Sucheta Dalal :Top guns to sit on Air India international advisory board
Sucheta Dalal

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Top guns to sit on Air India international advisory board  

July 9, 2009

National carrier Air India (AI) is in the process of having a seven-member international advisory board, with former top officials of global carriers, to turn the organisation around.


The Board, which is likely to be headed by industrialist Ratan Tata, may have former heads of leading carriers like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, sources in the know told PTI.


Air India was founded in 1932 by JRD Tata and after 8-decades later, the responsibility of reviving the crisis-ridden national carrier would fall on his successor. Also for Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata this would be his second homecoming at Air India. Tata was the non-executive chairman of AI's board in the late 1980s.


Discussions are on to finalise the names of other members on this global advisory board, sources said, adding that an advertisement would soon be issued for the newly-created post of chief operating officer so that a professional airline manager works under chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav to improve AI's operations.


The names of National Knowledge Commission chairman Sam Pitroda, Infosys mentor and chairman NR Narayana Murthy and TCS chairman and managing director S Ramadorai are doing the rounds for appointment as independent directors of the airline.


Hectic activity is on at the national carrier's headquarters for preparing a comprehensive financial restructuring plan, which is to be submitted to the government in the next few weeks. AI's losses mounted to about Rs50 billion in 2008-09.

The plan would be vetted by a high-level committee headed by cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, which would be monitoring each month the steps taken by the airline to cut cost and enhance revenue generation.


As part of the restructuring strategy, a separate plan is being prepared for the return of Air India's leased aircraft at the earliest. A team has been set up to work on the lease contracts, the sources said.

This is apart from the ongoing review of its fleet acquisition plan which is likely to be "redrawn", they said.

Air India has till date inducted 49 planes out of its order for 111 aircraft at an estimated cost of Rs100 billion.

As part of its plans, Air India will close its offices at overseas locations where it does not operate.


Heads of strategic units concerning cargo, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and other related businesses are also finalising similar plan. Action plans are being drawn up for determining the deliverables in the next six months, 12 months and 18 months.


Plans for leveraging of Air India's properties and real estate assets are also being prepared, they said.

Regarding 'partial disinvestment' of the state-owned carrier, the sources said this would happen only after the company full turnaround, which is being targeted in the next 24 months.


The airline could issue an initial public offer when its financial position as well as the stock market stabilised, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said.


Besides high fuel prices, a major reason for Air India's financial crunch since the past few years. Its borrowings have risen steeply from Rs65.5 billion in November 2007 to Rs152.4 billion last month largely due to debt servicing for purchase of new aircraft. -Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]


-- Sucheta Dalal