Ilker Ayci's appointment makes him the first foreign CEO of the airline, which was bought back by conglomerate Tata after 69 years of state ownership.

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

A former Turkish Airlines boss who oversaw extensive cost-cutting, Ilker Ayci, has been named the new head of loss-making and newly-privatised Air India.

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

"We will utilise 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.

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

Ayci was appointed chairman of major international player Turkish Airlines 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 $14.7 billion in public money since 2009.

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

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Reviving the ailing airline

The coronavirus pandemic plunged Ayci’s 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.

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.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies