Vistara’s stunning new Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been officially unveiled in Delhi this week. While we’ve all enjoyed looking at the beautiful livery and new cabin products on board, the one question we all want answering is “where and when can we fly it?”.
Vistara is being somewhat tight-lipped about its route plans for the aircraft. However, we can make some educated predictions about where we’re likely to see this beautiful bird in operation first.
Where could the Dreamliner fly?
The range of the 787-9 is around 14,800km, which puts pretty much all the world within reach of Vistara, save for a few parts of South and Central America. However, the likelihood is that Vistara will want to keep operations, at least initially, focused on its immediate surroundings and on those routes which are likely to turn the greatest profit.
Right now, Air India is the only Indian airline flying long haul out of the nation. It operates routes to Europe, the US, East Asia and Australia. There have been rumblings today that Vistara is mulling a bid for Air India, which could give us a clue to where the airline’s focus lies.
Last year, CEO of Vistara, Leslie Thng, confirmed the airline’s long haul ambitions saying that the airline would look to Australia and Europe, among other destinations, once its widebodies started to be delivered. He even hinted that Vistara was working on a codeshare with British Airways for European long haul, although nothing has been announced to date.
What has been announced, and very recently too, is the expanded codeshare with Japan Airlines (JAL), which will see increased options for travelers flying between India and Japan. With the 2020 Olympics set to take place in Tokyo (if the coronavirus doesn’t see the games suspended or canceled), there’s a huge amount of traffic to be had heading into Japan this summer. Could Vistara be mulling adding flights in time for the big event?
Aside from Europe and Japan, Vistara’s long-standing ties with Singapore Airlines could mean southeast Asia is a key long haul route for the airline too. 49% of the airline is owned by SIA, so it would make sense for the airline to leverage connections with its parent company early in its international expansion.
UK has to be a key market
Although we might see some action in the Asian marketplace first, the UK, and specifically London, has to be high on Vistara’s wish-list for long haul operations. Since the demise of Jet Airways, the market between India and the UK is still lacking in seats.
For example, the market between London and Mumbai boasted more than half a million seats in winter 2018. This winter just 359,000 were flown. Various airlines have looked to pick up the slack, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air India upping capacity and adding routes. Despite best efforts, there’s still room for more.
Vistara has previously noted its interest in London, but also desires landing slots at Heathrow. With the third runway facing serious headwinds, that’s unlikely to happen unless another airline pulls out or it acquires some slots on the resale market. Or, of course, if it buys Air India!
Where do we know its flying first?
For the rest of March at least, Vistara isn’t planning on taking the Dreamliner out of Indian airspace. In a bid to undertake some crew familiarization, it will operate the widebody on the busy Mumbai – Delhi route. In a statement to LiveMint, Vistara said,
“Vistara’s first Boeing 787 aircraft will fly customers within India for a limited period of time from March 2020 before being deployed for long haul international routes.”
If you’re in India, keeping an eye on flight schedules could let you experience the brand new Dreamliner domestically in the coming weeks. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait for official announcements to ‘fly the dream’ elsewhere.