Vistara – the TATA-SIA joint venture has secured slots for 3x weekly flights to Newark from Delhi via London Gatwick. The filing was made public by ACL – which is in-charge of slot co-ordination at London Gatwick. There is no immediate confirmation on the slot holding at Newark – Liberty International Airport (EWR) along with the timings which the airline has filed.
The airline had filed and received slots at London Gatwick in the past and the pandemic led reduction in services to London Heathrow meant that the airline could operate flights to Heathrow, albeit without historicity!
Vistara’s US approvals and fifth freedom
The airline had applied and secured approvals from US-DOT (Department of Transportation) for one-stop flights to any point in United States from any point in India. The India – US bilateral is open skies, meaning there is no restriction on adding flights for airlines which satisfy the conditions of both countries.
The London Gatwick – Newark flight will be part of FIFTH freedom, and one wonders if Vistara will utilize the rights. While the bilateral between India and UK allows FIFTH freedom, it will take considerable time for the airline to file for the waivers and approvals needed to operate.
All boils down to the planes
The ACL declaration of slots came on the same day when Boeing informed that a 100+ aircraft are in its inventory at the end of the last quarter. Dreamliner delivery is dependent on inspections and rework with subsequent approvals from FAA. The aircraft has been marred with trouble since it entered fleet over a decade ago and has seen a long grounding post incident of fire. The current troubles are not linked to the previous issues.
Vistara has two of its B787-9 ready (VT-TSH, VT-TSN) but the airline has not been able to take deliveries due to factors beyond its control. The existing two aircraft, which have been operating to London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Tokyo and will start operations to Paris soon – can fly non-stop to the United States but cannot be deployed since it does not have a crew rest area.
The London – New York market sees cutthroat competition from the American and British carriers. The competition multi cornered with American Airlines & British Airways, Delta & Virgin Atlantic and United. Recently the competition saw the entry of JetBlue!
Air India, in the past, has operated 3x weekly flights between London Heathrow and Newark. The flight originated in Ahmedabad. Later, the airline pulled out of the London Heathrow – Newark leg and utilized the slots at London Heathrow for additional non-stop services from India.
For Vistara – the challenge is not just operational in terms of possible IRROPS (Irregular Operations) due to weather, crew, or engineering issues but also distribution. To make a mark in a market where it is new, and the market traditionally sticks to the known carriers. However, to its advantage – Vistara will be the only carrier between London Gatwick and Newark – Liberty International Airport!
The airline will still do well to look for India Point of Sale (POS) to fill up the aircraft. But the Newark/New York – Delhi route has quite a bit of competition from established players like United and Air India. Vistara has a codeshare partnership with United and Air India will soon be owned by TATA’s which have majority ownership in Vistara making it all in the family!