Vistara added its first Airbus A321LR this weekend, becoming the first in the country to do so. With a range of 4,000 nautical miles thanks to auxiliary fuel tanks, the aircraft has been popular for long-haul routes that may lower demand or require high frequencies. With that, let’s see where Vistara might fly its new fleet of the A321LRs.
Expanding the current network?
Looking at Vistara’s current route map, it doesn’t offer too many destinations that fit the A321LR’s (long range) profile. The international route mainly consists of three long-haul routes, served by the Boeing 787-9s and 10 in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and neighboring countries. The latter are easily served by the A321neo and A320neos, with no routes in the 3,000 nautical mile territory that the A321LR is mostly deployed on.
However, this does open up new opportunities for the carrier, allowing it to explore markets that were previously difficult to access without the right aircraft. Take a look at the range from New Delhi (DEL) on the A321LR, with some cities added for reference purposes.
What’s notable about the A321LR is that unlike the upcoming A321XLR (extra long range), it does not offer a capacity increase over the A321neo. This means its deployment is relatively limited and we’re unlikely to see it on traditional routes like Delhi to Singapore or Dubai. So where could it be headed?
To get a sense of what routes are currently in demand, it’s easy to look at the competition’s network. IndiGo’s recent wet lease of the Boeing 777 is to serve Istanbul (IST), leveraging its expanded codeshare with Turkish Airlines. While the budget carrier faced a fair share of technical challenges flying the 2,470NM route from DEL to IST using the A321neo, Vistara can helpfully avoid this with the A321XLR.
However, IndiGo is a difficult foe to challenge, given its use of the 777 out of Delhi and Turkish’s existing services. This is combined with a new route from Mumbai to IST as well, which shows the market is seeing solid growth and perhaps gains from the codeshare.
Photo: Croatorum | Shutterstock
Despite this, Vistara will likely be eying this route in the future considering how easily it will fit into the A321LR’s operating profile and the availability for premium economy and business class.
Looking eastward, two more interesting routes are Bali (DPS) and Seoul Incheon (ICN). Bali has no direct connections from India given the distance of roughly 3,500NM from Delhi and Mumbai. The popular beach city does see much travel with connections through Thailand and Singapore, making it a strong target for Vistara in the future given its incoming four A321LRs.
Seoul is another city Vistara is familiar with, using its 787s to fly cargo there during the pandemic and era of high demand. This route is a bit more competitive, with Air India, Asiana, and Korean Air all offering flights, but the new entrant would have the advantage of lower costs thanks to the narrowbody.
Tokyo used to be served by Vistara during the pandemic but restrictions forced it to axe the route instead of flying a handful of daily passengers only. It has since not made a return, with Europe prioritized. Considering the city is well within the A321LR’s range, could it make a comeback?
Already Vistara’s long-haul market, Europe has dozens of cities that could benefit from connectivity from India. The list is long, but Milan, Barcelona, and Athens are three that could be contenders given they have no direct service currently. With three more 787s set to join the fleet in the next year or so, the A321LRs could complement the network well.
With Vistara set to be merged with Air India in 12 months, any new routes are here to stay for the future with the flag carrier as well. For now, keep an eye out as the A321LR makes its debut in India.
Where do you think Vistara’s A321LR is headed next? Let us know in the comments.