Singapore Airlines' new Indian joint venture Vistara unveils services and frills

Full-service carrier Vistara, the new India-based airline started by Singapore Airlines and Tata group, unveiled on Monday the range of services it will offer fliers, from 17 special meals on request to spacious cabins and auto check-in facilities. -
Full-service carrier Vistara, the new India-based airline started by Singapore Airlines and Tata group, unveiled on Monday the range of services it will offer fliers, from 17 special meals on request to spacious cabins and auto check-in facilities. -- PHOTO: AFP

Full-service carrier Vistara, the new India-based airline started by Singapore Airlines and Tata group, unveiled on Monday the range of services it will offer fliers, from 17 special meals on request to spacious cabins and auto check-in facilities.

The airlines will begin operations from January 19 with flights between India's capital New Delhi, financial hub Mumbai and the western city of Ahmedabad. It is the third full service carrier in India.

CEO Yeoh Phee Teik said the airline was a "new year gift for India" but also hinted at the difficulties in setting up the new airline, which got its final aviation clearance only early this month. "Journey of setting up Vistara has been incredible. It was like a roller coaster ride... Setting up a new airline in India not a small task," said Mr Yeoh at a press conference.

Vistara is going to operate two 148-seater Airbus A320-200s with 16 seats in business class, 36 in premium economy and 96 in economy.

Tata Sons holds the majority stake of 51 per cent in the airline, and SIA the remaining 49 per cent.

The partners had announced the birth of Vistara in September last year, after the Indian government decided to open up the aviation sector to foreign investors and allow up to 49 per cent of foreign equity.

India is the ninth largest air travel market in the world handling 121 million domestic and 41 million international passengers every year, it is also estimated to become the third-largest market by 2020.

Vistara is set for rapid expansion in the country. Mr Yeoh announced on Monday the company plans to operate 20 Airbus A320 aircraft in four years' time. The airlines will also launch a lounge at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi next year.

It is also looking to launch international flights after the government amends a rule that allows domestic carriers to operate international flights only after they have completed five years of operation and have at least 20 aircraft in use.

The airlines is launching at a time of turbulence in the Indian aviation sector. Most airlines are struggling to post a profit, with budget carrier Spicejet coming to the brink of collapse last week.

Mr Yeoh, however, expressed optimism. "You don't drive by looking in the rear view mirror," he said.