Les­lie Thng, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Vis­tara

— LES­LIE THNG, CHIEF EX­EC­U­TIVE OF­FI­CER, VIS­TARA

SP's Aviation - - TABLE OF CONTENTS -

“Our vi­sion is to be­come a global air­line that makes peo­ple around the world look for­ward to fly­ing as an ex­pe­ri­ence.” In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Jayant Baran­wal, Ed­i­tor-in-Chief of SP’s Avi­a­tion, Les­lie Thng, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Vis­tara shares his op­ti­mism and out­lines his vi­sion and plans for the fu­ture growth of the air­lines. He adds, “We see a great de­mand in In­dia for a bet­ter fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and we be­lieve that our glob­ally ap­plauded ser­vice stan­dards will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for peo­ple trav­el­ling from In­dia.”

“Vis­tara has nat­u­rally in­her­ited very strong val­ues and stands com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing cus­tomer­centric­ity at ev­ery touch­point”

SP’s Avi­a­tion (SP’s): What’s your vi­sion for Vis­tara air­line?

Les­lie Thng (Thng): Our vi­sion stems from our pas­sion for cus­tomer ser­vice and our com­mit­ment to con­trib­ute to the very dy­namic avi­a­tion in­dus­try. We don’t just want to help peo­ple get from one point to an­other. Our vi­sion is to be­come a global air­line that makes peo­ple around the world look for­ward to fly­ing as an ex­pe­ri­ence, and one that is es­teemed for ex­cep­tional cus­tomer ser­vice, while also be­ing com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful. Vis­tara has chal­lenged sta­tus quo from the very be­gin­ning, and we want to con­tinue in­no­vat­ing, find­ing newer ways to de­light our cus­tomers and re­de­fine air travel.

SP’s: Was it dif­fi­cult to in­te­grate the cor­po­rate philoso­phies of two lega­cies in Asia – Tata Group and Sin­ga­pore Air­lines?

Thng: Any strate­gic part­ner­ship is based on the align­ment of fun­da­men­tal val­ues of the part­ners. Tata and Sin­ga­pore Air­lines may have dif­fer­ent busi­nesses, but both or­gan­i­sa­tions fol­low a com­mon pur­pose of en­hanc­ing the qual­ity of life of the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve. Vis­tara has, there­fore, nat­u­rally in­her­ited very strong val­ues and stands com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing cus­tomer-cen­tric­ity at ev­ery touch­point. Hav­ing said that, we have a dis­tinc­tive cul­ture of our own as an or­gan­i­sa­tion built care­fully with a new-age out­look, while in­cor­po­rat­ing val­ues and tra­di­tions of our par­ent com­pa­nies.

SP’s: Re­cently you made news with –

- Can you in­di­cate on your cri­te­ria of se­lec­tion of this in­ter­est

What kind of mar­ket lead­er­ship you plan to have af­ter havair­craft fleet? C: Would you like to share as to how plans?

Thng (A): We have al­ways wanted to be­come a global air­line, which means we will go in­ter­na­tional, but at the same time the do­mes­tic mar­ket re­mains very im­por­tant and a key as­set for Vis­tara.

We will con­tinue to den­sify our do­mes­tic net­work and em­bark on short­haul in­ter­na­tional routes to be­gin with. The re­cently placed order for Air­bus A320/A321­neo fam­ily of air­craft is the best choice for us, as there will be a con- tin­u­a­tion in terms of the fleet we al­ready have. At the same time, to be a global air­line, we can­not re­strict our­selves to do­mes­tic and re­gional in­ter­na­tional routes. To ex­pand into medium and long haul in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, we eval­u­ated our op­tions and found the Boe­ing 787-9 Dream­liner air­craft to be the best fit for us to sup­port the thought-through ex­pan­sion roadmap we have en­vis­aged for Vis­tara.

Thng (B): With so many unique at­tributes, prod­uct and ser­vice dif­fer­en­tia­tors, it is ev­i­dent that we’re not chas­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, but cre­at­ing a unique space for our­selves in the mar­ket. Whether it is the do­mes­tic mar­ket or in­ter­na­tional, we will con­tinue to in­vest in mak­ing our prod­uct and ser­vice rel­e­vant with the chang­ing times to of­fer an un­par­al­leled air travel ex­pe­ri­ence. We see a great de­mand in In­dia for a bet­ter fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on in­ter­na­tional routes, and we be­lieve that our glob­ally ap­plauded ser­vice stan­dards will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for peo­ple trav­el­ling from In­dia to other parts of the world and vice versa to ex­pe­ri­ence In­dian hos­pi­tal­ity in the true sense with a con­tem­po­rary, global touch.

Thng (C): It may suf­fice to say that we’re ad­e­quately funded at present, and both our par­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions are quite up­beat about what we can make of Vis­tara. They are con­fi­dent of and re­main deeply com­mit­ted to our growth plan.

SP’s: It is un­der­stood that you hope to start in­ter­na­tional opera

Thng: We will be­gin fly­ing to in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tions within the range of our ex­ist­ing fleet of Air­bus A320­neo air­craft how­ever, it is pre­ma­ture for us to com­ment on the routes and the fre­quency of flights. At present, we’re in the process of seek­ing nec­es­sary ap­provals from var­i­ous au­thor­i­ties and fi­nal­iz­ing our in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions plan.

SP’s: - that of­fer? Does that in­volve any fleet of

Thng: No, we use our ex­ist­ing fleet for char­ter ser­vices, as some of our cus­tomers such as cor­po­rate groups, or­gan­i­sa­tions, tour op­er­a­tors or in­di­vid­u­als re­quire a ded­i­cated air­craft to take them to a des­ti­na­tion within the coun­try, which may even be be­yond our ex­ist­ing net­work.

