Vistara (UK, Delhi Int'l) aims to have 70 aircraft in its fleet by 2023 and has been exploring new avenues to raise earnings while continuing to cut costs, its chief executive Leslie Thng told the Press Trust of India in an interview on June 2.

The 51/49 Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines Group joint venture aims to expand its Indian domestic network. Still, it has also been pursuing its ambitions of expanding its footprint in the global market, he said, arguing that full-service carriers are even more relevant in the Covid era because of their comparatively distanced seating.

The Delhi Int'l-based airline, which commenced operations in January 2015, currently operates a fleet of 46 aircraft, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows, namely twenty-nine A320-200Ns (with an additional twenty-eight to be delivered), seven A320-200s, two A321-200NXs (and three A321-200Ns to be delivered), six B737-800s, and two B787-9s (with an additional eight to be delivered).

The airline has renegotiated contracts with partners - including the Airbus and Boeing delivery schedules - and has cut salaries while leveraging charter flights and introducing several ancillary services to boost revenues, Thng recounted.

Four B787-9s are expected to be delivered this fiscal year (to March 31, 2022), “along with more from the order we placed with Airbus for A321neo and A320neo.”

Despite the inevitable reductions in capacity, especially during the destructive ongoing second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, the airline has planned operations so that its entire fleet is utilised and continues to be fully functional, the chief executive explained. Capacity has plunged from almost 75% of pre-Covid levels in early March 2021 to around 25-30% now.

“Our partners understand that we are all in this together and have been very supportive of our efforts, showing great confidence in Vistara’s future plans and its ability to navigate this crisis,” he said.

In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, Vistara launched six international destinations “under travel bubble agreements” to Dhaka, Doha Hamad Int'l, Frankfurt Int'l, London Heathrow, Malé, and Sharjah, Thng said. According to the ch-aviation capacities module, the Dhaka, Male, and Sharjah routes are not currently operating. But it is set to launch another, to Tokyo Haneda, from June 16.

On June 2, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) granted tentative approval to a Vistara application for an exemption and foreign air carrier permit to operate scheduled and charter passenger and cargo services between India and the US under the air transport agreement between the two countries. As previously reported, the airline applied on April 28 for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit (FACP) and an exemption to launch commercial services to the US on September 1, 2021, using B787-9 widebody aircraft, without disclosing any specific routes or destinations.