Vistara plans to significantly ramp up its staff strength to a total of 5,000 by the end of this year as the full-service carrier focuses on increasing capacity utilisation, expanding fleet and further improving overall services.
Currently, the airline has around 4,000 people. After being significantly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including the third wave that negatively impacted air traffic which was on the recovery path in late 2021, the airline industry is again seeing an improvement in traffic numbers.
Against this backdrop, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan, in a not-so-common move, last week, admitted that the airline did not live up to customers’ expectations and assured that steps are being taken to address the “gaps on a war footing”.
“We wanted to make sure that we explain our side of the story… In February what we have seen is that demand has come back and people have started to travel and I think with cases going down, this, touch wood, will be the trend for the future,” Kannan told PTI in an interview on Tuesday, February 22.
While emphasising that the airline is working on a multi-pronged strategy, he said that currently, it operates more flights compared to that in the pre-COVID period.
”We have about 220 to 250 departures a day. Since we have hit that momentum, (we have to look at) how do we continue to grow and how to make sure that the commitments we have made remain as we scale up. It also involves engaging our staff, partners…,” he noted.
The airline, which currently has 50 planes, aims to have 70 planes by the end of 2023 after taking into account some aircraft that will be returned to lessors. Vistara carried 4.79 lakh, domestic passengers, in January and had a market share of 7.5%, according to data available with aviation regulator DGCA.
Vistara, a joint venture between Tatas and Singapore Airlines, started hiring for operational roles sometime in October 2021 before the third coronavirus wave.
”Our current staff strength is about 4,000… so, we expect to go up to 5,000 as we ramp up through the year. As we take new aircraft, deliveries and as we increase capacity utilisation, I think we will look at that number towards the end of this year.
This will include everyone on Vistara’s payroll but that will not include outsourced third party partners such as call centres or ground handling agencies.
There is a requirement since we are utilising the aircraft better. Last two years, even though the fleet count increased, the utilisation of aircraft was lower… so there was no need to scale up. That process has now commenced and is in full swing.
I have taken stock of things as they stood, and I want to assure you that we are addressing some of the gaps on a war footing.”Vinod Kannan, CEO, Vistara
Before the pandemic, the airline, which started international operations in August 2019, had a fleet of around 40 aircraft and the number has increased to 50. He added that people are also being hired for back-office work.
In his message to customers last week, Kannan promised that many changes and enhancements are in the works, including fast-tracking of initiatives across its IT infrastructure to make the digital experience more convenient.
”We are actively working with our partners to significantly reduce the length of time it takes for you to connect with us over a phone call and to ensure a consistent airport and on-ground experience,” he had said in the message.
The airline has restored some of its onboard services to pre-pandemic standards, including restarting non-vegetarian meals in Economy Class on all domestic flights.