Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Creating Ripples before taking to the air - Vistara the latest airline in India

Vistara – the new kid on the block was unveiled in a grand ceremony yesterday in Delhi. People rightly have a lot of expectations from this airline; because it is backed by the iconic Singapore Airlines which holds 49% and the rest owned by TATA’s which I am sure will give better service than their telecom arm – TATA Communications / Docomo.

While the airline is yet to launch, and the first aircraft, to be registered as VT-TTB is in the paint shop, it has already created ripples in the skies, with Jet Airways announcing moving to a single brand strategy the same evening. These two may not be related, but certainly a lot of thought would have gone into moving to one brand strategy at Jet due to the expected, then un-named, venture of TATA’s with SIA.

Jet Airways for a long time, had confused people and themselves with 3 brands – Mainline, Konnect and Lite and later with two, yet, they continued to believe that was the right strategy. While KFA inherited a functional LCC and rebranded it, Jet inherited a functional FSC and went in for a rebranding and a change in service type.

I happened to see some bits of the press conference yesterday, and Mr. Goyal wasn’t reinventing the wheel, but just going back to basics. I wonder why he and his airline moved away from the basics! On-Time performance, Clean Aircraft, Large Network, Good Connections – all these at decent fares… That’s all the passengers want anyways. Jet should have taken the decision to move to single brand FSC model long back, the right time probably was immediately after the demise of KFA.

Back to Vistara – now that the name is firmed up, along with the lively crew uniforms, it’s time to gear up and be battle ready. A lot is being expected because India lacks a true Full Service Carrier. While Kingfisher in the later days, decided to have a particular sector as mainline or LCC, Jet airways never even did that, having all sorts of flights on Metro as well as tier-2 cities. Air India losing out on its On Time performance, and Jet Airways service, aircraft and food becoming a lucky draw with every flight being a different one, it was time for some airline to capture the FSC space.

The success of Vistara will depend a lot on the configuration they choose. Yesterday’s ceremony talked about Premium Economy, and no First class, but it will be Premium economy / European Business or will it be Business, Premium Economy and Economy like what United has in USA, only time will tell. The most optimum mix in Indian skies is probably 8/156, which Kingfisher was trying to achieve before they went kaput and the best that can be achieved is 12/144 but filling up those 12 seats is a challenge for afternoon flights between metros and a day long challenge for leisure routes. The number of seats in the front cabin will also dictate the number of inflight crew on board.

Wishing good luck and long innings to the new airline!

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