’t randomly select codeshare partners. Sanjiv Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, Vistara said,

We have a plan ready which we can implement once we get the approval.

So what exactly is the plan? Well, obviously they won’t reveal it. So let’s just speculate a bit about it from all the information that we have. I will initially jot down all the points that we know till date.

  • International routes according to range
    – Under four hours: A320/neo aircraft
    – Five to six-hour stage length: A321neo
    – Up to ten hours: Boeing 787-9
  • Aircraft deliveries till March 2020
    – 8 A320neo
    – 2 A321neo
    – 2 Boeing 787-9 (Both to delivered in 2020)

Sanjeev Kapoor has been very clear about this from the start,

We will not be a feeder airline for Singapore Airlines. We are looking at a network that is not Singapore-related but global.

So yeah, while Singapore will be one of the destinations, I don’t expect them to do a Jet Airways-Etihad kind of network alignment.

Under four hour international flights

Initially, according to aircraft deliveries, Vistara will add flights to international destinations within four hours of range. Since their hub is in Delhi, expect all flights to be added from Delhi at least initially. When Vistara’s gets the go-ahead to start international flights, expect an announcement followed by the commencement of flights within a few weeks.

Vistara International flights

Under four hours of flying from Delhi

That’s not a lot of destinations under four hours from Delhi. For start, Vistara cannot add flights to Dubai as the bilaterals are maxed out. IndiGo has added a lot of capacity to Doha recently. Abu Dhabi can be one of the destinations in the Middle-East. Muscat can also be one of them.

Apart from Middle-East, the most likely contender to get one of the first flights is Colombo. Vistara was also rumoured to add flights to Phuket. But considering the massive expansion by GoAir and IndiGo, don’t seem them operating to Phuket anytime soon; especially when people are rubbing their hands in glee with getting tickets Bangalore to Phuket for INR 10K for two people.

What about the under six-hour flights?

Vistara has ordered six A321neos as a part of the new order. The A321neo will give Vistara the range to operate flights lasting four to six hours. They may even use it on metro routes like Delhi-Mumbai.

Vistara International flights

Under six hours of flying from Delhi

Looking at the map, Singapore is definitely one of the destinations. Moscow, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and so-on all are within range of six hours from Delhi. Destinations will be selective as six A321neos is a pretty small fleet.

What about the under ten-hour flights?

Vistara has ordered six Boeing 787-9 aircraft on firm order. It also has options for 4 more Boeing 787-9 should it require more. While the Boeing 787-9 have a long range and are used on long haul flights like Perth-London or United’s new Delhi-San Francisco, you may be wondering why Vistara is using it for the medium haul.

By operating under ten-hour flights, Vistara can deploy a single aircraft for a single route. For example, G-YMMO operated daily BA 256/257 London Heathrow-Delhi-London Heathrow flights from February 22 to February 27, 2019. Vistara is planning to do a similar thing.

Now you realise why the codeshare with British Airways and Japan Airlines. Flights to London and Tokyo can be operated by a single aircraft each.

Vistara International flights

Under ten hours of flying from Delhi

Vistara to London?

Maybe. I explained the India-UK bilateral treaty when I shared why SpiceJet is considering Amritsar-London Heathrow and Delhi-London Garwick. We already know Jet Airways is trying to get hold of the last Delhi-London Heathrow slot but hasn’t yet secured the Heathrow slots to operate it. Maybe Vistara can get a hold of it since new entrants are usually favoured over existing ones.

Otherwise, Gatwick is always an option.

Vistara to Tokyo?

Japan has been on Vistara’s radar. Delhi-Tokyo Narita is currently served by Air India, ANA and JAL, a bit crowded right? But there are no flights to Tokyo Haneda currently, which seems to be the hotspot now. If Vistara adds flights to Haneda they may get a decent feed to both short-haul domestic routes and some long haul USA routes operated by JAL apart from destination feed.

Both London, as well as Tokyo route, will require a Boeing 787-9 each. That leaves four more 787-9s with one as spare. Vistara’s focus for the medium haul flights is adding Europe and North Asia routes. So Frankfurt can be one of the possible destinations. Maybe Hong Kong (if not on A321neo) and Shanghai as well.

While the first Boeing 787-9 isn’t due until January 2020, we know that Vistara has already done Layout of Passenger Accommodation (LOPA) for it last year.

Will save the possible seats and speculations about Vistara’s Boeing 787-9 for a later post though. They even had a poll to see whether passengers value the air nozzles or not. They do Vistara! Please have them on your Boeing 787-9s.


Vistara signs a new codeshare agreement with Japan Airlines. This adds to the growing list which already has British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Silk Air. Vistara’s international strategy is a part of this planning. More information about Vistara’s international foray, their Boeing 787-9 and so-on will come out one by one this year maybe. Hopefully, they will get the go-ahead to start international operations soon.

What are your thoughts regarding possible destinations?

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