SP’s: Would you like to com­ment on In­dian

Thng: It is heart­en­ing to see that the MoCA has rolled out some very am­bi­tious ini­tia­tives in the re­cent past. It has re­vis­ited ex­ist­ing poli­cies and in­tro­duced new ones that are pro-busi­ness and pro-con­sumer, in con­sul­ta­tion with all stake­hold­ers. The govern­ment’s vi­sion of en­abling a bil­lion pas­sen­ger trips a year ad­dresses sev­eral needs, the most im­por­tant be­ing that of a bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture. We’re very hope­ful that th­ese steps cou­pled with the grow­ing de­mand for air travel in In­dia will el­e­vate the coun­try’s po­si­tion in the global mar­ket.

SP’s: What do you think of the Govern­ment’s ini­tia­tive UDAN?

Thng: We sup­port the govern­ment’s UDAN scheme and view it as a land­mark step in In­dian avi­a­tion, which will make the in­dus­try more sus­tain­able and will sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­ute to the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth. Due to our rel­a­tively small scale and size at present and ab­sence of suitable air­craft to op­er­ate on routes un­der the scheme, we could not par­tic­i­pate in it. How­ever, we do not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing so in the fu­ture.

SP’s: As the In­dian mar­ket re­mains heav­ily cost-sensi strong fu­ture for a full-frill how and why?

Thng: The In­dian mar­ket is unique be­cause there’s room for ev­ery­one to grow. Whether it is for a low-cost car­rier or a full-ser­vice one like our­selves, there are so many seg­ments of trav­ellers in the coun­try with var­ied pref­er­ences and spend­ing ca­pac­ity that di­verse busi­ness mod­els can easily co­ex­ist. The one-size-fits-all-all ap­proach can­not work in In­dia, and that’s why op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery­one only mul­ti­ply. Our growth in the last three years clearly demon­strate that peo­ple are ready to pay a rea­son­able premium to fly with Vis­tara only be­cause they see value in our prod­uct and ser­vice. On the other hand, mil­len­ni­als are a gen­er­a­tion that’s chang­ing the def­i­ni­tion of travel, mak­ing it an es­sen­tial part of their in­di­vid­ual growth. Nat­u­rally, that means they don’t just go for any op­tion that comes their way, but care­fully make de­ci­sions when it comes to trav­el­ling, in­clud­ing the air­line they fly. We re­cently in­tro­duced ‘Vis­tara Free­dom Fares’, which is an in­tu­itive, menu-based pric­ing model de­signed to em­power cus­tomers with the free­dom to choose the kind of fare and ser­vices that suit them best, giv­ing them the free­dom to plan their jour­neys, their way. It lets our cus­tomers choose from thought­fully bun­dled fea­tures and ser­vices at dif­fer­ent price points or select them à-la-carte.

How­ever, world-class ser­vice stan­dards and an un­ri­valled in­flight ex­pe­ri­ence re­main con­stant re­gard­less of the fare type one chooses. This pay-for-what-you-value ap­proach is es­pe­cially de­signed for the new-age trav­ellers that has re­de­fined full-ser­vice fly­ing, yet again.

SP’s: How is your air­line ad­dress­ing the per­sis­tent short­age of cock­pit crew in In­dia?

Thng: Pi­lot short­age is a global phe­nom­e­non to­day. Our pri­or­ity re­mains to train our own pi­lots and build an in­ter­nal pipe­line to fo­cus on or­ganic growth and be­come self-suf­fi­cient for the long-term.

SP’s:

Thng: The pri­or­ity of our share­hold­ers is to fo­cus on Vis­tara’s ex­pan­sion.

SP’s: How will you rate Vis­tara’s per­for­mance and growth from

Thng: At Vis­tara, we have fol­lowed a long-term mea­sured growth plan and con­sid­er­ing that, we are quite on the right track in our jour­ney. In fact, we’re over­whelmed by the love of mil­lions of trav­ellers who have made Vis­tara their pre­ferred air­line, and all the hon­ours awarded to us in such a short span of time tes­tify this.

We flew more cus­tomers in the last one year than we did in the first two years since start­ing op­er­a­tions. Though our fleet ex­panded by about 40 per cent since March 2017, the num­ber of pas­sen­gers we flew more than dou­bled in the same pe­riod. Our load fac­tors are mostly the high­est among full ser­vice car­ri­ers, con­sis­tently clock­ing in the range of 85-90 per cent ev­ery month. We recorded our high­est-ever load fac­tor in Fe­bru­ary this year at 91.2 per cent, which by all logic, is phe­nom­e­nal for a car­rier with three cabin classes. The oc­cu­pancy in our Econ­omy class is usu­ally close to 95 per cent, which is amongst the high­est in the in­dus­try. It is also im­por­tant to note that this is achieved while main­tain­ing our record of hav­ing some of the low­est can­cel­la­tion and cus­tomer com­plaint rates in the in­dus­try.

SP’s: - find that sat­is­fac­tory? Would you like to share your key steps to­wards con­stant im­prove­ments?

Thng: As a mat­ter of pol­icy, we will not be able to share specifics. How­ever, I could say that we’re con­tin­u­ously record­ing im­prove­ment on two key in­di­ca­tors of our fi­nan­cial per­for­mance, RASK and CASK, as they’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. We are see­ing a de­clin­ing trend for CASK and an im­prov­ing trend for RASK.

“Our growth in the last three years clearly demon­strate that peo­ple are ready to pay a rea­son­able premium to fly with Vis­tara only be­cause they see value in our prod­uct and ser­vice”

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