26 October 2016
Vistara has to boost its fleet by at least nine planes to be allowed to fly abroad from India. Photo: Airbus
Vistara has to boost its fleet by at least nine planes to be allowed to fly abroad from India. Photo: Airbus

Singapore Air’s India unit to challenge Gulf carriers’ dominance

Within weeks of India easing aviation rules, Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s venture in the country is charting a course to take on carriers from the Middle East, Bloomberg reports.

It’s counting on a surge in international traffic from the world’s fastest-growing major air travel market.

Vistara, in which the city state’s flag carrier owns 49 percent, is considering buying or leasing wide-bodied aircraft for long-haul routes and will seek funds from its owners to finance the purchase, chief executive Yeoh Phee Teik told Bloomberg.

The company, which has 11 planes in its fleet and is co-owned by India’s Tata Sons Ltd., needs at least nine more to fly abroad under the relaxed policy.

The number of international travelers from India is poised to grow 10-fold to 500 million by 2050, a CAPA Center of Aviation study that was commissioned by Vistara found.

The carrier’s plans may be the start of a fresh challenge for Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways PJSC, which have long been the biggest foreign carriers in India and have, along with Air India Ltd. and Jet Airways India Ltd., dominated the market for offshore travel.

“We believe Vistara may pull out all stops to get to the 20 number and fly overseas,” Amber Dubey, the New Delhi-based India head for aerospace at KPMG, was quoted as saying.

“Being an Indian carrier, they will have the advantage of providing non-stop flights from India to the European Union and US, something that Gulf carriers can’t do.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet ratified its policy changes in aviation on June 15, permitting domestic airlines to fly overseas provided they deploy 20 planes or 20 percent of capacity, whichever is higher, on local routes.

Earlier, carriers needed to have a minimum of 20 aircraft in their fleet and five years of domestic services.

“The world is our oyster now, we are spoiled for choice,” Yeoh said.

“We can be eastbound, westbound, we can be short-haul or long-haul from New Delhi.”

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