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Vistara in talks with planemakers, lessors to delay taking delivery of some aircraft

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian airline Vistara is in talks with planemakers and leasing companies to delay taking delivery of some aircraft, the carrier’s chief commercial officer said on Monday, as COVID-19 hits demand for air travel.

FILE PHOTO: A Vistara Airbus A320-200 passenger aircraft prepares to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai, India, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

Vistara, owned by India's Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines SIAL.SI, placed an order for 13 A320-neo family aircraft from Airbus SE AIR.PA in 2018 and said it would take another 37 Airbus planes from leasing companies - all due for delivery between 2019 and 2023.

It also has six Boeing Co BA.N 787-9 Dreamliner widebody planes on order, primarily for international flights, due to be delivered in 2020 and 2021.

Delivery of some planes have already been pushed back due to logistics issues and production delays at the planemakers, as countries went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Vinod Kannan, chief commercial officer at Vistara told reporters.

“We are looking to see how we can push back some of the deliveries not just because of the delays in production but also from a commercial perspective,” said Kannan.

Vistara, which has a fleet of 41 aircraft, will take delivery of at least one Boeing 787 and two other planes this calendar year, Kannan said, adding a final decision had not been reached on how many deliveries would be deferred.

Like airlines around the world, Vistara is battling low demand for air travel due to the pandemic. While India has allowed airlines to fly up to 45% of their total capacity on domestic routes, international flights are still banned.

Vistara is operating on domestic routes with a third of its fleet and at a passenger load factor of 50%-60%, Kannan said, adding that the airline is also preparing to fly to international destinations later this year if government-imposed curbs are relaxed and demand returns.

India’s civil aviation ministry said in June it was in talks with the United States and some countries in Europe to establish travel “bubbles” for international flights.

(This story corrects Vistara executive’s designation to chief commercial officer, from chief strategy officer, in paragraphs 1 and 4.)

Reporting by Aditi Shah; editing by David Evans

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