Air India CEO steps down two weeks after appointment

Former Turkish Airlines CEO Ilker Ayci has stepped down from his new position at India air only two weeks into the position. Ayci says the decision was due to the bad press received from the Indian media regarding his appointment to the role. News outlets have reported that his replacement has already been decided.


Ilker Ayci declines CEO role

Ilker Ayci was initially appointed when Air India was bought by the Tatas earlier this year. After months of headhunting, they decided on the former Turkish Airlines CEO to lead the national airline. The decision was made even before the business was fully acquired, with Ayci stepping down from his role in Turkish Airlines a day before the formal handover of Air India.

air india plane in flight
Air India was privatised and sold to the Tatas in January 2022 | © Business Traveller


Now that Ayci has left, the Tatas have returned to their old shortlist of candidates to find a new CEO. According to the Economic Times, a new appointee has been decided upon in the last few days. An unnamed official from Tata told the ET:

“The group went back to the list of other equally qualified candidates for a replacement to Ayci. They are keen on not wasting more time on the appointment. The board and chairman will be announced shortly after the CEO announcement,”


Negative media coverage

Trouble began for Ayci shortly after his name was announced. The Tatas wanted to bring in a “new era” for Air India and were hoping that the former Turkish Airlines CEO would use his experience to bring it about. However, Ayci’s connections with the Turkish government resulted in negative media coverage from the Indian Press.

ilker ayci pointing
Ayci was CEO of Turkish Airlines for seven years before joining Air India | © Getty

In the 90s, Ayci was an advisor for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a close supporter of Pakistan, and stands against India on the International platform. Ayci has also been accused of having met with alleged former Al-Qaeda financier Yasin al-Qadi. The newspapers quickly picked up these connections, reporting negatively on Ayci’s appointment as CEO. In light of the narrative against him, Ayci did not think it appropriate to continue in the role. He commented:


“Since the announcement, I have been carefully following news in some sections of the Indian media attempting to color my appointment with undesirable colors…I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or an honorable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such a narrative.”

A five-member committee currently oversees Air India whilst a new CEO is decided. Once the position is finalised, the Tatas can begin on their program of radical renewal for the Indian flag-carrier, bringing in the “new era” they hope to achieve.

What are your thoughts on Ilker Ayci’s resignation? Who do you think will replace him? Let us know in the comments below!

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Josh McMinn
Josh McMinn
Jr Reporter - Josh is an Jr. Aviation Reporter at Travel Radar covering the latest industry news, developments and passenger experiences. Outside of reporting, Josh is a talented artist and camera operator with experience spanning several industries.


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