Flight cancellations by Vistara are expected to drive up airfares during the upcoming summer holidays, warn travel experts.

Several pilots are protesting against a pay cut as the airline merges with Air India later this year. Pilots are purportedly unhappy with Vistara for adjusting their salary structure to match Air India which may lower their guaranteed pay.

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

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

Currently, Vistara is running around 300 flights per day; however, the Tata-owned airline is expected to reduce its flight network to address the pilot shortage issue.

Furthermore, Vistara has started using bigger planes like 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 says this will potentially impact airfares due to capacity cuts. Vistara's disruptions have led to disgruntled passengers, with Cleartrip reporting a surge in cancellation requests.

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

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

Rajiv Mehra of IATO emphasises the importance of checking flight statuses regularly amid daily route changes and cancellations. Meanwhile, the industry faces broader challenges like engine failures and operational disruptions, leading to an anticipated grounding of a significant portion of the Indian airlines' fleet.

Overall, stakeholders stress the urgent need for long-term investments in workforce development and collaboration across the aviation sector to mitigate disruptions and foster economic growth.

Upon completion of the merger, Singapore Airlines would have obtained a 25.1% stake in the Air India Group, establishing a significant presence across all key segments of the Indian airline market.

Vistara is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, where Tata Sons holds the majority stake of 51%, and Singapore Airlines owns the remaining stake.

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