Friday, May 27, 2016

Vistara to cross 2 million passengers milestone in June 2016

by Soumen Mukherjee

Vistara, the country's newest full-service carrier has embarked on a growth path in 2016 and after 16 months of operation it has started reflecting in the passenger volumes. By the end of its first year of operation, Vistara had operated around 300 weekly flights in a network of 12 destinations with a fleet of nine Airbus A320-232 aircraft; A major change in Vistara's operation can be seen right from the beginning of the second quarter of 2016 when the airline considerably increases its available seat kilometers (ASKM) by adding new frequencies on existing routes, launching four new destinations even before it adds the 10th aircraft VT-TTK (first in 2016). 
In early April, Vistara had started cabin re-configuration on four of its aircraft with rest five aircraft to be re-configured by the end of July. Currently Vistara operating a dual fleet with five aircraft in the old cabin configuration with 148 seats (16J 36S 96Y) and five aircraft in the new configuration with 158 seats (8J 24S 126Y), VT-TTK is the first aircraft received from Airbus with new cabin configuration.

Vistara's monthly passenger numbers are gradually increasing with higher capacity utilization like operating more number of flights, increased seat capacity per flights and higher passenger loads. The airline has captured 2.3% market share for the first time in April 2016 after maintaining a steady 2.0% share for four months prior to it. In April 2016 Vistara carried 1.83 lakhs passengers and the monthly passenger numbers likely to cross 2 lakhs mark in May 2016 and the market share likely to cross 2.5% as a result of new destinations opened in mid April (Srinagar, Jammu & Kochi), early May (Chandigarh) and additional frequencies on existing routes (Delhi-Bengaluru & Delhi-Goa) from mid-May. Earlier Vistara had achieved the milestone of flying its first million passenger in December 2015 just before the completion of its first year of operation. By the of April 2016, it has carried a total of 17.06 lakhs passengers (lifetime) and is expected to cross the two million passengers mark sometimes in June 2016;

Performance on key parameters
One of major areas where Vistara has faced challenges from the very beginning is its passenger load factors (PLF). Starting with mere 45% loads Vistara continues to fly with maximum percentage of empty seats in the Indian sky, though a upward trend can be seen in the passenger loads (see graph). The airline has reported 77.9% PLF in April 2016 which is its lifetime high. Though the airline has not yet managed to cross 80% mark but of late it comes close to its full service competitors Jet Airways (78.5% in April 2016) and Air India (78.9% in April 2016). The month of May being the peak season airlines typically improve their performance in terms of passenger volume and in fact Vistara crossed 70% PLF mark for the first time in May 2015 . Therefore it is anticipated that the airline may well cross the 80% PLF mark in May 2016;

While passenger loads has been a weakness for Vistara in the initial months, it remains a champion of on-time performance (OTP) in the Indian sky. The airline has reported above 90% of its flights departing on-time all along except on two occasions when the OTP dips below 90% in January and April 2016; While January being peak fog season at its hub Delhi airport which had caused a drop in Vistara's OTP but the OTP figure of April 2016 came as a surprise when the airline slipped to third position after occupying the top position for eighth straight months. This is of particular significance as April is the first full month of summer season when the airline has considerably increased its fleet utilization although a top airline executive has attributed this to ATC congestions at Delhi, Mumbai and Goa airports during the first half of April 2016. However a downward trend (see graph) can be seen in the OTP numbers over the last few months with the increase in number of flights and complexity in the airline's operation and the airline management should take note of this.

Aircraft utilization
Over the past few months Vistara has significantly increased its fleet utilization, in fact as many as 12 new daily flights and four new destinations were added in summer schedule with same fleet strength before the 10th aircraft (first in 2016) joined the fleet in May. Average block time of aircraft have increased from around 10 hours at the end December 2015 to close to 12 hours in the mid May 2016. As of 17 May 2016, Vistara's average fleet utilization stands at 11 hours 54 minutes with BLR-DEL-GAU-IXB-DEL-BLR-DEL rotation clocking the maximum of 13 hours 50 minutes. Vistara operates 61 flights on weekdays with seven aircraft flying six flights, one flying five flights and rest two aircraft flying seven flights a day. In the coming months, Vistara's average aircraft utilization going to increase as it commences long domestic routes like Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Kochi with higher block time.

Expansion plans
A total of four new aircraft is planned to be added in 2016 as per the original fleet expansion plan. The first one in 2016 and overall the 10th aircraft, VT-TTK, is on active service since 12 May when Vistara has increased frequency on Delhi-Bengaluru and Delhi Goa routes to 20 weekly and 16 weekly respectively. The 11th aircraft (likely registration: VT-TTL) is expected to join the fleet before 10 June when the airline is schedule to commence 13 weekly flights to Kolkata, its 17th destination. Another new route between Delhi and Kochi is to be opened on 20 June. Next two aircraft in the series are likely to be added during September-October. Though the Delhi-Kolkata sector will initially be served with 20 weekly flights, Vistara has opened reservations for 20 weekly flights on the sector effective from 25-26 September with an aircraft stationed in Kolkata at night, that indicates the 12th aircraft to be added before 25 September. Vistara is currently in talks with Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on the prospect of making it the secondary hub of the airline. Now Vistara parks one aircraft at night in Bengaluru, once the deal finalizes the airline wishes to station multiple aircraft at night in Bengaluru. And if all the plans materializes it may lead to as many as five flights a day (on weekdays) on the busy Delhi-Bengaluru sector effective from 25-26 September and at least another new route being opened from Bengaluru.
Given the chronic congestion and unavailability of landing slots at Mumbai airport, Vistara is unable to add new frequency on the busy Mumbai-Bengaluru sector and as of today it operates a single daily flight. This makes Kolkata, another CAT-I route (as per RDG) from Bengaluru, a potential destination from Bengaluru and looking at Vistara's published schedule for Kolkata (effective from 25-26 September) a window of 6 hours 20 minutes is available in Kolkata between 13:15 & 19:35 and therefore a scope for Kolkata-Bengaluru-Kolkata flight (or another CAT-I, Kolkata-Mumbai-Kolkata if slots available) with little bit tweaks in the schedule. The window of 6 hours 20 minutes in Kolkata also allows the airline to potentially add a new CAT-II route from Kolkata to Port Blair. Given the peak tourists season in Port Blair stars from October onward, it can well become Vistara's future destination.

Vistara's top executives have revealed that the airline to operate to 18-19 airports by the end of 2016 that suggests two more destinations going to be added in the network in the coming months. And media reports indicate that Vistara can add another new destination in the eastern part of India, now it would be interesting to see whether Patna (11th busiest domestic route from Delhi) can manage to make it to Vistara's network.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Soumen,

    Thanks for another informative article. I gleaned 2 important things from this which can't be found elsewhere on the internet:

    1) 5 of the aircraft are sporting the new configuration, out of 10. I had also read that VT-TTK was the one with the new configuration delivered directly from Airbus.
    This leads to my question: Do you know where the old aircraft are reconfigured in the new configuration? Is it in India or overseas?

    2) Your OTP v/s Aircraft Utilization always make for interesting reading, as do your prophecies about potential new stations.

    3) Thirdly, another question: I had read a while back that VT-TTB was the only aircraft to be fitted with their wireless streaming of IFE. Are any other aircraft fitted with this system yet? And again, where are they sent for such fitments?

    As always, a real pleasure reading your posts.


    - Deovrat