Tata Sons on Monday has announced the appointment of Ilker Ayci as the new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Air India. Expected to take charge on or before April 1, Ayci (51) until recently was the Chairman of Turkish Airlines. Prior to that, he was also on its Board of Directors.
The key appointment was finalized at the Air India board meeting on February 14, in which Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran was a special invitee. Ayci’s appointment would be subject to regulatory approvals. “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ayci to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era,” said Chandrasekaran.
Acknowledging the appointment, Ayci said he is “delighted and honored to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group. (…) “Working closely with my colleagues at AI and the leadership of Tata Group, 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 added.
Born in Istanbul in 1971, Ayci was once the Advisor to the country’s current President Erdogan, while the latter was the Mayor of Istanbul. He served as the Chairman of Turkish Airlines from 2015 till he resigned last month, one day before the closure of the transaction between the Government of India and Tata Sons for the privatization of the airline.
Turkish Airlines’ growth was overseen by Ayci
Ayci has overseen a significant expansion at Turkish Airlines. He became chairman when the airline was flying to 45 domestic destinations and 206 international destinations in 106 countries. At the end of 2021, Turkish Airlines was flying to 328 destinations in 128 countries. The expansion has been to nearly 70 airports and 20 additional countries during his tenure.
An alumnus of Turkey’s first private university, Bilkent University, he graduated from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and is fluent in Turkish, English and Russian. He continued his education with a research stay in political science from the Leeds University in the UK. In 1995, he completed his Master’s in international relations from the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.
During his extensive career, he held several positions with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and for a period from 1994, served as Advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan, who’s now the country’s President. Later, Ayci served as the CEO of several insurance companies. In January 2011, he took over as the President of the Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey. In 2013, he was appointed Vice-President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies of which he later became the Chairman and served till 2015.
The 51-year old Ilker Ayci has a long way to go in his aviation career, though. He has had only one airline stint and does not have any turnaround experience. Air India is probably the most challenging assignment for any CEO who would have been picked for the job, but more so for him, since he does not have any experience in the initial ask for the job. Ultimately, Air India will need a team of about a dozen experienced C-Suite executives to bring the turnaround expected and desired from the airline,
After a competitive bidding process, the government had on October 8 last year sold Air India to Talace Private Limited, a subsidiary of the Tata Group’s holding company, for INR 18.000 crore. Tatas beat the Rs 15.100-crore offer by a consortium led by SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh and the reserve price of Rs 12.906 crore set by the government for the sale of its 100 percent stake in the loss-making carrier. The take-over was concluded on January 27. Air India was started by the Tata Group in 1932. However, after the country got independence, It was nationalized in 1953.
Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.