Oops: New Air India CEO Resigns Before Starting Job

Oops: New Air India CEO Resigns Before Starting Job

61

Air India was recently privatized, after being government-owned and losing money for years. The airline has been purchased by Tata Group, which also holds majority stakes in both Vistara and AirAsia India. A couple of weeks ago the airline announced its new CEO, and he has already resigned… before even starting the job.

Air India’s new Turkish CEO won’t take job after all

In mid-February, Ilkey Ayci was appointed Air India CEO, with the plan being for him to start his job as of April 2022. He was the Chairman of Turkish Airlines from 2015 until 2022, and prior to that held several senior roles in the Turkish government, including being the President of the Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey.

Now Ayci has announced that he doesn’t intend to become Air India CEO after all. As he explained:

“I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or an honourable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such a narrative. 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.”

So, what exactly is going on here? There were claims in the media that Ayci being appointed to this position presented “national security” issues. His appointment is subject to regulatory approval, including a background check by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Apparently there were concerns about Ayci’s close relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, given that he acted in an advisory role to Erdogan in the past.

Okay, I can totally appreciate the challenge there, and I’m no Erdogan fan. But exactly how much research is Tata Group doing before appointing a new CEO? You don’t have to look past Ayci’s Wikipedia page to see this close ties to Erdogan. You would think that would have been determined before he resigned from his old job and was offered a new job.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Ayci actually decided he didn’t want the job because of some media reports (which seems questionable, since I imagine he has thicker skin), or if he was asked to step back.

Air India had hired the former Chairman of Turkish Airlines

The role of Air India CEO is a tough one to fill

I’d love to see Air India be turned around and become a great airline, but there’s no denying that this is a massive task. There’s so much to be done, and in many ways Air India would be better off just shutting down and starting over. The airline has an aging fleet, outdated inflight products, labor issues, and an uncompetitive cost structure.

I can’t help but wonder who is going to be appointed to this position next. Will Air India try to appoint another foreigner, or will the airline look for local talent this time? The issue here is that even if someone is a very capable leader, Air India succeeding is far from a sure bet. Accepting this job is a gamble in terms of reputation and future career prospects, assuming this isn’t your last planned gig in the industry. Speaking of which, I think Doug Parker has some free time on his hands now?

The search for Air India’s new CEO continues

Bottom line

Air India’s newly appointed CEO has already resigned before even starting in his role. Apparently there were concerns about the former Turkish Airlines Chairman’s close ties to Turkish President Erdogan. On the surface that’s fair enough, though I’m not sure why this only came up after he was appointed to the role, and after he quit his job at Turkish Airlines?

Who do you think Air India should appoint as CEO?

(Tip of the hat to Neeraj)

Conversations (61)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Frank Monteiro Guest

    When Ratan Tata bought JLR (Jaguar-Land-Rover) from Ford everyone said what are you going to do with this loss making car brand? Everyone can see the success story of JLR under TATA's ownership!
    Similarly Air India will surely make a turnaround as Air India was TATA family's brainchild. Ratan Tata wouldn't have bought Air India without giving it a lot of attention and thoughts.

  2. SAS Guest

    Good for Ilker Ayci. There are plenty of better airline companies out there to run as compared to Air India.

    1. DCharlie Guest

      Whoever takes on this role will surely require a significant experience in reorg and restructuring on a global scale. Thankfully Iker didn't accept the role. TK isn't an airline to aspire to and nor are his credentials prior to TK, which were predominantly leading Turkish organizations.

    2. SAS Guest

      Au contraire.

      Turkish Airlines is one of the leading airlines of the world, flying to more countries than any other airline, carrying more passengers than any other European airline. Its hub in Istanbul is now the biggest airport in Europe, so Ilker Ayci can take some of the credit. He would have done a fantastic job of running Air India but there are better airlines out there than Air India to run.

    3. DCharlie Guest

      Exactly.

      Not an airline to aspire to. Significant efforts to making TK what it is involved the government’s interests and stake in many deals which were publicised during the period of transition. There are much better airlines to aspire to than TK - albeit them being the best airline from Europe (hardly an achievement). He would have struggled.

    4. Razor Guest

      He foresaw that there was going to be a lot of interference and bureaucracy whereby he was going to fail to turn the fortunes of air india so better to stay away and keep a clean record.

    5. DCharlie Guest

      If that is the case, then he is a coward. Courageous execution is an essential need for any leader; I guess he can only deliver when the government is patting his head (see some articles of his bruhness with Erdogan). But this is a good move for AI - they should invest into someone with vision and actual caliber.

