Vistara : Genesis

January 9th 2015, Mumbai

The Tatas resumed their love affair with aviation as the rightful pioneers they are of aviation in this country. The highlight of which was the inaugural flight of their new venture, Air Vistara with Singapore Airlines. Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons Mr. Ratan Tata wasn’t personally present at New Delhi to flag-off this inaugural flight nor was he here at Mumbai to receive it (Chairman, Tata Sons Mr. Cyrus Mistry filled-in) but, its safe to say he would’ve been here in spirit all along.

Taken from the Sanskrit word Vistaar, meaning ‘expansion’ or ‘limitless expanse’ Vistara, the much awaited joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines operated its Inaugural Commercial Flight today.

Vistara’s first Airbus A320 VT-TTB took-off from New Delhi’s runway 29 as UK 890 at 12:51pm, touching-down on Mumbai’s runway 14 at 2:48pm operated by the towering ex Silkair Capt. Mandesh Singh and ex Air Sahara & KingFisher Capt Neeraj Biala.

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I spoke to dispatch and they confirmed a load factor of a 100% for the first flight.

With this, Vistara also becomes the first domestic carrier to start operations from Mumbai’s much talked-about and State-of-the-art Terminal 2.

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The A320 was greeted by the ceremonial Water Canon Salute, or as us aviation enthusiasts put it: The Shower-Of-Affection by CSIA’s fire trucks eventually pulling-up at Terminal 2’s Gate # 87 to a very warm welcome by the Vistara ground staff on this momentous occasion as the Tata and CSIA Higher management watched the proceedings from behind the glass and air conditioned comforts of T2’s arrivals area.

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This same aircraft later turned around to operate the very first Outbound Vistara flight from Mumbai, operating as UK 895 departing main runway 27 45mins late from its STD of 4:55pm at 5:39pm back to homebase New Delhi.

Vistara leased its first Brand New A320 VT-TTB from BOC Aviation in September 2014, their second A320 VT-TTC followed soon thereafter.

For the time being, Mumbai will see a daily Vistara flight to & from Ahmedabad and 3 to & fro dailies to the capital until the airline’s further vistaar.

The Father of Indian Aviation, the Great JRD Tata set-up Air India. In 1993, he flagged-off the Inaugural Jet Airways 737-300

A year later, He came down to CSIA again to personally flag-off Damania Airways’ inaugural flight, operated by a 737-200 VT-PDA. Airline owner/founder Parvez Damania named their second 737 VT-PDB as “The Spirit of JRD” in his honour.

History is proof, it isn’t easy surviving or for that matter doing profitable business in the bull ring that is Indian Aviation. The Tatas have shown their legendary grit and stomach for a tough fight. Their partnership with Singapore Airlines is a natural fit, both organisations are known for their integrity, quality and the highest levels of service. Their association goes back half a century.

It was Air India (Under JRD Tata) who helped Singapore Airlines setup shop back in the early 70s. Back then under JRD, Air India was one of the world’s finest airline. They were more than happy to lend their expertise to the then upcoming Malaysia–Singapore Airlines (MSA) which later became SQ. The latter has hung onto those levels of excellence and improved upon them whereas the former without the Tatas and under the control of the government continues to be a mixed bag of sorts.

Their choice of name, Vistara – is unconventional but meaningful. It shows the company’s ambitions and knowing their owners, you know the airline will have longevity as it is better suited to face the turbulent Indian Skies than perhaps the rest of the competition. About that, Vistara’s hard-fought entry into the Indian market kind of reaffirms the difficulties of starting a business in India – especially the airline sector where the government itself creates unfair market conditions.

Case in point, the Absolutely Ridiculous and Nonsensical 5/20 rule.

Ironically, overnight startups like Sama Air, Bahrain Air, NAS Air, Air Jazeera, Air Arabia, RAK Airways, Fly Dubai etc….. have had no issues plundering India almost immediately after getting their respective operating permits. Unfortunately, our air regulator is quite indifferent about its own carriers.

But this moment is not about an ignorant regulator or jealous competitors, its about a beacon of hope which has resurfaced after half a century. A thoroughbred with unarguably the best possible genes from two decorated parents.

In a way, its an NRI who has returned home after decades of exile with an able partner to its stomping grounds to reclaim old glory. I’m confident almost every Indian aviation well wisher will be hoping for Vistara’s success and for it to become our finest airline.

They have it in then, its execution time. Let the Vistaar begin…………

 – Vishal Jolapara

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