Vistara ups 787 utilisation as Delhi – London ops turn Daily from May 01

Vistara – the TATA – SIA Group Joint Venture will increase frequency to London Heathrow starting May 01, 2022. The airline which is currently operating six times a week between Delhi and London Heathrow will operate on all days of the week. This increase will help improve the utilisation of its wide body fleet which comprises just two aircraft, thanks to the delay in deliveries from Boeing. 

The wide body operations have been turbulent for the airline. The 787-9s were ordered in 2018, with the delivery of the first plane in February 2020 – just days ahead of a lockdown.

While getting a slot at London Heathrow has always been a challenge, the slump due to COVID meant that the airline started its wide body operations on the coveted Delhi – London route with a pair of slots at London Heathrow. 

Subsequently the airline launched operations to Frankfurt, Tokyo Haneda and Paris, of which Tokyo is no longer operational. Under the Air Bubble arrangements between India and the UK, Vistara operated to London Heathrow from both Mumbai and Delhi, only to move it back to Delhi alone. 

Current 787 operations

With Daily flights to London Heathrow, the aircraft utilisation would look like below.

The airline has two aircraft and this is representative. The same aircraft will not operate to London on a daily basis as planes are swapped for maintenance and to average out the utilisation to ensure that there is optimum utilisation of the aircraft based on flight hours and cycles. 

Thrice a week, the airline operates flights to Frankfurt from New Delhi and it also serves Paris with twice weekly service from New Delhi. With this, the two B787s of the airline will be based in Delhi – helping with easier swaps, maintenance plans and opportunity to deploy on domestic sectors if maintenance gaps allow for additional use.

The airline wanted to fly to Newark from New Delhi via London Gatwick, but had to drop the plans. The revised schedule takes the planned utilisation to 14hr and 37mins daily, with potential to further increase it based on maintenance needs. The airline has been frequently operating the Delhi – Bengaluru – Delhi sector with the 787s.

Network Thoughts

I would have expected the airline to have a multi hub strategy, tapping strategic markets like Mumbai – Frankfurt and Mumbai – Paris in addition to flying there from New Delhi. While Mumbai might be second to Delhi, the market remains large enough which is now with the likes of Lufthansa (for non-stop) and primarily the middle eastern carriers for one-stop flights.

Air India couldnt support the non-stop flights from Mumbai for one or the other reason, primarily being lack of aircraft. Since February 2020, when Vistara inducted the 787s to now, the world has changed and so has the TATA group’s foray in Aviation. The group now owns Air India and would have a larger interest in turning that around than looking into the 51% stake of Vistara. Lack of aircraft isn’t helping either. 

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