  3. Fake Siddharth malya Guest

    Vijay mallya should be the CEO

  4. George Guest

    There should be a limit to stupidity. If it is a case of national security, all the CEOs of US fortune 500 companies should also quit their positions because they are Indians. US vice president should also resign because she is also of Indian origin. Alas!

    1. Emily Guest

      Your comment clearly demonstrates your ignorance. Do you realise that the the individuals that you mention are either citizens by birth or naturalised citizens? Kamala is a citizen of the U.S. by birth. Otherwise she could not be a member of the government. Those who were naturalised, first entered the U.S. on student or employment visas. Both require stringent background checks by DHS. Naturalisation takes years precisely due to the security risk with giving someone...

      Your comment clearly demonstrates your ignorance. Do you realise that the the individuals that you mention are either citizens by birth or naturalised citizens? Kamala is a citizen of the U.S. by birth. Otherwise she could not be a member of the government. Those who were naturalised, first entered the U.S. on student or employment visas. Both require stringent background checks by DHS. Naturalisation takes years precisely due to the security risk with giving someone complete rights, except taking a position in government. All governments require stringent background verification for foreign citizens intending to immigrate or take positions of power. The U.S. may be the most xenophobic nation on earth; but it needs highly skilled people because it cannot supply it by itself.

  5. Vijay Guest

    Good for Ayci as he saved himself from being fired as incompetent and an ordinary CEO without vision. This job needs talent and leadership skills.

  6. Michael Guest

    It is the worst airline. Ryan air is 100% better than this company. The airline smells, staff are rude, food is not really edible and of international standard , not competitive at all. And to be honest, the CEO will appreciate not taking the position from Turkey. . It is also a religious issue, a social issue. You will not be able to settle in. Thanx to the almighty you didn’t take the post. It will close down soon

    1. DCharlie Guest

      I’m pretty sure that your name isn’t Michael. Thanks for playing.

  7. Monica Shor Guest

    Factually inaccurate article. I expected better from this site. It also came across as a propaganda piece rather than just honest reporting.

    The Turkish CEO has numerous links to terrorist organizations and openly supported these. Numerous media article on this matter are present online. It would have been a huge liability for India to appoint someone with such a questionable history. Turkey is an Islamic authoritative dictatorship and I don't think it's values are compatible...

    Factually inaccurate article. I expected better from this site. It also came across as a propaganda piece rather than just honest reporting.

    The Turkish CEO has numerous links to terrorist organizations and openly supported these. Numerous media article on this matter are present online. It would have been a huge liability for India to appoint someone with such a questionable history. Turkey is an Islamic authoritative dictatorship and I don't think it's values are compatible with a democracy like India with serious security concerns. Please ask the author to do some research before putting out a piece like this.

    Also, I would suggest your site to stick to great reviews and travel related issues. This piece is more political in nature and I would not be coming to a site like your for such delicate political updates.
    Thank you

    1. SAS Guest

      India under Modi has turned into a sectarian thugocracy where minorities are routinely murdered and attacked and where the Prime Minister himself presided over the massacre of his own fellow Gujaratis 20 years ago.

      The notion Ilker Ayci is connected to terrorist groups is factually incorrect.

    2. Rahat Guest

      I belong to the minority in India and I have not yet been murdered nor attacked. Keep the politics to the politicians and keep us common citizens out of your tirade.

      FYI - it is not Ilker who is accused of connections to terror orgs. It's his handler, Erdogan. Get your facts straight.

  8. Singh Guest

    Clearly, you did not think of the obvious.

    Indian government does not want a Muslim running the national carrier, one will want full rights to hire and fire.

    The Indian government wants a puppet.

  9. KK Guest

    Is this a preview of an April Fool's joke? Or perhaps he's the fool to begin on 01APR. Walk away from the mess called AirIndia as well as previous ties from Erdogan.

  10. Jared Guest

    ...and yes...I am bored awaiting a flight now delayed, having exhausted all forms of quality entertainment, before resorting to copious amounts of champagne and trolling the web... OMAAT is best when one is drunk and bored.

  11. Jared Guest

    Air India should appoint Guenter Butschek, currently CEO of TATA Motors. He has the expertise and credentials in turning around struggling businesses. He was the COO for Airbus during a time the organization was struggling and managed to execute a campaign of restructuring to bring them back to operational efficiency. Prior to that, he was at a Daimler for 25 years. The CEO need not always be from that industry.

