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Indian airline Vistara is opening up new international routes, with Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai representing the first destinations in a growth strategy for Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Vistara – a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata – this week launches Boeing 737 flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Singapore, along with a codeshare partnership with Singapore Airlines and regional arm SilkAir on Vistara flights to more than 20 Indian destinations.
Singapore is not only a popular destination for Indian travellers but is also a hub for many passengers from Australia, who fly to India via the city-state with Singapore Airlines and its regional arm SilkAir.
“We’re excited to start with Singapore as our first international destination, which we see as a very important market given the opportunities it presents for corporate, business as well as leisure travel,” said Vistara CEO Leslie Thng in welcoming the airline's first international routes.
Vistara's Boeing 737s have eight business class seats with a 40-44" pitch and 7" recline, an extendable leg rest and foot rest.
Passengers have a checked baggage allowance 30kg to 40kg depending on the type of business class fare they choose (Value, Standard or Flexi), with lounge access provided by Vistara and partner lounges.
The 156 economy seats have a 30” pitch and 3.5” recline, with included checked luggage allowances of 15kg for Lite and Standard fares and 20kg for Flexi fares.
Vistara's Singapore flights will be followed by an Airbus A320 service between Mumbai and Dubai beginning August 21, 2019, and Delhi-Bangkok from August 27, 2019.
Thng says the company plans to have a fleet of 41 aircraft by the end of this year, and increase it to as many as 70 by 2023. The first of six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners is due to roll into Vistara's hangars in February 2020.
Singapore Airlines sees Vistara as a weapon against Emirates and Etihad in a grab for India’s international travellers, and a slice of one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.
The number of passengers in India will more than triple to 520 million by 2037, the International Air Transport Association says – and of the 63 million people that flew to and from the country last year, two thirds were carried by foreign airlines.
Vistara is a key element of Singapore Airlines’ multi-hub strategy, and the launch of international operations offers additional opportunities to it, a spokesman for the airline said.
Emirates, often dubbed the “unofficial national carrier of India,” controlled almost 15% of the market to and from India last year, regulatory data compiled by Bloomberg showed.
Suspension of flights by full-service rival Jet Airways has helped discount carriers gain market share in the country, but demand for premium product should still grow, CEO Thng, adding that Vistara is trying to take advantage of a gap in the market created by Jet’s demise.
[Additional reporting by Bloomberg]