February 12, 2019 / 7:17 AM / in a month

Vistara sees limited impact from overseas flight approval delays

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Delays in regulatory approvals for international flights have had only a limited impact on Indian airline Vistara’s business, the chief executive of the Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Ltd joint venture said on Tuesday.

Vistara CEO Leslie Thng speaks at an aviation conference in Mumbai, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/Files

In June, the airline met the requirement of having more than 20 jets needed for international flights and hoped to launch them last year, however, it is yet to receive the necessary regulatory approvals.

“We are still engaging the authorities. We are still hopeful that we should get approval soon,” Vistara CEO Leslie Thng told reporters at the CAPA India conference.

Indian airlines are turning to the international market in search of better returns at a time when CAPA India, an aviation consultancy, estimates the sector will post a collective $1.7 billion loss for the financial year ending March 31.

In a forecast issued at the conference, CAPA India said it expected Vistara to launch international flights with narrow-body jets in April.

Once the company gets the approval to start international operations, it can start flying soon afterward, Thng said, adding that a jet that has already been earmarked for international routes is being used in the domestic market.

Vistara expects to receive 12 more planes in the 2020 financial year starting April 1, including its first two Boeing Co 787 widebodies, he said.

“What is more important for us is the second batch of aircraft that will be delivered in the second half of the year,” Thng said. “So right now, the impact is still manageable.”

Low-cost carrier AirAsia India, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd, has also said it hopes to launch international flights this year after obtaining regulatory approvals.

Indian’s Central Bureau of Investigation last year accused AirAsia India, some of its employees and third parties of violating India’s foreign direct investment rules while obtaining its initial licence, and of allegedly bribing government officials in an attempt to get regulations relaxed to allow AirAsia India to fly international routes.

AirAsia India has refuted allegations of wrongdoing.

Reporting by Aditi Shah; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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