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Explained: Who is Ilker Ayci, the new Air India CEO?

The Tata Group, which had set its mind on hiring an expatriate to helm Air India, has appointed Ilker Ayci as the Managing Director and CEO of the airline.

Written by Pranav Mukul , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 15, 2022 10:06:44 am
Ilker Ayci (Image source:

The Tata Group Monday announced the appointment of former Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci as the Managing Director and CEO of Air India, which it took over from the government last month.

Who is Ilker Ayci?

Ilker Ayci was chairman of Turkish Airlines since 2015, and his resignation from the post was announced by the airline on January 27 this year — the same day the Centre handed over Air India to the Tatas.

Ayci was born in Istanbul in 1971. He is a 1994 alumni of Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, according to the Tata Group statement. After a research stay in political science at the Leeds University in the UK in 1995, he completed an International Relations Master’s programme at the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997. In 2011, he was made the Chairman of the Republic of Turkey Investment Support and Promotion Agency.

During his professional career, Ayci has been an advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, where he took part in a number of development projects in Turkey’s largest city. Erdoğan is currently the President of Turkey.

Why has Ayci been appointed Air India MD & CEO?

The Tata Group had set its mind on hiring an expatriate to helm the airline. The conglomerate had interviewed several potential candidates, including those currently or formerly with European and American carriers, before naming Ayci for the role. This is in line with the group’s ambition to turn the airline’s global brand around.

In a statement, Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran said: “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era”.

Do other airlines in India have foreigners as CEOs?

Yes, promoters of Indian airlines have been looking at those with global experience to pilot their airlines for a long time now.

Tata Group-Singapore Airlines joint-venture airline Vistara had Singapore citizens Phee Teik Yeoh and Leslie Thng as their CEOs.

GoAir has had several expatriates, including Cornelis Vrieswijk and Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, in the corner office.

IndiGo has had several expatriates in its top management. Its CEO Ronojoy Dutta is a US citizen. Currently, Prock-Schauer is President and Chief Operating Officer, while Willy Boulter is its Chief Commercial Officer.

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