Vistara to reduce number of seats in business, premium class; increase in economy class

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Facing low seat occupancy, Vistara, a Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, on Monday announced it will reduce the number of seats in the business and premium economy class but increase it in the economy class in all its nine aircraft from April.

The reconfiguration exercise in the full service carrier will be completed in two phases in April and July, the airline today said, adding the first retrofitted aircraft will be on Delhi-Hyderabad route in April.
Vistara currently operates A320 planes with 16 business class seats, 36 premium economy and remaining 96 in economy class.

“Starting April 2016, Vistara will reconfigure its current fleet of nine aircraft to the new seating configuration of eight business class seats, 24 premium economy seats and 126 economy seats,” the airline said in a release.

Post-reconfiguration, the total number of seats in the aircraft will go up from 148 to 158, it said. Tata Sons holds a majority 51% stake in Vistara – a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, which holds the remaining 49%. The airline had launched its operations in January last year.

As per the data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the average seat occupancy of Vistara, between January and December 2015 was 63.14%, while those of other airlines was 80%.

In January this year, around 25% of the seats remained vacant on Vistara, in a month when other domestic carriers saw an average 80% occupancy, the DGCA data said. India’s domestic air passenger traffic grew by a whopping 20.2% in 2015 over the previous year, making it the world’s fastest growing aviation market, according to global airlines body, International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“While there continues to be a good demand for Vistara’s unique business and premium economy cabins on key routes like between Delhi-Mumbai, the change in configuration will allow the airline to serve other emerging routes through better alignment of capacity to demand whilst satisfying the route dispersal guidelines,” Vistara said.

To maintain operational flexibility, all aircraft in the Vistara fleet will be retrofitted to the new seating configuration, it added. “The change in our cabin configuration is a result of extensive research of the changing market environment and customer expectations,” Vistara Chief Executive Officer Phee Teik Yeoh said.

It also said that future new aircraft deliveries, the first of which is expected in the second quarter of this calendar year, will also have the revised seating configuration. As part of its product enhancement plans, Vistara will start offering its innovative in-flight entertainment System, which enables Wi-Fi streaming of audio and video content to onboard passenger’s personal electronic devices, besides opening its signature lounge for business class customers and Vistara loyalty club members at its Delhi hub, the release added.