  12. Jared Guest

    The perfect click-bait article. Shoddy blogging combined with juvenile journalistic talent sure does fire up a comment board. Bravo to OMAAT for such poor but arousing writing.

  13. Juergen Guest

    I heard that also his religion was pointed out as being problematic. The nationalistic hindu movement governing the country is not very Muslim friendly.

  14. Zak Guest

    With anti muslim and minorities violence, muskan khan case, brutal occupation of Indian occupied kashmir, IOK, by Modi's fovernment, no foreigner would want to be associated with India, at this time. Wise decision by Turkish CEO.

  15. Jorge George Paez Guest

    Doug Parker LOL!!!!
    Comment of the day!!!!!

    1. John Guest

      Jooooooooorge! Jooooorge!

  16. Ghadir Guest

    Erdogan is a killer who killed and arrested many people in Turkey specially Kurdish killed for simple reason "speaking in Kurdish language" which Erdogan and his friends think it is a threat to their ethnicity ! I see why Indians do not want want a Turkish authoritarian-loving CEO

    I am happy to see him denied the job !

  17. John MacGyver Guest

    Wise decision on his part. Air India is a cesspool of filth. He shouldn't have considered the position in the first place.

    Lets be honest and call a spade a spade, its because hes mozlem. Too many Indians objected to having a muzlim CEO of their former national airline.

    1. Kent Guest

      What an idiotic comment. India's former and most beloved president, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was Muslim.

    2. Jared Guest

      I think there should be a new category of airlines called "cesspool of filth" which would include AI, BA, UA, AA, DL, and AZ or whatever it's known as today. The difference is that AI and AZ will probably make it out of this category but the rest...

  18. Ashish Guest

    I don't understand this.

    On one hand the people who busy talk of privatization busy claim that "Govt has no business being in business".

    But on the other hand the Govt is still meddling in decisions taken by a private entity.

    If the Govt still wants to meddle with what decisions a private company makes, then let it still continue to be owned by the Govt.

    So it seems that Govt has no business being...

    I don't understand this.

    On one hand the people who busy talk of privatization busy claim that "Govt has no business being in business".

    But on the other hand the Govt is still meddling in decisions taken by a private entity.

    If the Govt still wants to meddle with what decisions a private company makes, then let it still continue to be owned by the Govt.

    So it seems that Govt has no business being in business. but every business is Govts business.

    A private enterprise cannot hire a person, which the enterprise deems independently to be the most eligible.

    We should be a free nation, where enterprises and individuals should be able to chose whatever they wish to.

    Any obstruction to this is curtailing of individual and collective freedoms.

    And if there are any security concerns, then one should not sell any PSUs.

    1. Jorge George Paez Guest

      He blamed it on media stories, not the gubmint.....

    2. Kent Guest

      You do realise that governments exist to (ideally) protect the best interests of a country, which includes vetting any senior level executive of foreign nationality (especially one with close ties to a government). Show me a country where this is not common practice. I suggest you form your own nation because the state which you desire, doesn't exist. In your world, we should let any national roam free and interfere in anyway possible. Ultimately, a...

      You do realise that governments exist to (ideally) protect the best interests of a country, which includes vetting any senior level executive of foreign nationality (especially one with close ties to a government). Show me a country where this is not common practice. I suggest you form your own nation because the state which you desire, doesn't exist. In your world, we should let any national roam free and interfere in anyway possible. Ultimately, a foreign national is a guest and must abide by the laws and regulations of the host country. Your comment reeks off as naivete.

    3. Responsible Citizen Guest

      Free nation does not mean we have rights to do anything we want to. Rights and responsibilities go together. I am not sure what happened in media. However, any position, there will be background check. The higher the position, more the background check. What happened in the background check, we would not know. However, we can assume safely that it could be the reason for declining the job, nothing else. If the reports on the...

      Free nation does not mean we have rights to do anything we want to. Rights and responsibilities go together. I am not sure what happened in media. However, any position, there will be background check. The higher the position, more the background check. What happened in the background check, we would not know. However, we can assume safely that it could be the reason for declining the job, nothing else. If the reports on the person are found to be true in BG check, anyone would think twice, even you would hesitate.

  19. RK Guest

    There’s a huge white space in this marketplace for the right kind of CEO. I’ve offered my services but they keep saying they “want someone with experience that in some small, infinitesimal relates to this job” and other hooey.

