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SIA, Tata Sons eyeing Oct launch for new airline Vistara

Publication Date : 12-08-2014


Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Indian conglomerate Tata Sons are targeting an October launch for their new full service airline, christened Vistara, in a burgeoning if tough air travel market.

Yeoh Phee Teik, chief executive of Tata SIA Airlines, the joint venture that will operate the new airline, expressed optimism that Vistara would make a mark by giving Indian fliers the "finest full service airline".

"We know what it takes to make a significant impact in this market. We have a clear strategy," said Yeoh, speaking at the unveiling of the name, logo and look of the new airline in New Delhi yesterday.

"The aviation sector (in India) is at a cusp," he said, adding that while there have been losses, "we are focusing on the future".

The name of the new airline is a derivative of the Sanskrit word vistaar, which means limitless expanse or potential, while its logo includes an eight-pointed star.

The cabin crew will wear aubergine- and gold-coloured uniforms designed by Indian fashion house Abraham and Thakore.

The full service airline is coming on stream after another airline involving foreign investment started operations this year.

In June, AirAsia India, a venture between Malaysia's AirAsia and India's Tata Group and investment firm Telestra Tradeplace, began flying to different destinations in the country.

This follows the 2012 decision to open up the aviation sector to foreign investors, allowing 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 has been estimated that it will become the third-largest market by 2020.

But while the Indian aviation sector is expanding, it has also acquired a reputation for being a notoriously difficult space to operate in.

A boom in the last decade fuelled by fast-paced economic growth and a growing middle class has been hit by a slowing economy and price-conscious consumers in the past few years.

Indian carriers have also had to contend with high fuel costs and high airport taxes, among other things.

In the tough climate, Kingfisher Airlines, a full service carrier, stopped operations in 2012 after incurring crushing losses.

The unveiling of Vistara comes almost a year after SIA and Tata Sons announced their partnership, with the Singapore carrier owning 49 per cent and Tata 51 per cent of the venture.

The new airline will take delivery of its first plane next month - an Airbus A320-200 - with plans to increase its fleet to 20 aircraft at the end of five years.

Yeoh said the airline is still finalising routes and will operate to cities where there is a demand for a full service airline.

Research has shown that passengers want "personalised service", he added.

Tata SIA Airlines director and SIA executive vice-president (commercial) Mak Swee Wah said: "From a global investor's perspective, the Indian aviation sector has a lot of potential for growth and I am delighted that SIA now has a fruitful role to play here."

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