Vistara in talks with Boeing to defer deliveries of Dreamliner planes

NEW DELHI: Tata-SIA-owned Vistara is in talks with the US aircraft maker Boeing to defer the deliveries of 787-900 (Dreamliner) planes as air travel demand is unlikely to rebound to the pre-Covid level before 2023, a source has said.

The airline inducted one such plane in the fleet in February and one is expected to be delivered next week out of its order for six 787-900 planes. The delivery of six 787s was scheduled between 2020 and 2021.

Vistara has also preponed the returning of leased planes of erstwhile Jet Airways from the earlier schedule of phasing them out by 2022-23, the source said, adding that airlines globally reworking and strategising their business plans, including fleet and network plans.

International airlines grouping IATA and global airports body ACI have warned that the airline industry faces a bleak outlook. They have urged the governments world over to continue providing relief measures as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

After the resumption of domestic air services from May 25, Indian carriers are struggling to fill the seats with five carriers — Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara and AirAsia– reporting an average 50 per cent seat occupancy in the month.

GoAir during the period did not operate nad resumed its services only from June 1.

International services, however, remain suspended since late March due to the pandemic.

“Vistara like most other carriers is also revisiting fleet and network plans as the travel demand is unlikely to rebound in the immediate future.As part of this, the airline is negotiating with Boeing to postpone the deliveries of Boeing 787s for the time being in addition to an early return of the leased planes of the erstwhile Jet Airways,” the source told PTI.

The airline is looking to postpone the delivery of the remaining four Boeing 787s in addition to returning some 3-5 leased as part of the overall plans, the source said.

A recovery in global long-haul air travel to pre-coronavirus crisis level is unlikely before 2023, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had said in early May adding that the long-haul traffic will be the last to recover.

Vistara currently has 41 aircraft in the fleet, comprising 13 A320s, 20 A320neos, 7 B737s and one B-787-900.

The Delhi-based full service carrier, which is 51 per cent owned by Tata Group, and rest 49 per cent by Singapore Airlines, had in 2018 announced to acquire six B787-900 planes for operating long haul international operations with their delivery scheduled between 2020 and 2021.

It had also placed orders for 50 aircraft, comprising both A320 Neos and A321 Neos for domestic as well as short and medium-haul international operations with deliveries between 2019-2023.

At the same time, last year it leased nine B737s from Jet Airways, which is currently going through insolvency proceeding in an NCLT court here in the city, to secure over 100 additional slots of the 488 vacant slots of Jet Airways after its grounding in 2019. Of these seven planes, it has already returned two planes.

Responding to PTI queries on the issue, a Vistara spokesperson said that one B 737 is being returned to the lessor this week while the rest will be phased out in due course.

“Most of our Boeing 737-800NG aircraft were anyway on short-term lease. Of the existing seven, one is being returned to the lessor this week and the remainder will phase out in due course.

“We are reviewing options. Our second 787-9 Dreamliner was due for delivery in March 2020, which naturally got delayed in the current circumstances. We are now working with Boeing on the revised delivery schedule but we remain confident of the potential of long haul, direct international routes, the spokesperson said in a statement to PTI.

“Two of the Jet AirwaysBoeing 737-800NG aircraft are exiting fleet this month as their lease tenure ends. The remaining seven have longer lease duration and most of them will exit the fleet between 2022 and 2023,” Vistara had said in January this year.

Source: Press Trust of India

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