    1. Jorge George Paez Guest

      White space!!?? Reserved only for whites?
      Tell us your name, your qualifications, your skin color. The fact you hide behind a screen name disqualifies you as a leader.
      The fact you don't know India is country of many colors disqualifies you as a leader.
      Oh, wait, your post was a joke, right?
      My bad.....

    2. John Guest

      Plenty of suitable applicants here: Endre, DCS, Eskimo, Sean M. They are certified geniuses and captains-of-industry, hence they know literally everything, and don't mind letting everyone know. LOL.

    3. Endre Guest

      Of course, it's John again. Please get a block button for users, Ben. So we don't have to read the nonsense of an old white pathetic supremacist.

    4. John Guest

      Am I now white? Truly!! LOL. I am many things, but never knew I was 'white'! Oh, the pearls of wisdom flow without cease from thy lips, Endre.

  20. S G Guest

    Maybe consider Alex Cruz? He didn’t get much of a chance at BA. He may be able to turn things around with Air India.

    1. Canadian Platinum Guest

      He's now on the Board of Westjet.

  21. Bertie Guest

    How about Rupert Hogg, former CEO of CX ? He would make a good CEO for Air India, but the problem will be getting clearance from the Modi Government

  22. DFW Knight Guest

    I hear discount Doug Parker is looking for work

  23. Andy Diamond

    Well, I guess the question is whether the Indian establishment will accept a CEO with airline experience who comes from abroad. There might be reservations against almost any nationality (e.g. a candidate from the UK would be seen as someone from the former colonial power, an American would be perceived imperialist, a Russian oligarchist, someone from South East or East Asia would not qualify for probably being buddhist etc.).

    1. Emily Guest

      @Andy - not at all true. The Tatas and several other companies have appointed senior execs (including CEOs) of foreign origin. There is a stringent background check that anyone of foreign origin being considered for an executive role has to go through. This practice, by the way, is also common to the US, UK and similar countries; large corporations (especially public entities) pose a major threat to the national economy, when mishandled by someone with...

      @Andy - not at all true. The Tatas and several other companies have appointed senior execs (including CEOs) of foreign origin. There is a stringent background check that anyone of foreign origin being considered for an executive role has to go through. This practice, by the way, is also common to the US, UK and similar countries; large corporations (especially public entities) pose a major threat to the national economy, when mishandled by someone with malintent. The Tatas have appointed CEOs for their subsidiaries of foreign origin. As I said previously, there was hesitation from the Turkish side to provide all of the information requested from the MEA for a thorough background check. I think we all can appreciate why someone close to a foreign government may not want to reveal all of their past. What surprises me is why this wasn't discussed with all candidates prior to consideration. I can only imaging that the Tatas felt that the MEA and the intelligence bureau would grant them an exception. Fortunately, amongst all of national entities, these two are probably the most orthodox in their activities and don't grant exceptions.

    2. AG Guest

      I'm not sure if I should laugh at this post or take it seriously. Or both.

    3. Devesh Guest

      You are victim of western propaganda. Buddhism started in India. He might had a shady past and just like any country does, he was subject to same. If Indian government does it, it's double standards ? And west does it, it's considered standard practice. There are far too many talented folks to fill the shoes. And business and tax does not see religion. Tata is owned by Parsi (Persian roots). Now if I did not...

      You are victim of western propaganda. Buddhism started in India. He might had a shady past and just like any country does, he was subject to same. If Indian government does it, it's double standards ? And west does it, it's considered standard practice. There are far too many talented folks to fill the shoes. And business and tax does not see religion. Tata is owned by Parsi (Persian roots). Now if I did not hurt your ego, please enlighten yourselves with two sides of the coin and travel the world. Don't spit venom. Bunch of anti Indians take social media by storm. Don't be gullible to propaganda. They are design to satisfy your conspiracies.

  24. Bruce Guest

    Air India’s fleet isn’t really ageing… half of their fleet are brand new A320neos and 787s. They have a couple of 747-400s and a few old 777s but that’s not quite an ageing fleet.

  25. VT-CIE Gold

    A big factor has been the anti-Turkish sentiment of many right-wing parties in India, since Erdoğan has openly supported India’s archenemy Pakistan on several matters, including the throny Kashmir issue.

    1. VT-CIE Gold

      Also, pre-pandemic, Turkish Airlines has been unsuccessful in being able to get more bilateral slots to serve India beyond Delhi and Mumbai. Even post-pandemic, India is the one and only country TK is not able to have passenger flights to today, both because India refuses to scrap its ban on international flights and because India does not have a particularly warm relationship with Turkey to have an air bubble arrangement with it.

