How India's Vistara aims to take on the top UAE airlines

Vistara CEO Leslie Thng sees significant demand for premium economy offering on routes between India and the UAE
Vistara, Singapore Airlines, Leslie thng, Indian carriers, Tata group, Premium economy

Vistara, which launched its first direct flight to Dubai from Mumbai on Wednesday, aims to take on the leading airlines of the UAE by offering a combination of world class services and premium economy on its flights between India and UAE.

In an exclusive interview with AVB sister publication Arabian Business, Leslie Thng, CEO, Vistara, said: “There is a significant demand for an Indian carrier offering a premium experience on flights between India and the UAE, and Vistara will be that carrier for people. It is now also the only airline to offer the choice of Premium Economy on flights between India and the UAE.

“We challenged the status quo and changed millions of peoples’ perception of air travel to bring back joy and wonderment to flying (in our India operations). Our approach is not much different with international operations, and that includes the Middle East,” he said.

Air India is currently the lone full service carrier from India to the UAE and the larger Middle East region, after the collapse of Jet Airways.

The Vistara CEO said the airline would soon be expanding its operations to the Middle East region but declined to share the details of its proposed expansion plans.

“Passenger traffic between India and the Middle East continues to rise, and as a fast-growing airline with unique product and service, there’s room for Vistara to grow on the India-UAE route just as well. Naturally, we wish to further strengthen our international network with more flights to/from points in the Middle East,” Thng said.

He added the airline’s expansion plans in the UAE and Middle East region were dependent of multiple factors including bilateral agreements between the two countries, availability of aircraft and slots.

“Our fleet is also set to grow significantly over the next few months,” he said.

After India’s civil aviation ministry allotted additional airline seat capacities from the quota of Jet Airways to other Indian carriers, Indian carriers such as Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet have been launching new flights between several Gulf and Indian cities in the recent weeks.

With its maiden flight to Dubai from Mumbai on Wednesday, Vistara – a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Tata Group and Singapore Airlines – has joined the bandwagon to compete for a pie in the air traffic to Dubai, one the most sought after destinations from India.

Air traffic to the Middle East region account for close to 50 percent of the total international air traffic originates from India, according to passenger traffic data.

The Vistara CEO also hinted at the possibility of entering into code sharing agreements with more international airlines in select regions as it expands its operations.

“As we expand our network within and outside of India, we continue to look for like-minded partners in regions across the world to provide our customers an extended worldwide network. We have code-share agreements with some of the leading airlines of the world, and we will continue to selectively implement such partnerships in regions aligned with our expansion plans,” Thng said.

On the issue of fleet expansion, Thng said that by the end of March 2020, Vistara will have over 40 aircraft.

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