Last Updated on 02/03/2022 by Nidhi Khandelwal
Turkey’s Ilker Ayci announced on Tuesday that he will not take over as CEO of Tata Group’s Air India, just days after his hiring sparked outrage in India due to his previous political ties.
Tata announced Ayci’s appointment as CEO of previously state-run Air India last month (on February 14), after taking over the debt-ridden airline in January in a $2.4 billion stock and loan deal.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, called on the government to prevent Uscis appointment last week, citing his previous political ties with Turkey, which has soured relations with New Delhi.
When Tayyip Erdogan was mayor of Istanbul in 1994, Ayci, the former chairman of Turkish Airlines, was an adviser to him.
In a statement, Ayci claimed he declined the position after reading about attempts “to color my appointment with unfavorable colors” in some sections of the Indian media during a recent meeting with Tata Chairman N Chandrasekaran.The move was verified by a Tata spokeswoman, who did not provide any other information.
The decision is a setback for India’s Tata, which now has to relaunch its search for a new CEO in order to turn around the loss-making airline. While Air India has lucrative landing slots, any new CEO would confront a difficult task in modernizing the airline’s aged fleet and improving its financials and service levels.
Before a foreign national can be appointed as the CEO of an airline in India, the government must approve the nomination.
Because security services have raised concerns about Ayci’s ties to Turkey, a government source told Reuters last week that India is performing more extensive checks than usual in the case of Ayci and Air India.