Vistara has begun taking the first steps towards launching flights to the US later this year. The airline has filed for permission from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to launch services “as soon as possible.” But when will flights actually begin operating?
This week, we found out that Vistara has chosen travel distributor Discover The World to serve as its general sales agent (GSA) in the US. The exclusive deal will give Discover the right to market and sell all Vistara flight tickets in the US (barring online bookings).
The decision to appoint a GSA comes just a few weeks after the carrier filed with the DoT to begin flights to the US. In its filing, the airline is targeting a launch date of 1st September, a quick turnaround for the airline.
However, any launch of flights will depend on when the US lifts its travel ban on most travelers from India. Just five days after Vistara’s DoT request, the US banned travelers from India except US citizens, residents, and some exemptions. It’s unlikely that flights will commence while the ban remains in place, with traffic much lower than previous levels.
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Currently, Vistara has only taken delivery of two out of its six 787-9s on order with Boeing. While the order was planned to be completed this year, this has been pushed out to 2023 due to the current crisis. However, to fly to the United States, the carrier will need to take delivery of at least one more jet.
According to Planespotters.net, two Vistara 787-9s, registered VT-TSH and VT-TSN, have been produced and are undergoing final tests in Washington. This means their delivery could be moved ahead if needed to start the first long-haul flights.
However, to operate the 14-hour journey to the east coast, the airline will need a crew rest area for rotating crew members. Vistara has already been in talks with Boeing to add this to its upcoming 787-9s, and they could be present on the next few set for delivery.
Routes between India and the US have seen competition increase steadily in the last year years. On flights from Delhi and Mumbai to New York, the most popular routes by far, United and Air India both offer daily departures with American joining in October. Similarly, flights to Chicago and San Francisco also have similar competition.
This means Vistara is certainly the newcomer in this market. However, its competitive business class product and loyalty scheme could peel some flyers away from airlines like Air India. Moreover, an expanded partnership with United could even allow Vistara to grow its reach within the US and carry more connecting passengers.
What do you think about Vistara’s decision to fly to the US? Let us know in the comments!