Tata Sons has appointed former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci as the chief executive officer and managing director of Air India.
The Air India board met on Monday afternoon to consider the candidature of Ayci, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, and approved his appointment, Tata Sons said in a statement. Ayci’s appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.
Ayci, who was earlier on the board of Turkish Airlines, will assume his responsibilities on or before April 1, 2022, the company said.
This comes weeks after the government completed the disinvestment process for Air India, selling its entire stake in the airline to Tata Sons. The sale marked the national carrier’s return to the salt-to-software conglomerate after a span of 69 years. A new board to run the airline also became functional on January 27. 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.
The announcement also comes a day after Air India 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 as part of the airline's efforts to improve its on-time performance.
Commenting on the appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, “Ilker is 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.”
Born in Istanbul in 1971, Ayci is an alumnus of Turkey’s Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. He completed a Master’s programme in international relations at the Marmara University in Istanbul.
Tata Group made the winning bid at ₹18,000 crore to bag the airline in October last year. Of this, ₹15,300 crore is in the form of debt, while the remaining ₹2,700 crore is in cash. The cash consideration has been paid to the government.
The airline is run by Tata Sons’ wholly-owned subsidiary Talace. Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore has been 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 aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India in 1946, and it began flights to Europe in 1948 under the banner of Air India International. The airline was nationalised in 1953 by the nation’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, and AIXL a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these are owned by the company. More than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues comes from the international market.