Vistara, the TATA-SIA joint venture is expanding and this time to the east. The airline will launch once a week flights to Tokyo Haneda starting June 16, 2021. The flights will be operated by Boeing B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, two of which are part of its fleet with four more on firm order – one of which is stored.
Vistara took delivery of its first B787-9 Dreamliner in February last year, days before the country and most of the world went into a lockdown. In March 2017, this website had predicted that the airline could look for A321s, a sub-fleet of A320s and I had predicted that the airline will opt for B787-9. In 2018, the airline placed orders for A321 and B787-9 as part of its fleet expansion. The airline will be the first and only airline in India to operate the B787-9. Air India operates the B787-8 Dreamliner and has 27 in its fleet. Vistara also becomes only the second carrier in India currently to have wide body aircraft in its fleet. The three-class configuration will comprise of 30 Business Class seats in 1-2-1 (6 rows), 21 Premium Economy class seats in 2-3-2 (3 rows) and 248 Economy seats. This is first of the six aircraft which the airline has on order with Boeing. The aircraft comes with Panasonic powered in-flight entertainment system with personal TVs on all three classes.
The airline will begin operations to Japan with once a week flights as per below timings
UK083 DEL0300 – 1450HND 3
UK084 HND1750 – 2335DEL 4
The airline has trained some of its cabin crew in Japanese language and they would be rostered on the flights. This site had predicted that Tokyo will be one of the first destinations for the airline after taking a cue from the IFE coming in with Japanese language setting, strong partnership with JAL amongst others.
Vistara has a codeshare with JAL where-in JAL added 13 new destinations in India and Vistara added 5 destinations in Japan. When things normalise, the route will help Vistara build the domestic as well as international market. Haneda is one of the two primary airports in Tokyo – with the other being Narita. Haneda had transitioned to being a domestic airport for some time before additional terminal and runway meant that International flights could re-start at Haneda. While Tokyo Haneda has a dedicated terminal 3 for international flights, Vistara booking engine shows that the airline will operate to Terminal 1. World over, airports have been closing terminals and clubbing airlines across airlines. Tokyo metropolitan area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world and the last decade has seen India – Japan trade go up manifolds on the back of friendly ties and investments.
A major boost to travel would have been the Olympics – which were scheduled in 2020 and have now been pushed to this year, even as uncertainty looms over the status.
Vistara could have gone places by now – both literally and figuratively, had it not been for the pandemic. But that is true with many other things! The airline is slowly building an effective hub at New Delhi with the timings to Tokyo Haneda mirroring those to Frankfurt.
The India – Japan air traffic has been dominated by the Japanese carriers – JAL and ANA with both expanding in recent past. ANA to Chennai and JAL to Bengaluru. The pandemic has put spokes in all plans. Air India has limited presence at Tokyo – Narita.
At 5870 kms or 3170 nm, the route is well within the range of A321XLR which IndiGo will induct a few years down the line and could look at the route – subject to bilateral rights. Currently the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between India and Japan restrict services to 42 services per week from each side. Indian side has been utilising only seven of those with Air India being the sole operator.
The current services will be part of the air bubble arrangement. India has air bubble arrangement with 27 countries with the 28th being signed with Sri Lanka but falling off before it could begin. India and Japan have been allowing three flights per week, each side. Air India has been operating twice a week service to Tokyo Narita from New Delhi.