Former Chairperson of Turkish Airlines (THY) Ilker Aycı was appointed by Tata Sons as the CEO and managing director of Air India, the carrier’s owner said in a statement on Monday.
“The board after due deliberations approved the appointment of Ilker Ayci as the CEO & MD of Air India. This appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals,” Tata Sons stated in a release.
Commenting on the appointment of the former THY CEO, Tata Sons Chairperson N. Chandrasekaran described Aycı as “an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there.”
“We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era,” he said.
"The Air India Board met to consider the candidature of Mr. Ayci. Mr. Chandrasekaran was a special invitee to this board meeting," the release added.
He will assume his responsibilities on or before April 1, 2022, Tata Sons said.
Aycı, for his part, said he is “delighted and honored to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group.”
“Working closely with my colleagues at Air India and the leadership of the Tata Group, we will utilize the strong heritage of Air India to make it one of the best airlines in the world with a uniquely superior flying experience that reflects Indian warmth and hospitality,” Aycı said.
After Aycı stepped down from the post, Ahmet Bolat was appointed as the new chairperson of the THY board and executive committee on Jan. 28.
Aycı had been the chairperson of the carrier since April 2015.
Tata Group took control of state-run carrier Air India officially last month, regaining ownership of the airline after nearly 70 years and marking a victory for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's privatization push.
The auto-to-steel conglomerate in October won the bid to take over Air India in a $2.4 billion equity and debt deal, ending years of struggle to privatize the financially troubled airline that was kept afloat using taxpayer funds.
The Air India strategic disinvestment transaction was completed on Jan. 27 with the government receiving about $360 million in equity and Tata taking over more than $2 billion of Air India's debt, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
Tata Group already operates two other airlines – Vistara, in a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, and AirAsia India, which it operates in partnership with AirAsia Group. But both have yet to make money.
Since the mid-2000s, however, Air India's reputation has declined as financial troubles mounted. It flew widebody planes with business class seats in poor repair and grounded some of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners to use for spare parts. Customers faced many delays and staff and suppliers were not always paid on time.
Air India's biggest competitive advantage is its ability to fly nonstop to destinations such as the United States and Europe, where it enjoys lucrative landing rights and where foreign carriers such as Emirates can only compete with stopover options.