Air India’s new CEO Campbell Wilson has embarked on creating a new, efficient operational structure for the Tata-owned carrier, with the government signing off on his security clearance, said people with knowledge of the matter. Armed with a mandate to turn Air India around, he’s currently busy with key management hiring decisions, officials said.
Wilson, former CEO of Singaporean low-cost airline Scoot, took over at Air India on June 16.
He’s focusing on fixing systems and processes to ensure on-ground efficiencies besides keeping close tabs on daily losses, which have fallen significantly, according to the people cited above.
“He has been tasked to create a customer-centric and service-oriented culture,” said one of them. “Currently, he will build a management team to take the plan forward.”
Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran, who has been leading the airline, will continue to be directly involved in the transformational process with Wilson at least for a year, officials said.
Wilson had called on Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata in Bombay House last month before taking charge.
Air India didn’t comment.
The Tata Group has already invested Rs 15,000 crore in the airline and is focused on building talent, training, deployment of IT systems and creating a modern fleet aside from improving ground handling through data analytics. Execution, customer service and bringing new energy into the airline will be the CEO’s immediate focus, a top company official said.
“He will take a while to understand and fix issues and will need handholding by the chairman for a while,” the person said.
The airline has leased office space at Vatika One on One in Gurgaon to house its headquarters.
It has signed a letter of intent (LoI) for about 200,000 sq ft with the option of doubling this later.
The airline plans to consolidate all its offices at the Vatika building, said one of the persons.
The other group carriers Vistara and AirAsia may also shift to the same complex later.
Air India employees have been asked to vacate government-owned housing complexes in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
The first few months under Tata stewardship at Air India have been challenging for the aviation industry with fuel prices rising sharply and the regulator retaining curbs on fares, said experts. On the other hand, traffic has risen close to pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways is getting closer to resumption and Akasa will soon be launching flights.
“While there are several matters that the new CEO of Air India will have to address, I would expect that the top priority for the new CEO would be to find ways to increase the load factor, which basically means filling up a higher percentage of seats per flight with paying passengers,” said Vihang Virkar, partner at Lumiere Law Partners.Air India has a wide network but several routes do not see high passenger loads.
Given the fare restrictions put in place by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Wilson should focus on routes that yield a higher load factor and consequently higher margins to tackle ever-increasing operating costs, he said.