Indian full-service domestic airline Vistara has taken delivery of its 20th aircraft, passing the Indian government’s threshold for an airline to operate internationally, which is planned for later this year.

The airline’s latest A320neo landed at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport April 4, joining six other A320neo and 13 A320ceo models and completing the carrier’s initial aircraft order.

Vistara used the occasion to announce orders for a further two A320neos, which are expected to be delivered by June 2018 and indicated it was seeking larger models to undertake medium-haul services.

A Vistara spokesman told ATW April 6 that the intention was to start regional international services with the A320s in the second half of this year. It was not yet in a position to name destinations.

“At the same time, we are reviewing the type of aircraft we’ll need to support our future plans of international expansion so that we can commence medium-haul routes (between 5-9 hours) after launching the regional/short-haul international routes.”

Vistara, a 51/49 joint venture between Tata Sons, one of India’s largest conglomerates, and Singapore Airlines, will use the new A320neo to increase frequencies on its existing domestic routes.

“This is not just another addition to our fleet, but a landmark one that signals Vistara’s arrival on the global map and marks the beginning of our next phase of growth,” Vistara CEO Leslie Thng said as he marked the latest aircraft’s arrival.

Since Vistara began operations in January 2015, the airline has flown more than 8.5 million passengers and today serves 22 Indian destinations with more than 700 flights weekly.

The company’s new aircraft come in an unusual three-class configuration for a single-aisle aircraft, consisting of eight business-class, 24 premium-economy and 126 economy-class seats.  

Until 2016, Indian regulations stipulated that an airline could only begin international services after it had been in business for five years and had a minimum fleet of 20 aircraft.

That regulation was eased in June 2016, with the new National Civil Aviation Policy doing away with the five-year qualification. However, airlines are still required to operate at least 20 aircraft, or reserve 20% of their fleet for domestic operations, whichever is higher.

Alan Dron