Treat Air India as competition, will continue as different organisations till told otherwise: Vistara CEO - Times of India

Treat Air India as competition, will continue as different organisations till told otherwise: Vistara CEO – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: “We still treat Air India as competition. Vistara is a better choice. We are completely different organisations and that will continue until we are told otherwise.” Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan told TOI in his first interaction on Tuesday after Tata Group taking over low cost Air India Express and full service AI last month. Tatas hold 51% stake in full service Vistara, and Singapore Airlines (SIA) the remaining 49%.
SIA is not yet on board for a merger with the three other Tata Group airlines — AI, AI Express and AirAsia India Pvt Ltd (AAIPL). “There are benefits in bringing them together and synergising. It gives you scale. At the same time, it is a question of discussion between the shareholders. There are definitely going to be potential benefits of a merger. Whether it will happen, when it will happen, I do not know. I am not involved in that discussion,” Kannan said.
The focus of this full service airline, only one apart from AI, remain to build the Vistara brand further “regardless” of something that may happen in the future. “Our two shareholders are still supportive of Vistara and its stance. Yes, there might be discussions at a future date which is speculative and I am not involved in. When something like that materialises, the market will be informed,” Kannan said.
Have the purse strings been tightened for Vistara after Tatas took over AI? “I don’t think so. The commitment from both the stakeholders has been very, very strong. During pandemic whenever we had equity requirements, they have always supported us based on justification. You will see this in future announcements of equity and funding,” Kannan said.
While a decision of what happens in the future is yet to be taken, Vistara could benefit from the synergy of Tatas which now have a big presence in the Indian airline space. “We will be keeping an arm’s length (from AI) on issues that are customer-facing or commercially sensitive. But as a bigger entity, synergy could be a plus upside. That could happen but at this stage even those discussions have not happened.”
Due to indefinite delay from Boeing side to deliver Dreamliners, Vistara is looking at options for interim wide body capacity enhancement so that it can start nonstops to distant places like the US that have huge travel demand from India. “We have two Boeing 787 Dreamliners and two more were supposed to be inducted late last year. We hope to get at least two more by the end of this calendar year. There is no firm confirmation from Boeing on this. We don’t know if that will fructify.”
“We are trying to see if an interim capacity increase is possible. The market is going to open up and we are looking at options, including nonstops to the US. We have started operational preparedness for flying in the US. The only headwind is that crude is almost at $100. Flying direct to the US is fuel-intensive. While fares may be high now, they will fall once capacity is back (post resumption regular flights). Those things also come into play during our evaluations. A decision will be taken in the coming weeks,” Kannan said.



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