Phee Teik Yeoh (right) with Tadashi Fujita in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 7: Vistara, the two-year old Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, will launch international flights from the summer of 2018.
"We will reach the fleet strength of 20 aircraft by March next year... this will allow us to start international operations," said Phee Teik Yeoh, chief executive officer of Vistara.
Sources said the full-service carrier planned to launch flights to the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and east Asia.
The airline, at present, has a fleet of 16 aircraft, including three A320 Neos.
The airline has placed orders for another half-a-dozen aircraft, of which four will come by March and the rest in June.
Indian rules allow any local airline with a fleet size of 20 to fly abroad. An earlier rule requiring a minimum of five years of flying experience had been relaxed after airlines pointed out that start-up foreign carriers were allowed to fly to the country.
"We are very close to finalising our plans for international operations ... We are yet to decide on the fleet, when and where (to start international operations)... I will say please stay tuned in," said Yeoh.
At present, full-service Air India and Jet Airways have medium and long-haul international operations. Budget airlines IndiGo and SpiceJet use narrow-bodied planes to fly to neighbouring countries, the Gulf and Southeast Asia.
IndiGo had made an unsolicited offer to buy out Air India's international operations, while the Tatas are rumoured to prepare a bid for the national carrier.
Vistara has tied up with the 227-fleet strong Japan Airlines (JAL) for a code share pact. Under the agreement, Vistara passengers can fly Japan Airlines to Tokyo and beyond to the Pacific coast cities of the US. JAL passengers could use the Vistara network to fly to around 23 Indian cities from Delhi.
"Japan is naturally on our radars (for international Vistara flights)," Yeoh said.
Tadashi Fujita, JAL executive vice-president, said the India-Japan market was expanding, with around 20 per cent of the 1.2 lakh Indian flyers to Tokyo "travelling on to the US".
At present, JAL flies daily to Delhi out of Tokyo's Narita airport.
Fujita said, "JAL is not looking at investing in Vistara at the moment... gradually we will move to joint sales ... investment (decisions, if any) will come later."