Vistara Will Start Returning Its Ex-Jet Airways Boeing 737s

Vistara’s cunning plan to secure extra slots at Indian airports relied on leasing old Boeing 737s while it awaited delivery of its new Airbus A320neos. Now these Airbus A320neos have started to arrive, Vistara has begun the process of returning its leased Boeing 737s.

Jet Airways Boeing 737-800
Vistara took on a number of ex-Jet Airways Boeing 737-800s on short-term leases (JET Airways Boeing 737-800 pictured). Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

When Jet Airways ceased operations in April last year, it left behind a big gap in the Indian aviation market.

The Indian aviation industry is currently one of the most competitive in the world, and there was no shortage of other local airlines looking to take over their share of ex-Jet Airways route capacity.

But the process of securing ex-Jet Airways slots was complicated slightly. The Indian authorities decided that airlines which demonstrated that they were bringing in new capacity would get priority, as opposed to airlines which were moving around existing capacity.

As Jet Airways’ fleet was dominated by the Boeing 737, one Indian carrier found itself in a particularly strong position. As the only other Indian airline operating the Boeing 737, SpiceJet started buying up ex-Jet Airways 737s and rushing them into service in order to secure new slots.

Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 VT-JGG Taxiing to Runway
Jet Airways large fleet was put out of action in April last year. Photo: Faisal Akram via Wikimedia Commons

Vistara’s approach

Vistara, like the other Indian airlines, was held back by a lack of available aircraft. It had a large order of Airbus A320neos set to be delivered from October 2019 onwards, but they would not arrive early enough to snap up new slots.

With some outside of the box thinking, the airline made a quick decision to ensure it did not miss out. Vistara opted to take nine ex-Jet Airways Boeing 737-800s on short-term leases, also hiring ex-Jet Airways pilots and cabin crew to ensure it could get the new aircraft in the air as quickly as possible.

As these were technically new additions to the fleet, Vistara managed to secure a number of new slots. In particular, it managed to get five slots for flights to Bangalore out of Mumbai.

Mumbai was Jet Airways’ main base of operations, and an airport which Vistara had down as one of its main priorities for expansion.

Getting rid of the Boeing 737s

As expected, Vistara’s new Airbus A320neos started arriving in October 2019. As of now, the airline has taken delivery of a total of nine Airbus A320neos, with more due to be delivered in the coming months.

Now that Vistara has managed to secure some new, highly-sought-after slots, and its Airbus A320neos have started arriving, the leased Boeing 737s it brought in earlier in 2019 are surplus to requirements.

Vistara Airbus A320-200 registered VT-TTF at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, India.
Vistara has added nine Airbus A320neos to its fleet over the last few months (Airbus A320-200 pictured). Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia Commons

As reported by Live from a Lounge earlier today, Vistara has made the decision to start offloading its older Boeing 737s.

The first two Boeing 737s, registered VT-TGC and VT-TGF, will be removed from Vistara’s fleet this month.

Vistara is still a small airline, with just 40 active aircraft in its fleet. Deciding to add nine new aircraft at such short notice, was a risky decision which could have backfired. As it turns out, it looks like the risk paid off.