Two weeks after Tata Sons appointed Ilker Ayci as the chief executive officer and managing director of Air India, the former Turkish Airlines chairman has turned down the offer amid a probe by the ministry of home affairs over his alleged links with Al-Qaeda.

"My appointment at Air India within Tata Group was announced earlier in February, with a start date of April 1st. Since the announcement, I have been carefully following news in some sections of the Indian media attempting to color my appointment with undesirable colors," Ayci said in a statement.

Ayci, an aviation industry veteran who was earlier on the board of Turkish Airlines, said it would not be a "feasible or an honorable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such narrative".

"I remain grateful to the chairman of Tata Group, Mr. N. Chandrasekaran and the Tata Group for extending to me the honor and the opportunity to lead Air India. However, at a recent meeting with Mr Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Group, I regretfully informed him and I wish to inform the public, as well, that I will decline the position. It is with a heavy heart that I make this decision," he said.

On February 14, the new Air India board, with Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, had approved the appointment of Ayci.

As part of the airline's efforts to improve its on-time performance, Air India had asked its cabin crew to wear minimal jewellery to avoid delays at security checks and not to visit duty-free shops after clearing the immigration process.

Fortune India on Monday reported that a decision has been taken to merge AirAsia India (AAI) after AirAsia Berhad fully exits its venture with Tata Group.

A 32.7% stake has already been bought by the Tata group for $37.7 million. Soon, the group will buy the remaining 16.3% stake for $18.83 million. With this, Tata group holding in the company will go up to 100% and the airline will be merged into the existing Air India. This merger is likely to take around nine to 12 months from now. AirAsia Berhad chief Tony Fernandes, who in 2013 brought in half the $30 million for his 49% stake, will walk away with $56-odd million after the buyout. A decision has also been taken to let Vistara function independently for now.

Earlier this year, the government sold its entire stake in Air India to Talace, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons. The sale marked the national carrier’s return to the salt-to-software conglomerate after a span of 69 years. The transaction included the full-service carrier airline Air India, its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express, and cargo and ground service arm Air India SATS.

Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore was transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle formed by the government in 2019 for holding debt and non-core assets of Air India.

Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1932, the airline was nationalised in 1953 by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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