Despite an overall slump in demand for air travel, the vast Indian diaspora travelling to be with their families during the pandemic presents airlines an opportunity to launch new international flights, said Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan.Vistara on Tuesday announced flights to London from August 28 to September 30, and said it intended to start flights to Frankfurt and Paris. This makes it the only India airline, apart from Air India, to fly to the U.K.In a telephonic interview to The Hindu, Mr. Kannan said that the airline could also look at launching flights to the Far East as the government was pursuing talks with more countries for resuming flights in addition to the seven countries it had already entered into an agreement with. “Regardless of a general slump in demand there is still movement of essential traffic, or people who are stuck in different places,” the CCO said.“In India’s context, this is very high because we have a large size of diaspora in different parts of the world [and, more so] in today’s times when people want to take care of their loved ones. But compared to where we were at the same time last year, there is a drastic reduction in demand,” he added.The CCO explained that the airline had opened bookings only until September 30 because the U.K.-India agreement for flights was only until then.The airline, however, has slots at London’s Heathrow airport until the end of the summer schedule, i.e. October 24, and would be able to offer continued services when the agreement is extended.The nature of the bilateral agreement India had entered into with the U.K. and other countries, which allows only point-to-point travel on airlines of the bilateral partners, is an opportunity for airlines like Vistara to launch new destinations.“There is less competition because the Gulf carriers or transit carriers or 6th freedom airlines are not operating,” Mr. Kannan said.“But even if there are fewer competitors, the overall demand has also shrunk. Fundamentally, it is still a positive opportunity for us which is why we are embarking on this,” he added.
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