NEW DELHI: Entering the Indian aviation space at a time when existing players are going through a turbulent phase, Tata-SIA venture Vistara today said its aim will be to 'do it right' rather than being lavish or over-the-top.
"We must do it right instead of making a big splash and getting into disappointment," Vistara Chairman Prasad Menon told reporters as the airline's debut flight took off from here for Mumbai.
"Being full service doesn't mean you're lavish or you're over the top. It means serving different customers' needs differently," he said.
Conveying his best wishes on the occasion of the first Vistara flight, Tata group's Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata said it has been a long-cherished dream for the Tata group to establish a world-class full service airline in India and he would dedicate this day to late JRD Tata, the former chairman of the group and India's first licensed pilot.
"... today, that dream has come to life," he added.
The launch of the new full-service airline marks the re-entry of Tata group in the airline business after over six decades. The group holds 30 per cent stake in the domestic arm of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia India, but it is not part of day-to-day operations.
Overall, Vistara will be the third full-service carrier in the country, after state-run Air India and private carrier Jet Airways.
However, Indian aviation space has been going through turbulent weathers in the recent past. While Kingfisher had to be grounded after making a big splash with its positioning as a 'luxury' carrier, budget airline Spicejet is currently going through tough times.
The going has not been good for some other airlines as well.
Menon, a Tata Group veteran who has been made Chairman of the new aviation venture formed by Tatas in partnership with Singapore Airlines (SIA), also said that he is not worried by the competition.
"You can't start a business by being worried about competition but by believing you have a space. Competition is good for customers," he said ahead of Vistara's debut flight, from Delhi to Mumbai.
"For long now, we have held on to this particular dream and today I can proudly say that our persistence has been well worth it and has paid off," Menon said.
Vistara CEO Phee Teik Yeoh said he would like to invite India to "fly the new feeling" with this airline.
Tata SIA Airlines, known by its brand name Vistara, is a joint venture between Tata Group and SIA. While Tata Sons has a majority 51 per cent stake, SIA has the remaining 49 per cent.
The JV was announced in September 2014 to launch a full-service carrier in the country.
The two JV partners had made attempts to enter the domestic skies earlier too, but in vain.
Before today's inaugural flight, SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong said India's aviation market has been expanding rapidly and they have been trying to participate directly and contribute to this growth story for many years.
The airline had applied to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for the flying permit in April last year but could get it only late last year.
On December 18 last, Vistara finally announced the launch of its operations from January 9 with flight from Delhi to Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Vistara, which has two leased A320s as of now, will operate 148-seater Airbus A320-200 with 16 seats in business class, 36 in premium economy and 96 in economy, on these routes.
The airline will operate flights from its Delhi base to Goa, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Srinagar, Jammu and Patna in the first year, the airline had stated in the plan, submitted to DGCA at the time of applying for AOP.
It plans to operate 87 flights in the first year, with five leased Airbus A-320s, and then scale it up to 301 flights by the fourth year with a fleet of A320s.
The inaugural flight took off in the presence of Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mahesh Sharma, along with a number of other people.
A group of children from Salaam Baalak Trust were boarded first for their first flying experience ever, followed by the rest of passengers and dignitaries.
The fully-loaded A320-200, branded in royal aubergine and gold, then took off for Mumbai.