File this under the silent ambition files. With the pandemic raging, all the network planning plans for airlines are going for a toss. However, this will also open an opportunity for the airlines that want to create a network and have the staying power. Top of that list is Vistara, which, apart from IndiGo, is building a domestic and international network, hoping to become the next big full-service airline out of India and match or perhaps even supersede the network of Jet Airways, if not Air India in the near term.
Vistara received their first Boeing 787-9 aircraft just over 13 months ago, and then the second. With these two aircraft, the airline has launched flights between Delhi and the UK (London Heathrow) and Delhi and Frankfurt Airport. Paris was on the anvil, but we don’t have clarity now on when will it be launched due to the state of the pandemic here in India.
There are more B787-9s on order, and at least a couple of these Boeing 787-9 aircraft (registration VT-TSN/VT-TSH) are at Boeing facilities in the USA, in various states of readiness and stored to be delivered to Vistara. Still, with no use for them right now, perhaps Vistara and Boeing may be discussing a deferred delivery of these for now. These discussions are confidential, and neither party is under any obligation to disclose these to the public.
The current batch of Boeing 787-9 aircraft for Vistara cannot do a non-stop flight from India to the USA; even those the aircraft has the range to do the mission. Like we’ve discussed before, this is because of the overhead crew rest area not being built into the first batch of planes for Vistara, as a 9-10 hour long mission does not need it. On a more extended mission, such as those to the USA, flights operate with two sets of crews, and one gets to rest while the other operates the flight, and then they swap. These planes are still on the options list of Vistara where there are 4 787-9 aircraft which are listed as options for Vistara and still not confirmed, although I am guessing Vistara might have just taken the call to get their Plane 5 & 6 to have these extra trims to be able to fly out to the USA. This was our position in November 2020 that Vistara might fast track their plans to the USA, which were to come after launching a network to Europe and Asia initially.
Now to the paperwork. Earlier in 2020, Vistara got the designated carrier status to the USA. Now, Vistara has applied to the US Department of Transport for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit to fly to the USA.
As per the Vistara application,
Vistara proposes to launch scheduled air transportation between the U.S. and India on or about September 1, 2021, using Boeing B787 aircraft already in its fleet.
Vistara seeks authority to operate scheduled air transportation of persons, property, and mail between points on the following routes:
- from points behind India via India and intermediate points to a point or points in the United States and beyond; and
- for all-cargo service or services, between the United States and any point or point
Remember, India and the USA have an Open Skies agreement, which means any approved airline can launch flights to the other country. Air India and United already operate multiple daily direct non-stop flights between various points in both countries. American Airlines has recently put its hat in the ring to operate a couple of flights, including Delhi – New York JFK. However, Delta, which used to operate between New York JFK and Mumbai, has not been seen in this part of the world for long.
When Vistara launches, which will timeline irrelevant, it will be the only non-alliance aligned carrier on this route for a while. There is no mention of a route for now, but one can expect the first flight to be originating from New Delhi to the eastern seaboard of the USA, perhaps one of the two New York airports. This should be a contest to Air India with its broken planes flying on this flagship route.
Vistara is accelerating its plans to get to the USA, while the one-stop carriers do not challenge non-stop traffic to the US for the time being. The airline plans to operate in the USA from September 2021 with its 787-9 aircraft fleet.
What do you think of the plans of Vistara to fly out to the USA later in 2021?
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