Vistara, which was in the forefront to get the 5/20 rule partially scrapped, said it "will not be rushing into international operations" and that something towards this is "unlikely before June 2018", when it will get the delivery of the 20th aircraft. "We are not rushing into international operations. It's not a race for us. But we will definitely do it. We will get the delivery of our 20th plane by the first half of 2018.
"So, with the government retaining the 20-plane clause for international operations, I think we will be able to take a call only after that. Of course, we are reviewing and refining our international strategy," Vistara chief strategy and commercial officer Sanjiv Kapoor said.
Kapoor, who joined the Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines promoted Vistara recently, further said their international operations will begin with the Saarc markets and the Gulf as their present set of planes (A320s) could serve short-haul markets the best. Kapoor said the airline which has only 11 aircraft at present, will get the delivery of two more A320s by October.
"The first set of routes that we will launch internationally, will be the routes that can be flown by our existing aircraft (A320s which are narrow body planes by Airbus) which will be routes within three, three-and-a-half hours from our Delhi hub," Kapoor said. "So, that means South Asian nations will be our first focus international destinations along with the Gulf," he said, adding markets like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan have great potential.
He said Pakistan is of course the largest market, but that is not likely to happen given the relations between the two nations.
Last month, the government had partially scrapped the contentious 5/20 rule, which mandated an airline to have five years of domestic operational experience and 20 planes to become eligible for international operations, by removing the five years of domestic operational experience clause. The new rules came in despite strong opposition and hectic lobbying by older rivals such as Jet Airways, Spicejet and Indigo. Under the new rules, domestic airlines can fly overseas provided they deploy 20 aircraft or 20 per cent of their capacity in the domestic market, whichever is higher.