      Also, I meant...

      Also, pre-pandemic, Turkish Airlines has been unsuccessful in being able to get more bilateral slots to serve India beyond Delhi and Mumbai. Even post-pandemic, India is the one and only country TK is not able to have passenger flights to today, both because India refuses to scrap its ban on international flights and because India does not have a particularly warm relationship with Turkey to have an air bubble arrangement with it.

      Also, I meant *thorny* in the previous post.

    2. skimegheath Gold

      I was working in Mumbai. Went away for Diwali to Turkey. Air India flight cost me USD1500 in business class. Turkish airlines was USD3600 in business. They were actually the same Turkish airlines flight. Really odd. I bought the Air India flight and had no issues at all. The only issue was Air India would not help me to book a seat (not unsual with some codeshares), so I rang Turkish Airlines and they were really helpful!

      It was pre pandemic.

  26. Emily Guest

    @Lucky - The political issue was probably brought up by the Ministry of External Affairs during discussions and applications for his work permits and appropriate visas. Anyone with close ties to a government is vetted through a stringent background check involving the intelligence agencies, which can take months. There was some hesitancy with providing complete access to information. I’m assuming that he probably didn’t want something from his past to arise into the public forum....

    @Lucky - The political issue was probably brought up by the Ministry of External Affairs during discussions and applications for his work permits and appropriate visas. Anyone with close ties to a government is vetted through a stringent background check involving the intelligence agencies, which can take months. There was some hesitancy with providing complete access to information. I’m assuming that he probably didn’t want something from his past to arise into the public forum. I suspect that the Tatas felt that they would be granted an exception.

    1. Alexf1 Member

      Spot on. The challenge for senior executives with close ties to controversial governments is that their closets become overloaded with skeletons they probably don't even remember existed. Sounds like this was his first appointment outside Turkey and he/TATA underestimated the Indian government's due diligence.

      Can't imagine an existing airline CEO from the West easily instigating change at a legacy carrier such as Air India. The same way that BA's management of Olympic Airways failed,...

      Spot on. The challenge for senior executives with close ties to controversial governments is that their closets become overloaded with skeletons they probably don't even remember existed. Sounds like this was his first appointment outside Turkey and he/TATA underestimated the Indian government's due diligence.

      Can't imagine an existing airline CEO from the West easily instigating change at a legacy carrier such as Air India. The same way that BA's management of Olympic Airways failed, Etihad/Cramer Ball's management of Alitalia failed. Ben Smith's (ex Air Canada) management of AF/KLM has worked partially because of the close cultural ties between France and Canada.

      It would be an exception to the rule for a country like India to embrace someone with no prior ties to India, despite good intentions to appoint someone with fresh ideas.

  27. SR Guest

    Nah, doug want cut it for this job.. he only has experience in bringing a premium airline to one of the worst in the industry.. AI is already reached that goal.

  28. SQ51 Guest

    "and I’m no Erdogan fan"

    *Continues to visit Turkey
    *Continues to fly Turkish

    Nice

    1. Whyarepeoplesodumb Guest

      This is literally the most idiotic and juvenile comment I’ve ever seen.

    2. Brian L. Guest

      You must not have been here very long. There are comments that are FAR more "idiotic and juvenile" than this one (which I don't think is all that bad).

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Maybe not the most juvenile, but definitely one of the more idiotic... it's like expecting people who disagreed with Trump or Obama to boycott traveling to the USA. I'm sure some clods did it, but still.

    4. Jorge George Paez Guest

      But Morgan Freeman!

    5. AG Guest

      How lame. Are you implying that anyone who visited the US of A between 2016 to 2020 was a fan of Trump?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

VT-CIE Gold

A big factor has been the anti-Turkish sentiment of many right-wing parties in India, since Erdoğan has openly supported India’s archenemy Pakistan on several matters, including the throny Kashmir issue.

5
Whyarepeoplesodumb Guest

This is literally the most idiotic and juvenile comment I’ve ever seen.

5
Jared Guest

Air India should appoint Guenter Butschek, currently CEO of TATA Motors. He has the expertise and credentials in turning around struggling businesses. He was the COO for Airbus during a time the organization was struggling and managed to execute a campaign of restructuring to bring them back to operational efficiency. Prior to that, he was at a Daimler for 25 years. The CEO need not always be from that industry.

2
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,788,713 Miles Traveled

27,627,500 Words Written

32,315 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT