It looks like Vistara may soon start flying between India and the United States. However, the itinerary is not what you would expect (or maybe it is?).
Vistara could launch flights to Newark
In April 2021, I wrote about how Vistara applied for permission from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin flying to the United States. The airline did not indicate at the time which route it wanted to launch, simply that it hoped to start these flights by September 2021. Naturally, the travel restrictions in place likely delayed this, but the United States United will open to vaccinated travelers from November.
For those unfamiliar with it, Vistara was founded in 2015, and is arguably India’s most premium airline. The airline is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines (Tata Sons is in the process of buying Air India, so it’s going to be interesting). Vistara recently started flying Boeing 787-9s, as previously the airline only had narrow-body planes.
While we haven’t heard much about Vistara’s plans to visit the United States, it looks like we now have an idea of what to expect. As noted by paxex.aero, Vistara has secured remarkable slots at London Gatwick Airport for this winter:
- Vistara has slots at London Gatwick (LGW) which he intends to use for flights to Newark (EWR) and Delhi (DEL)
- The airline has enough slots to operate this route 3x per week each way
- Whether or not this route comes to fruition is a guess, but it looks like Vistara is at least considering this route and has been given the necessary clearance.
What is the logic of the Vistara flight via London?
Why would Vistara operate a Delhi-Newark flight via London? On the surface, you would think this was an attempted fifth freedom flight, as there is a possibility that the airline could sell seats between Newark and London (this is something Air India has attempted to period, but this road was cut).
However, there is actually a different explanation. For some reason, Vistara ordered its Boeing 787s without crew rest facilities. This prevents the airline from operating these planes on very long-haul routes, where crew rest is required. Now the airline could block a bunch of seats as crew rest facilities, but that would be pretty expensive.
By making a stopover in London, Vistara could change crew there, allowing this flight to be performed without crew rest. However, one has to question the viability of an itinerary like this if the airline is not even able to operate nonstop:
- Several airlines fly nonstop between airports in the New York and Delhi area including Air India, American and United, and on top of that there are countless stopover options.
- Vistara already has a partnership with United, which has a major hub in Newark; I guess on the one hand this could give Vistara some connection traffic, but on the other hand the partnership dynamic could change dramatically if Vistara is now in direct competition with United.
- Vistara’s costs would certainly be high for this route, considering the type of crew rotation that would be required, especially with only 3x weekly frequencies; it would take more than a week for crews to complete the rotation, and that’s a lot of hotel rooms to book
At the end of the line
In the spring of 2021, Vistara revealed plans to start flying to the United States. It looks like this may soon become a reality, with a new Delhi-Newark route via London. We could see this route with up to 3 times the weekly frequencies starting this winter. The timing makes sense, considering that the US travel ban on India will be lifted within the next two weeks.
The reason for the stopover in London (other than the potential value of a fifth freedom flight) is that the Vistara 787s have no crew rest, so there is no efficient way to airline to fly nonstop between India and the United States.
I’m not sure I see any merit in this route due to the need for a stop, although it would definitely be fun to fly Vistara between Newark and London.
What do you think of Vistara’s potential route to Newark?