Morning Chronicle - Cancelled flight: new Air India CEO appointment annulled

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Cancelled flight: new Air India CEO appointment annulled
Cancelled flight: new Air India CEO appointment annulled

Cancelled flight: new Air India CEO appointment annulled

Former Turkish Airlines boss Ilker Ayci will not take the helm at freshly-privatised Air India after all, despite being named the airline's CEO last month, owners Tata group said Tuesday.

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Ayci -- who oversaw extensive cost-cutting at Turkish Airlines -- was chosen as the debt-ridden carrier's first foreign CEO in mid-February after Tata group bought it back from the government following 69 years in state ownership.

But a Hindu nationalist group with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party criticised his appointment over his connections to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling on the government to block it.

India and Turkey's relationship has been strained in recent years over Erdogan's criticism of New Delhi's rule in Indian-administered Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority area.

"I can confirm that Ayci will not be taking up the post," a spokesperson for tea-to-steel conglomerate Tata told AFP, without commenting further.

In a written statement to Turkish media, Ayci reportedly stated that he had been "closely following the efforts to give another meaning to my appointment", without giving details.

He added that it was "not appropriate to take this position as long as these debates are ongoing" and that he had come to the decision after a "long and detailed consideration" and following discussions with Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran.

Ayci, 51, led Turkish Airlines from 2015 to January 2022 and oversaw its return to profitability last year following the coronavirus pandemic.

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 has been looking to impose wholesale change at the top of Air India as it seeks to revive the ailing carrier.