Putting all speculations to rest, Air India chief Campbell Wilson on Monday said that the full-service carrier post the merger of Vistara will be known as Air India, which is much more recognised outside the country as the group works on becoming a significant international aviation player.
Vistara, which is deemed one of the most premier airlines in India, will shortly discontinue all its flights after Tata Group’s merger with Air India.
While the resultant full-service carrier will be known as Air India, Wilson emphasised that efforts will be made to retain some of the "Vistara heritage in that new manifestation".
"Vistara has a very strong recognition in the Indian market but if you look outside the Indian market, clearly Air India is much more recognised and has a 90-year history... The future full-service carrier will be called Air India but we would like to retain and celebrate some of the Vistara heritage in that new manifestation," he added.
Brand Vistara evoked varied emotions amongst flyers. After the news of its discontinuation came out, netizens took to social media platforms to express their disappointment.
Air India & Vistara have opposite brand images. Vistara has carved a niche as a premium & classy brand, whereas Air India has always had mass appeal.— Siddharth Roy (@RoySiddharth19) February 28, 2023
Merging two different brand identities will be a challenge. What do you think?https://t.co/4fsjOaeSf5
For Domestic Air Travel, Honestly feel Vistara has Stronger Brand Equity than Air India— Ravisutanjani (@Ravisutanjani) February 27, 2023
Disappointed to see Air India would let Go Off Vistara Brand after Merger ✈️
@airvistara @airindiain @FlyWithIX— Abhinav Sharma (@abhiandtravel) February 27, 2023
Vistara is not a brand but an emotion in itself. By merging it under one name Air India doesn’t seem like a good idea. Just an opinion. Here is my recent click from my favourite Vistara flight#AirIndia #Vistara pic.twitter.com/p6qyoutCdK
On January 9, 2015, Vistara started its operations with a maiden flight from Delhi to Mumbai. In a short span of time, it stood out for its differentiated service being preferred by domestic travellers.
Aviation analyst Ameya Joshi told Storyboard18 that brand Vistara got a new dimension in Indian aviation by trying to fill in the luxury void left by Kingfishers demise.
“It also introduced a fresh perspective in terms of a new class of service - premium economy. Post the merger, we don’t know yet the policy that Tata’s will have towards premium economy. But Air India does promise improved service levels so it would be interesting to see how they take the Vistara promise forward,” he notes.
Nostalgia aside, business strategist and investor Lloyd Mathias calls the decision taken by the Tata’s to discontinue brand Vistara and consolidate their airline activity under brand Air India a sensible one. He believes that while Vistara has no doubt built a strong and loyal franchise since its launch 10 years ago and created a distinct brand identity, the practicalities of a competitive commercial aviation market would make it very difficult to sustain two full service brands.
“A lot of the Vistara brand attributes were borrowed from its then part-parent Singapore Airlines. Tata’s have since bought out the Singapore airlines stake in Vistara. The Tata group acquired Air India a year ago, and given that Air India is a globally recognized brand that has been operating for over 90 years and India’s flag carrier – it makes more sense to focus and revitalize it. This will take a lot of resources,” he opines.
Read more: Tata Group's Air India Transformation: Dropping brand Vistara, roping in design and digital
No doubt that the commercial aviation sector is an extremely competitive space worldwide and in India. The last four decades have seen loads of airline companies – Kingfisher Air, Jet Airways, Sahara Airlines, East-West Airlines, Damania, ModiLuft, NEPC, Air Deccan, disappear. Even incumbent players like SpiceJet and GoFirst are struggling with profitability.
“For a brand to succeed, it needs deep investments across the board, including marketing and customer experience. Running two parallel operations – starting with aircrafts; in-flight livery; operations; cabin and ground staff; marketing, customer services, just won’t make sense,” Mathias points out. However, given the equity Vistara has built, the Tata’s could consider using it resourcefully across its service businesses.
“Possible Vistara lounges in Taj Hotels distinct from the Chambers. Or maybe a Vistara premium class in Air India,” he suggests.
New look, vision
Air India recently onboarded London-based brand and design consultancy firm Futurebrands to design Air India’s new branding strategy. Futurebrands has worked on rebranding exercises for brands like American Airlines and the British luxury auto brand Bentley. In ad agency circles there are whispers that the agency is planning to create a new mascot for the brand. Currently, Air India is not using its iconic mascot the Maharajah in any of its commercials.
According to multiple sources Storyboard18 spoke to, Air India is also working closely with independent marketing agency Gozoop Group for some creative campaigns. Crayons Advertising is also rumoured to be collaborating with the brand. The company hasn't initiated any formal agency pitch yet.
Earlier this year the airline company hired former MakeMyTrip executive Sunil Suresh as its chief marketing officer. Seasoned marketer Colin Neubronner, who has worked with brands like Singapore Airlines and Jet Airways also joined the company's brand team.