Vistara Airways. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, April 16 : With passenger flights being suspended till May 3, full service carrier Vistara is considering diversifying its revenue stream by utilising aircraft to haul cargo, a senior company official said.

Accordingly, the airline which has 42 aircraft is considering various opportunities and it might soon commence cargo flights after "securing business at viable levels".

Currently, commercial domestic and international flights are banned since March 25, 2020, barring cargo operations.

The provision mandated under the national lockdown has dealt a heavy blow to the already struggling aviation industry.

Furthermore, the lockdown which has been deemed necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, has dealt a heavy blow to commerce, leading to a temporary closure of shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, shutting down of factories and deserted market places.

"We are looking into various opportunities and cargo flights are definitely something we are considering subject to securing business at viable levels," Vistara's Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan told IANS.

"We are keen to support all businesses that bring essentials to people in these tough times. We're exploring all viable possibilities at the moment." In terms of fixed cost savings during the extended lockdown period, the airline has instituted a compulsory "no-pay" leave for a section of its employees.

These leaves without pay range from one to three days, depending on employment grades.

As per the plan, senior-most employees will have to take three days of compulsory no-pay leave.

"The extension of lockdown and suspension of our services till May 3 further impacts our cash flow significantly. As part of a number of steps we are taking to conserve cash and save costs, we had to make the difficult decision of further reducing our staff costs with the objective of preserving jobs," a Vistara spokesperson was quoted as saying in an earlier statement.

"For the period between April 15 and April 30, about 30 per cent of Vistara's workforce will take compulsory no-pay leave of one to three days, depending on their employment grades (three days for senior-most employees). This decision does not impact the remainder 70 per cent of Vistara staff." Besides, the airline is working on finalising specific procedures that would be deployed as and when the operations start.

"Broadly, some important, stringent preventive measures includes temporary fleet-wide removal of all reading material from seatback pockets," Kannan said "Any passenger showing symptoms of fever or respiratory illness will undergo a precautionary check-up with the 'Airport Medical Support Team'." The Tata Group-Singapore Airlines JV airline had commenced commercial operations in 2015 and has since flown more than 20 million passengers.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in)

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