Vistara has announced a 10% reduction in capacity, resulting in cancellation of about 25-30 flights per day, in a bid to stabilise its operations  stability by April. The Tata Group airline, which is undergoing a merger with Air India, operates about 350 flights daily.

The strategic decision has been taken in the backdrop of rise in numbers of pilots and many first officers reporting sick to protest against a proposed new salary structure.   

This cutback will return operations to February 2024 levels, providing necessary resilience and flexibility in scheduling, according to an airline spokesperson. The adjustments primarily impact domestic routes and were made well in advance to minimise passenger inconvenience. Affected passengers have been rebooked on alternative flights, leading to improved on-time performance.

The airline's spokesperson stated, "This will take us back to the same level of flight operations as at the end of February 2024, and provide the much-needed resilience and buffer in the rosters." They elaborated that operations are being reduced by approximately 25-30 flights daily, or about 10% of their previous capacity.

Most of these cancellations are within the domestic network and have been planned ahead to lessen passenger disruption. "All affected passengers have been accommodated on other flights as needed," the spokesperson added.

Last week, there were reports indicating that flight cancellations by Vistara were expected to drive up airfares during the upcoming summer holidays, as warned by travel experts.

Vistara's CEO Vinod Kannan attributed these disruptions mainly to an overextended pilot roster. Some pilot groups have also expressed concerns about the new contract, which includes pay adjustments preceding the airline's merger with Air India.

Several pilots had been protesting against a pay cut as the airline is going to merge with Air India later this year. The pilots were reportedly unhappy with Vistara for adjusting their salary structure to match that of Air India, which could potentially lower their guaranteed pay.

Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan had mentioned that the management planned to adjust the schedule to alleviate the pressure on pilots starting from May.

During a virtual meeting held last week on Wednesday , the CEO reassured pilots by informing them about upcoming opportunities to increase earnings post-merger with Air India.

Additionally, Vistara had started using bigger planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus 321neo on select domestic routes, consolidating flights to navigate through the crisis.

Ajay Prakash from the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality said that this could potentially impact airfares due to capacity cuts. Vistara's disruptions had led to disgruntled passengers, with Cleartrip reporting a surge in cancellation requests.

Sanjay Dang of Le Travelworld noted a 15% spike in domestic airfares due to the supply-demand gap, further exacerbated by Vistara's troubles during the travel season.

The unpredictability had forced passengers into last-minute, costly bookings, as illustrated by the ordeal faced by a Delhi-Mumbai traveller experiencing sudden cancellations and delays. Such experiences had led to a decline in bookings with Vistara, impacting the airline's revenue.

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