With the pandemic raging, network planning plans for airlines are all gone for a toss. However, this allowed Vistara to move forward with its ambitions. In 2020, we wrote about how Vistara was considering fast-tracking its plans to fly to the US. Vistara moved forward with applying in April 2021 and received its tentative approval in June 2021.
Vistara received their first Boeing 787-9 aircraft over 18 months ago, and then the second. The airline has launched flights between Delhi and the UK (London Heathrow) and Delhi and Frankfurt Airport with these two aircraft. Paris was on the anvil, but we don’t have clarity on when it will be launched yet. Delhi – Tokyo weekly flights were also launched, and flights to London have been increased as the UK put India on their amber list.
There are more B787-9s on order. 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. Boeing has stopped deliveries of the 787 aircraft at the moment after the FAA detected a structural issue near the nose of some 787s produced and awaiting delivery. Boeing has since cut back on the rate of 787 assemblies and reassigned staff to inspect and repair these aircraft. That might help Vistara’s cause as well.
The current batch of Boeing 787-9 aircraft for Vistara cannot do a non-stop flight from India to the USA; even though these aircraft have the range to do the mission. As we’ve discussed before, the overhead crew rest area is 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.
Now to the paperwork. Earlier in 2020, Vistara got the designated carrier status to the USA. In June 2021, Vistara received tentative approval from 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 has now received final approval to operate flights to the USA from the US Department of Transport.
Remember, India and the USA have an Open Skies agreement, which means any approved airline can launch flights to the other’s 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 perform 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.
Vistara’s earlier plans don’t seem to be coming through, though, given we are standing two days away from September 2021 and no flights in sight yet. Also, American Air is putting up its flagship plane on the route now, and passengers from India are not allowed to fly to the US for the time being apart from some exceptions.
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.
With the US keeping away Indians from arriving Stateside, Vistara might hold off on its plan for now. They don’t have the aircraft yet, unless they decide to do a one-stop flight, and they won’t get the traffic for the time being with air travel being so complicated. This is the only way this might be if there is an opportunity to launch, only now and not later. Also, someday, I would imagine the air bubbles would go away, and Middle-East and South-East Asian players would be back in the mix. Vistara would have to make a play before this happens.
What do you think of the plans of Vistara to fly out to the USA?
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