Cost-cutting Turkish Airlines boss to lead Air India

10. (Extra) Air India, Turkish Airlines
A general photo of an Air India plane. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
MUMBAI, India — A former Turkish Airlines boss who oversaw extensive cost-cutting, Ilker Ayci, was on Monday named as the new head of loss-making and newly-privatized Air India, owners Tata group said.اضافة اعلان

Ayci's appointment makes him the airline's first foreign CEO and Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran said in a statement he "would lead Air India into the new era".

Tea-to-steel conglomerate Tata bought back the flag carrier — which it originally set up — in a 180-billion-rupee ($2.4-billion) deal in January after 69 years under state ownership.

Once similarly state-owned, Turkish Airlines was privatized in the mid-2000s and subsequently transformed into a major international player, one of few global airlines to reliably make profits.

Ayci — who is close to Turkish PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdogan — was appointed chairman in 2015 and the following year described his firm as "one of the most profitable airlines in the world" over the previous decade.

Loss-making Air India is the direct opposite: a monumental burden on the public purse for decades, consuming 1.1 trillion rupees ($14.7 billion) in public money since 2009.

Ayci, 51, stepped down from his Turkish Airlines post last month.

The coronavirus pandemic plunged his firm into losses of $836 million in 2020, but it returned to profit in the first nine months of 2021, with analysts crediting a focus on freight cargo and cutting employee costs.

In a CEOWorld Magazine column last year, Ayci himself said his airline had achieved "what most other airlines could not" by cutting costs and capital expenditure during the pandemic.

Whether he will be able to turn around the notoriously challenged Air India remains to be seen.

"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," Ayci said in a statement.

He was an advisor to Erdogan in 1994 and the Turkish president acted as a witness at Ayci's wedding in 2018.

The Tata group now operates four separate airlines in India and is imposing wholesale change at the top of Air India as it seeks to revive the ailing airline.

Read more Business