Vistara looking to bid for ailing Air India, says chairman Bhaskar Bhatt

03 Mar 2020


Tata SIA Airlines Limited, operating full-service airline, Vistara, is planning to bid for ailing national carrier Air India, after the government decided to sell its entire stake in the airline, reports citing Vistara chairman Bhaskar Bhat as saying on Monday.

Gurgaon-based Vistara, with its hub at Indira Gandhi International Airport, is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore International Airlines.
Reports said Vistara is evaluating the national carrier and is likely to submit its bid this week.
"Which entity in India will not be interested to evaluate buying Air India. We need to do a long evaluation as Vistara is in itself in long journey," Bhat said when asked about Vistara's interest in bidding for the national carrier.
Bhat, who was speaking on the sidelines of an event where the airline unveiled its Boeing 787-9 aircraft, however, said it is yet to take a final decision.
"Whoever acquires Air India, whether it's us or anyone else, will have to follow government timeline," Bhat added.
The government, last month, invited offers from investors for the stake sale, after an earlier turnaround plan and an effort to sell a controlling stake in the national carrier failed.
The government since decided to sell its entire stake in Air India, so as to make the sale attractive for investors. However, Air India, with its huge debt burden turned out to be not attractive enough despite its commercial value.
While most Indian airline companies fail to have necessary resources for such acquisitions, foreign airlines may find it less attractive because of the law that prevents them from acquiring more than 49 per cent equity stake in an Indian carrier.
Tatas were the original owners of Air India, before it was nationalised in 1950s. The Tata Group currently operates full service carrier Vistara, besides AirAsia India, which is a joint venture with AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia.
Vistara is polanning to start long-haul international flights during the first quarter of fiscal 2020-21 (April-June), and will take delivery of four Boeing 787 before the end of the year. The airline took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 aircraft in February, and plans to add three more such aircraft in March, May, and June-July.
Chairman Bhaskar Bhat said the airline is looking at various destinations like Paris, Moscow, Frankfurt and London for its international operations. "But which of this we will start, we don't know yet," Bhat added.
Vistara's chief executive officer Leslie Thng, however, said that the airline will definitely fly to London, 'the jewel of European destinations' soon.
"Whether it (London) is our first (long haul) destination or not, we will (definitely) deploy 787-9 to London sometime," Thng said.
" We will have four Boeing 787-9 planes by the end of the year. We are currently applying for permits to different countries, " Leslie Thng said adding that Vistara's first long haul international flights will be to countries where the airline has existing code share with airlines.
Vistara currently has code share agreement with Lufthansa, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, United Airlines and Japan Airlines.
Code sharing allows an airline to book its passengers on partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

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