MUMBAI (TIP): Tata Group is set to launch its full-service Vistara airline on 9 January, more than 60 years after the Indian government nationalised the group’s airline business and following two previous aborted attempts to start an airline. The airline said in a statement it will start accepting bookings for tickets from January 8 night. Vistara will start with the Mumbai-Ahemedabad route and expand to other cities later.

The name Vistara comes from Vistaar in Sanskrit, which means limitless expanse, and draws inspiration from the brand’s domain—the limitless sky. Headquartered in New Delhi, Vistara will begin operations with its fleet of brand new Airbus A 320-200s with 148 seats. Vistara aircraft will have a three-class configuration with 16 business class seats, 36 premium economy class seats and remaining economy class.

There will also be a frequent flyer programme—Club Vistara—based on money spent by passengers, not on miles. In 2000, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Ltd abandoned a joint attempt to buy a 40% stake in full service airline Air India—an airline which the group founded as Tata Airlines in the 1930s before it was nationalized in 1953. Political resistance and corporate rivalries were blamed for the Tata group abandoning the project. An earlier attempt by the two companies to start an Indian airline with 40%equity contribution by SIA was also aborted. On Monday, Vistara received the air operating permit from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which was the last regulatory approval needed by Vistara to operate in India.

TATA SIA Airlines Ltd, known by the brand name Vistara, is a joint venture between Tata Sons Ltd and Singapore Airlines with Tata Sons holding the majority stake of 51% in the company and SIA holding the remaining 49%. Tata Sons has an ongoing joint venture with AirAsia Bhd for a low-fare airline AirAsia India, which is already flying. Vistara’s takeoff comes at time when its potential rival airline SpiceJet Ltd had briefly ground its fleet owing to financial crisis. Early this week, as a temporary relief, the ministry of civil aviation had permitted SpiceJet to accept bookings till March-end, asked banks to give short-term working capital loans worth Rs.600 crore and requested state-owned oil companies to extend a credit line for jet fuel for two more weeks. With Delhi as its hub, Vistara will initially offer flights to Mumbai and Ahmedabad, Vistara said in a statement. Seats for all three classes are on sales and there will not be a separate fuel surcharge, the statement said. Phee Teik Yeoh, chief executive officer, Vistara, said, “I am very excited as this day is the culmination of many months of hard work. The activation of distribution channels is our first interface with our customer and with this, we embark on a journey to fulfill our brand promise of seamless travel experience”. Vistara’s technology partners—Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), Wipro Ltd and Amadeus—will be responsible for its customer support system and IT services, it added. Meanwhile on Thursday, India’s second largest airline by passengers carried Jet Airways (India) Ltd said it is introducing over 12 additional daily flights on domestic routes as part of its winter schedule effective 23 December 2014.

Jet Airways capacity expansion comes at a time when rival SpiceJet Ltd cut its fleet by one-third and gave its airport slots to other airlines owing financial crisis. Naresh Goyal promoted Jet Airways said it will deploy wide body Airbus A330 and narrow body Boeing 737 aircraft to meet the heavy demand during the ensuing festive season. The airline is operating additional frequencies on the routes such as Delhi-Bengaluru, Chennai-Kochi, Delhi-Udaipur, Goa-Mumbai and Mumbai-Kolkata.

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