Deepak Rajawat, Chief Commercial Officer, Vistara shares his perspectives on the status of the Indian aviation industry as well as performance of Vistara.
Full-service carrier Vistara currently has a fleet of 53 aircraft, including 41 Airbus A320, five Airbus A321neo, five Boeing 737-800NG and two Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline is on course to ramp up its fleet to strengthen its network globally and expects to take the number to 70 aircraft by 2023. Excerpts from interview:
How would you explain the unfolding scenario of the Indian aviation industry?
India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), India has become the third largest domestic aviation market globally and is expected to overtake UK to become the third largest air passenger (International and Domestic) market by 2024.
The Indian aviation industry is showing signs of strong recovery with domestic travel witnessing a consistent increase in the number of passengers. There has also been a consistent surge in demand on international routes since the resumption of scheduled international operations. The demand is mainly driven by visiting friends & relatives (VFR) and leisure travellers, along with a gradual return in corporate travel.
How have the performance been for Vistara during the Jan – May 2022?
The demand has been reasonably good. We have also scaled up frequencies on several of our international routes, including Delhi-London, Mumbai-Singapore, Delhi-Singapore and Delhi-Bangkok to daily flights.
We are currently operating flights to/from nine international destinations including Paris, Frankfurt, London, Kathmandu, Singapore, Dubai, Dhaka, Male and Bangkok. We are also starting operations between Mumbai and Jeddah with effect from 2 August 2022 and bolstered our connectivity to Thailand with 5x weekly flights from Mumbai.
In our domestic network, we launched Coimbatore as the 31st domestic destination, connecting it with Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, and have introduced several new routes like Mumbai-Srinagar, Bengaluru-Indore, Mumbai-Indore, Mumbai-Bhubaneshwar, Mumbai-Dehradun, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, etc.
What is your domestic and international expansion plan?
While we hope the demand continues to grow, the industry has entered the weakest quarter (historically) for domestic operations i.e. July to September, and we will have to see how the market performs. We are focussed on increasing frequencies where we already fly to and look at other commercially viable destinations around the world. We remain committed to densifying our domestic network while introducing new routes and viable destinations to expand our presence across the country.
The recent hike in ATF prices is becoming a damper for the industry. How is this impacting the overall performance of airlines in India?
ATF is one of the key determinants when it comes to aviation economics. Jet fuel makes up to 35-40% of an airline’s operational cost, and at present, it is at a record high price. While it has a significant impact on the airfares, it is not possible to pass on the complete incremental cost to customers in a price sensitive market like India.
TATA Group has now Air India, Vistara and Air Asia India under its fold. How do you see synergy shaping up amongst the three?
While the acquisition of Air India by Tata Group is a positive development and has been one of the biggest events in the industry, our plans remain unchanged as we continue to focus on our organic growth, until we are told otherwise by our parent organisations. Vistara continues to operate as an independent entity, in competition with all other Indian carriers and both our parent companies remain invested in our growth and expansion plans.
What new elements do you plan to incorporate into your service offerings?
Vistara has always tried to differentiate itself in the market through intuitively thoughtful offerings like introduction of Premium Economy, serving freshly brewed Starbucks coffee, mood lighting, value-based loyalty program – Club Vistara and much more. Keeping in mind the preferences of today’s highly health-conscious traveller, we have made a conscious effort to add healthier options in the menu such as a selection of thoughtfully crafted salads enriched with whole foods, superfoods, and protein and raw pressed juices.
As a customer centric airline, we are always aiming for customer delight, consistently working towards introducing new enhancements at various customer touchpoints to offer a world-class flying experience. We are on course to introduce a slew of new wellness offerings on board to ensure our customers have an elevated flying experience with us.
How important is b2b travel agents for you? Currently, what is the percentage ratio of your bookings coming through offline and online?
Just like for other airlines, B2B agents are one of the oldest and key contributors in sales for Vistara as well. 70% of our bookings can be attributed to online channels and 30% to offline.
What measures are you taking on sustainability fronts?
We are moving towards carbon neutrality by reducing emissions through operational efficiencies. One of our strengths is our young fleet of aircraft. Vistara had decided to invest in modern and advanced aircraft with fuel efficient engines from the very beginning. The current fleet of A320NEO, A321NEO and B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft are powered by leading edge technologies and advanced systems, resulting in reduction in engine noise as well as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions. Using new generation aircraft contributes significantly towards keeping CO2 levels low and achieving better fuel efficiency. Vistara was also recognised for having Asia’s 3rd Youngest Aircraft Fleet Award 2022 by ch-aviation.
This World Environment Day, we launched the Vistara Green Miles initiative under which, we organized a tree plantation drive across our network that aims at increasing the green cover in the country. We also activated an e-waste recycling initiative, where the IT team has been instrumental in streamlining an effective e-waste management process in a bid to overcome the challenge of safely discarding Vistara’s electronic devices.
We are incessantly looking for improved ways to do business, and sustainability takes center stage among those innovations.