AviationBattle of India’s skies sees local carriers face up to Gulf airlines’ dominance of overseas travel

Vistara eyes international expansion

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Vistara was helped by the Indian government’s move to scrap the 5/20 rule for international flights.
Vistara was helped by the Indian government’s move to scrap the 5/20 rule for international flights. Photo Credit: Airbus
Vistara’s move was helped by the Indian government’s move to scrap the 5/20 rule for international flights, making it the first beneficiary of the decision to wind back the regulation.

The suspension of operations by Jet Airways has opened the way for India’s budget carriers to expand their reach and, in the case of Vistara - 49% owned by Singapore Air and 51% by Indian conglomerate Tata Group - to throw out a challenge to the operations of Middle East airlines in India.

About a quarter of India’s international air traffic is carried on Gulf airlines, rising to almost 40% if you include Etihad Airways’ late partner Jet. 

More than half of Indians flying overseas travel via hub airports in the United Arab Emirates, and routes to and from India alone account for about 9.4% of Emirates’ traffic, according to Economic Times figures.

And of the 63 million people that flew to and from India last year, two thirds were carried by foreign airlines, says IATA.

Now with Jet Airways grounded and Air India crippled by debt, Singapore Air’s unprofitable Indian venture Vistara wants a slice of the cake.

It has completed its first overseas flight - between New Delhi and Singapore - and in doing so has fired the opening shot as it looks for growth in South-east Asia and the Middle East this year, specifically Dubai, Colombo and Bangkok.

Vistara’s move was helped by the Indian government’s move to scrap the 5/20 rule for international flights, making it the first beneficiary of the decision to wind back the regulation.

According to the rule, Indian carriers were required to complete at least five years in domestic operations and also have at least 20 aircraft in the fleet before the airline was permitted to fly on international routes. Vistara was founded in 2015 and would have had to wait until 2020 if the five-year rule had not been shelved.

Elsewhere, competition is coming from Indigo, which has 50% of India’s domestic market, and is ramping up its international ambitions.

The airline connects Indian cities with seven destinations in the Middle East - Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Kuwait, Muscat, Jeddah and Doha and from September 16, IndiGo will operate its second flight on the Hyderabad-Doha route. 


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