Tuesday, February 15, 2022

In Ilker Ayci, Tatas find a surprise pilot to fly Air India

The Tatas, which recently took over Air India, have named Ilker Ayci as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Ayci, a Turkish National, was born in Istanbul in 1971 and was leading Turkish Airlines from 2015 to end of January 2022.

The appointment is surprising because Ayci does not come with an aviation legacy as the other names that were rumoured to be contenders for the post. Starting his career in 1994, he was assigned several positions in Kurtsan Ilaclar A.S., Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Universal Dis Ticaret A.S., respectively, and then he served as a general manager in Basak Sigorta A.S. (General Insurance Company) between 2005 and 2006, and then in Gunes Sigorta AS (an insurance services company) between 2006 and 2011.

In January 2011, he was appointed as the Chairman of The Republic of Turkey Investment Support and Promotion Agency, which is the official organisation for promoting Turkey’s investment opportunities to the global business community and for providing assistance to investors before, during and after their entry into Turkey. In February 2013, he was appointed as the vice president of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies, and later on in January 2014, as the chairman. In 2015, he took over as chairman of Turkish Airlines after serving on its Board of Directors for only a year. He was later appointed as its Group CEO and MD, a position he held until last month.

Ayci has links to Ergodan – the president of Turkey. Turkey’s open support to Pakistan and its stance on Kashmir has not been taken kindly by the Indian government and thus the choice by Tata group comes as a surprise.

However, Ayci has presided over Turkish Airlines’ expansion like none other. He became chairman of Turkish Airlines at a time when the airline was flying to 45 domestic destinations and 206 international ones in 106 countries. At the end of 2021, Turkish Airlines was flying to 328 destinations in 128 countries. Ayci has overseen a significant expansion at the airline. The expansion has been to nearly 70 airports and 20 additional countries during his tenure.

He has also presided over an incredible increase in fleet. The airline had 249 aircraft in 2014, which stands at 372 today! The airline has the distinction of serving more airports from a single airport (Istanbul) than any other airline in the world! Apart from being a fellow Star Alliance member like Air India, Turkish Airlines also has stakes in other airlines and companies which all rolled up to Ayci as Group CEO!

From a perspective of the TATA group, it looks like the board wanted to invest in someone who is young, has experience of expansion and has had a stable previous innings which with Ilker Ayci was seven years at the helm – all of which involved planning expansion and growing.

15/02/22 Ameya Joshi/Moneycontrol

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