Leslie Thng

Chief Executive Officer, Vistara

Airline Focus

May 15, 2018

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Leslie Thng, Chief Executive Officer, Vistara

Leslie Thng, Chief Executive Officer, Vistara

With the arrival of its 20th aircraft and its seventh Airbus A320neo, Vistara completes its initial aircraft order as planned at the early stages of setting up the airline in India. Vistara will use the new aircraft to increase frequencies on existing routes to scale up operations in the domestic market, while gearing up for international operations soon.

How has the journey of three years been for Vistara in India?

We flew more customers in the last one year than we did in the first two years since starting the operations. Though our fleet expanded by about 40 percent since March 2017, we flew more than 100 percent passengers in the same period. We recently recorded our highest-ever load-factor at 91.2 percent in February 2018, ahead of all other full-service carriers, which by all logic, is phenomenal for a carrier with three cabin classes. The occupancy in our Economy class alone crossed 95 percent in the month, which is amongst the highest in the industry. It is also important to note that this is achieved while maintaining our record of having some of the lowest cancellation and customer complaint rates in the industry.

One of the key factors, among several others, that make our success possible is the remarkable market acceptance we’ve witnessed for our products and services. Vistara is loved for its customer centricity and thoughtfulness. We have made a noticeable difference to the aviation landscape with a slew of innovative and differentiated offerings for our customers. Our unremitting endeavour is to create memorable flying experiences for all our customers and to ensure that people look forward to flying again. At a time when air travel is largely perceived as just another mode of transportation, our approach to winning customers differently has worked wonders. Our success clearly reflects that people today are increasingly opting for a fine experience, and they are happy to pay a reasonable premium for it.

How do you perceive the current civil aviation market of India and what is Vistara’s plan for expansion?

The Indian aviation industry has been growing at an exponential pace against a backdrop of rapid economic development, coupled with the burgeoning middle-class and continuously evolving consumer preferences, making the future of air travel even brighter. Such a scenario brings forth an array of opportunities for all players in the market and we find this phenomenon even more relevant for a full-service carrier like ourselves.

As a full-service airline, we see a clear demand in India for a better flying experience and we aim to bring in the best global practices driven by innovation, integrated processes and technology. Our strategy is to remain focussed on bringing the ‘new feeling of flying’ to all our customers and continue finding various ways to do it. We are preparing to launch our international operations in the second half of this year, while keeping a sharp focus on the expansion of our domestic footprint as well in order to scale up our operations on both fronts.

As Vistara is set to launch its international operations soon, which airports are you planning to target in the first phase?

Our plan is to start international operations in the second half of this year with our existing fleet of Airbus A320s and fly to destinations within the aircraft’s range. At the same time, we are reviewing the type of aircraft we will need to support our future plans of international expansion so that we can commence medium haul routes (between five-nine hours) after launching the regional/short-haul international routes. It is, however, premature for us to comment on the international routes we will be flying to.

What are the challenges you see in the Indian aviation market?

While the opportunity for India’s aviation sector is greater than ever, with significant increase in the demand from all corners of the country, the industry still requires major solutions to infrastructural challenges, such as runway shortage, slot and airport capacity constraints. Notwithstanding, it is heartening to see an increased impetus on infrastructure development by the government. The vision of enabling a billion trips a year makes us very optimistic about the future of aviation in India. The overall outlook of the government is quite pro-business and pro-consumers, which will definitely ensure a brighter future for the sector in India.

With your plan to go international, would you be acquiring more aircraft?

We are currently evaluating our options for the type of aircraft we will need to support our future expansion plans.

What are the new innovations you are planning in passenger services?

Innovation is one of the core values that all of us at Vistara live by. It is engrained in the DNA of the company. Our presence in the market today tells the story of breaking barriers and challenging the status quo, which wouldn’t be possible without an unwavering focus on innovating in products and services. It is only natural for us to continue to disrupt the market with more and more innovations and to stay ahead of the curve to delight our customers. ‘The new feeling’ is a dynamic and ever evolving process. We’re presently working on some very ambitious projects that promise to set new benchmarks for the industry.

What are the plans of tie up with other airlines?

We’re aggressively establishing partnerships with other international airlines to be able to offer our customers an extended worldwide network through code sharing, interline and through check-in agreements. We already have 24 interline/through check-in partnerships with leading global airlines, as well as a code-share agreement with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir. We will continue to explore more potential opportunities as we spread our wings further.

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