‘Coronavirus Will Have Short-Term Impact, Airlines Need To Be Flexible’

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As Vistara took delivery of its first wide-body Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft at the Boeing facility here to start long haul operations, the airline’s CEO Leslie Thng said the recent coronavirus outbreak would have a short term impact on the aviation industry and that airlines need to remain flexible and nimble while dealing with the situation.

The recent novel coronavirus outbreak has killed nearly 3,000 people across the world, with 2,870 deaths in China alone.

On February 26, Vistara announced 20 flights between Delhi and Bangkok, 26 between Mumbai and Singapore and eight between Delhi and Singapore were cancelled for March in response to weak demand due to the virus outbreak.

Standing in the airline’s first Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft, which was officially acquired on Friday, Thng told reporters,”The coronavirus does indeed have a short-term impact. You are aware we have made some adjustments to our flights to Singapore as well as Bangkok because the demand has declined.”

“But when an airline buys an aircraft, we don’t look at a time frame of three months or six months, this aircraft will last for at least 15-20 years or so. It is a long-term investment,” he added.

Calling India a growing market, Thng said, “Indians want to travel to many other parts of the world. The wide-body aircraft that we are bringing will be able to cater to this growing demand in the long-term.”

Vistara is likely to use the new 787-9 aircraft for flights between India and Europe or between India and Japan.

On the coronavirus outbreak, Thng said, “If you look at the airline industry over a decade, there always are some episodes of shocks. Airlines will have to make some adjustments to the capacity, they have to make some adjustments to the frequency, etc. We have to just make sure that we (airlines) remain flexible and nimble.”

The new 787-9 aircraft, which has the registration number VT-TSD, is the first of the six that Vistara has purchased from Boeing.

The second Dreamliner aircraft is currently on the production line and will be delivered soon.

The 787-9 aircraft would be the first wide-body plane in Vistara’s fleet. All other 39 planes in its fleet are narrow-body planes such as A320s and B737s.