Vistara (UK, Delhi International) is evaluating options for non-stop flights between India and the United States, Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan told Reuters.

The airline, a 51/49 joint venture between TATA Sons and Singapore Airlines Group, has seen an increase in demand for direct flights as passengers try to minimise connections in order to avoid unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19. Kannan said that he expects the trend to continue in the future, providing opportunities for non-stop services to new long-haul markets.

In addition, prevailing travel restrictions limit the number of airports where Indian citizens can connect.

However, Kannan added that potential flights to the United States would require new aircraft. While Vistara operates two B787-9s and has a further four on firm order from Boeing, these aircraft are configured for medium-haul services. Crucially, they lack crew rest areas. Kannan said that no decision has been taken yet about incremental widebody aircraft.

The Indian full-service carrier currently uses the two widebodies to operate trunk domestic routes in India, as well as services from Delhi International to London Heathrow.

The US-India market is currently served by Air India (AI, Delhi International) (from Delhi to Chicago O'Hare, New York JFK, New York Newark, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles, and from Mumbai International to Newark) and United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare) (from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai). The routes are among the world's longest non-stop services - flights from the East Coast take around 14 hours, while services to the West Coast clock in at over 16 hours scheduled block time. v

Vistara also has plans to expand its European network, add services to Japan, and resume and expand its South-East Asian operations once travel restrictions are lifted.