Vistara has been forced to push back the launch of its US services as deliveries of the Boeing 787 remain on pause. The FAA-mandated pause means Vistara is only flying two out of six 787-9s on order, both of which have been deployed on other long-haul routes. Until the pause is lifted, Vistara won’t be able to access the lucrative US market.
Approved but can’t fly
While Vistara has long discussed the possibility of US flights, it took the first formal step in April, requesting DOT approval for flights. The airline swiftly won approval and set a tentative date of September for flights. However, the airline has faced a key hurdle in starting flights: a lack of aircraft.
Vistara has taken delivery of two out of six of its Boeing 787-9s Dreamliners. While the airline once had plans for a robust delivery schedule, with all six joining in two years, the pandemic slowed this down. Once the airline was ready, the FAA ordered Boeing to halt all 787 deliveries due to defects in manufacturing.
This has had a knock-on effect on Vistara’s US plans. In a statement to Mint, CCO Vinod Kannan said,
“We have received approvals for US flights. But we will have to see when we can receive the third aircraft, and only after that can we do a more comprehensive kind of expansion plan. At present, London, Tokyo, Frankfurt flights, and occasional domestic and charters are using up the aircraft (Boeing 787) time.”
The US-India market is a highly lucrative one with over 5 million passengers every year. However, only two airlines operate nonstop routes, United and Air India. Much of the traffic is bagged by connecting Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates and Qatar Airways. However, with connecting flights banned since the pandemic, direct flights have seen sky-high demand.
Seeing this opportunity, Vistara formally requested permission to start flying US routes this winter. The airline likely hoped that the 787 pause that came into effect in May would be resolved quickly, as did other carriers. However, fast forward four months, and Dreamliner’s continue to be stuck on the ground.
With no clarity of when the next 787 will be delivered (the current reports suggest October), Vistara cannot make firm plans yet. Instead, the airline will focus on its three new long-haul routes (London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo) and dozens of shorter routes across India and Asia. Keep an eye out for more updates on Vistara’s US plans.
Vistara will be entering a competitive business market when flying to the US later this year or early next year. However, with a codeshare with United and partners across the Star Alliance and beyond, the airline will have a strong start. Moreover, its business class product far exceeds Air India’s on this route and gives United a run for its money.
For now, all eyes are on Vistara as it plans its future to the US.
What do you think about Vistara’s future plans and 787 delivery issues? Let us know in the comments!