Vistara expecting to operate all pre-COVID domestic flights by April 2021: CCO

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (PTI) Vistara is expecting to operate 100 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic passenger flights by April next year, said its Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Vinod Kannan on Wednesday.

Currently, the full-service carrier is operating around 55 per cent of its pre-COVID scheduled domestic passenger services.

Moreover, Kannan said the airline is not cancelling any aircraft orders but it has changed the timeline to receive the new planes from the manufacturer.

'I personally think that we will hit the pre-COVID levels, in terms of capacity alone, somewhere around March or April of 2021,' he said at a press conference.

'Again, it is going to be a function of how things progress through Diwali and the year-end period because that is going to be quite material. As long as we can manage that well, we see that confidence continuing. I think the numbers will come back,' he added.

The Civil Aviation Ministry told airlines last week that they can operate maximum 60 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic services till February 24 next year due to the coronavirus situation.

Kannan said it is important to highlight that although the capacity is a very good indication of how the industry is on the domestic front, the load factor or occupancy rate is still far from what it used to be.

'We (Indian airlines) are all doing between 60-70 per cent band (load factor) as you must have seen in the various reports the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) puts out,' he mentioned.

Airlines, including Vistara, were doing 80-90 per cent load factor before the COVID-19 pandemic.

'So, capacity is one thing and revenue and load factor is another thing,' Kannan noted.

When India resumed its scheduled domestic flights on May 25 after a gap of two months due to the pandemic, it permitted maximum 33 per cent of the pre-COVID domestic services. Later, this was increased to 45 per cent and then to 60 per cent.

When asked how the pandemic has affected the airline's speed of receiving the new aircraft, he said Vistara was supposed to have 3-4 wide-body aircraft at this stage, but it has only two in its fleet right now.

'There has been a change in the (speed of) aircraft coming in,' he said.

Wide-body aircraft have bigger fuel tanks and they are generally used for operating long-haul international flights. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country since March 23 due to the pandemic.

'What I can say is that we are not cancelling any orders. We are reviewing delivery timelines depending on operational needs, commercial needs, and of course, the manufacturers' requirements,' the CCO said.

Special international passenger flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral air bubble pacts signed with various countries since July.

Vistara, which is 51 per cent owned by Tata Group, and rest 49 per cent by Singapore Airlines, had in 2018 announced that it will acquire six wide-body Dreamliner planes with their delivery scheduled between 2020 and 2021.

It had also placed orders for 50 aircraft, comprising both A320 Neos and A321 Neos for domestic as well as short and medium-haul international operations with deliveries between 2019-2023. PTI DSP KJ KJ