Consumer services

Vistara is the only Indian airline in the Global Top 20. The CEO reveals how they did it

Vistara made it into the top 20 airlines in the world for the year 2022, and it is the only Indian airline on the list. At home in India, Vistara is the top choice among travelers anyway, after low-cost carrier Indigo. We sat down to chat with Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan.

The aviation industry has been growing steadily in India, by 12% over the past few years. And Vistara looks like a promising competitor among all airlines in the country.

A recent survey by Skytrax, a UK-based airline and airport rating and review site, named Vistara one of the top 20 airlines in the world. At number 20, Vistara is the only Indian airline to make the top 20 list.

The poll: Skytrax surveyed over 14 million travelers in over 100 countries between September 2021 and August 2022 to find out the current favorite airline in the world. The world’s favorite airline is Qatar, followed by Singapore Airlines (which also owns a 49% stake in Vistara).

Vistara gets 20th place on the list; the only Indian airline to make the cut. Apart from being in the Top 20, Vistara also received the award for Best Airline in India and South Asia and Best Airline Staff Service in India and South Asia.

Qatar Airlines, meanwhile, has received the top prize more than 7 times since 1999.

DailyO sat down to chat with Vinod Kannan, CEO of Vistara Airlines.

“It was an honor to be on this list, as we were chosen by public vote.”

Vistara tops national charts

Apart from being the only Indian airline to feature in the Global Top 20 list; Vistara, in July 2022, became the second largest airline in India by domestic market share (10.4%), according to the DGCA.

Here’s what the domestic aviation market looks like:

The unlimited scope of Vistara: Founded in 2013, Vistara is a joint venture between Tata Sons Private Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited, two companies known for their hospitality and CSR work. Tata Sons owns a 51% stake in the partnership and Singapore Airlines Limited owns 49%.

According to Vistara’s website, her name is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘seen‘ which means ‘boundless expanse’.

On January 9, 2015, Vistara made its maiden flight from Delhi to Mumbai. In a short time, Vistara has rapidly expanded its footprint, both in terms of network and service proposition. Today, Vistara connects 39 destinations inside and outside India and operates over 220 flights daily.

The Vistara fleet: Vistara has 53 aircraft in total. Types include:

What does Vistara do differently? CEO Vinod Kannan tells DailyO that when starting the business, they wanted to focus on a few things. The first was the product and services they offer. For him, the customer experience is very important and the company has spent a lot of money to improve its services to consumers compared to other competitors.

In the Indian market, where consumers prioritize discounts and cheap airline tickets, Vistara has been able to tap into the market by building and maintaining a loyal consumer base and providing premium services. Here are a few:

  • On board, Vistara offers a unique three-class configuration comprising economy, business and premium economy cabins (other Indian airlines do not have similar economy cabins).
  • Economy and business class seats are among the most comfortable on the market. The economy seats, for example, have folding head restraints and soft leather material for added comfort.
  • Free meals on board: Vistara’s free meals are served by TajSTATS (Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways caterer). The only other Indian airline that offers free meals is Air India (limited flights).
  • Additionally, over the past few years, Vistara has implemented a number of product and service upgrades, including onboard Wi-Fi, door-to-door service and fully flat beds in Airbus A321neo aircraft. and Boeing Dreamliner 787, among others.

Jet Airways’ collapse is Vistara’s gain? There are two types of airlines:

  • Low-cost carriers (airlines that provide facilities for the purchase of meals and beverages on flights) and
  • Full-service airlines (airlines that provide in-flight meals and beverages).

After the collapse of Jet Airways in 2019, Vistara and Air India were the only remaining full-service airlines. Remember, this was before the Tatas took over Air India, at a time when the national carrier was going through a tumultuous phase and its reputation had taken a hit. This left people looking for full-service carriers with the only option: Vistara.

Percentage of flyers by airline:

Vistara also leased 9 of Jet Airways’ 737-800s and began international operations by flying these aircraft to Singapore. Asked about the collapse of Jet Airways, Vinod said: “It is never good to see other organizations fall, whatever they are, even if they are our competitors. But the practical reality is that in terms of full services, we remain the only organization after Jet Airways to provide all services, including free meals and baggage, with the exception of Air India.”

Even though Vistara has its A-game right now, with people around the world acknowledging the airline, it hasn’t made a profit since its launch in 2015. Kannan attributes the pandemic, rising fuel prices and the deterioration of the economy at that.

However, he hopes that Vistara will get better numbers this year, due to the good response from the public.

Besides price, we also need to look at the value our organization brings to the table.

-Vinod Kannan