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A Vistara flight at Bengaluru airport (representational image).Wikimedia Commons

The Tata-Singapore Airline joint venture Vistara plans to start its international operations with flights to the Gulf and South-East Asian regions with its A320 Neo planes, the airline's CEO Leslie Thng said on Friday.

The full-service carrier plans to begin its international operations in the second half of 2018, though the airline will explore the possibility of flying overseas earlier.

According to the 0/20 rule, an airline should have at least 20 aircraft in its fleet before being allowed to fly internationally. As of now Vistara has 17 aircraft in its fleet and will induct its 20th aircraft in March, which will make it eligible to start flying abroad.

The carrier plans to add its 21st and 22nd aircraft in May and June respectively. The entire fleet of 22 aircraft will comprise Airbus A320 planes — 13 A320 ceo (current engine option) and nine A320 neo (new engine option) aircraft.

"So, technically, with the 21st aircraft in May we should be able to go international. But we need to have some time to prepare ourselves with the authorities, then we are looking at the second half of 2018. If all things go on well then we will try to bring it forward if possible," the Vistara CEO was quoted by PTI as saying.

He added that the airline has already started "engaging" with regulatory body Directorate General of Civil Aviation for requisite permissions for its international operations.

The airline is looking to begin with short-haul international flights. "If you look at A320 and their range in terms of where they can fly, we are looking at four to five hours (of flight). (Which means) it is going to be regional, it is going to be in the Gulf, South East Asia. For the initial plan, this is where we are venturing into," Thng said.

Vistara will be partnering with global airlines to sell more destinations in different countries. "When we go international in country A we are not going to fly many destinations there, we will need a player who can support us for the feed so that we can sell more destinations in those countries," said Thng.

While it adds destinations abroad, Vistara also has plans to strengthen its domestic network so it can develop Delhi as a hub. The CEO said: "When we go international we need to beef up our own domestic network because our primary hub will still be in Delhi. To go international, we need to build up connectivity between Delhi and all the different metros and tier-2 and tier 3 cities so that we can provide connectivity both ways".