After an unpleasant experience with an outsider, Air India has appointed S Chandrakumar, an old timer, as the chief operating officer of Air India Express, the low-cost international subsidiary of the government carrier.
Pawan Arora, who was hired from low-cost carrier IndiGo at an annual package of Rs 1.2 crore, was asked to leave last week.
Chandrakumar has been with the airline for 30 years and worked in several departments. Before being deputed to AI Express as the corporate communications head, he was the general manager of corporate communications in Delhi.
Arora’s appointment was embroiled in controversy after details of his removal from a position of test pilot by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) surfaced. The civil aviation ministry had then asked the AI board to reconsider the appointment. Questions had also been raised about non-renewal of Arora’s flight instructor licence.
Arora joined the airline in October and his appointment was cancelled in a board meeting a month later. In the meeting, both independent and government directors had asked the management to cancel Arora’s appointment. The management did not and even defied a letter from the ministry asking it to remove Arora.
The ministry had issued fresh and final orders asking the management to remove Arora.
Ravi meets Pranab, asks for equity infusion
Claiming that around 65 per cent of Air India's turnaround plan has already been implemented, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi today met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and asked for a one-time equity infusion in the airline.
“We informed him that whatever decision had been taken, we have implemented almost 65 per cent of it, and something more is to be implemented,” Ravi told reporters after the hour-long meeting.
Sources in the government said the minister asked for a one-time equity infusion of Rs 2,500 crore, along with government guarantees for loans taken for aircraft acquisition and restructuring of working capital loans.
Air India had demanded that the government give it a one-time infusion of Rs 15,000 crore and bail it out of its debt burden.
Talking about government guarantees on the hefty loans Air India has taken to fund its fleet acquisition, Ravi said, “The guarantee has to come....because the Reserve Bank of India, the State Bank of India need some kind of assurance. All financial matters were discussed.” He said certain clarifications had been sought by the finance ministry officials and the replies would be sent soon so that a final decision on the matter could be taken at the earliest.
Responding to queries, Ravi said the estimated amount had been provided by Deloitte, the consultancy firm appointed by Air India for its turnaround plan. “We want more money if we can get more.” On being asked about Mukherjee's response, Ravi said the government would help Air India but, the assistance would come “depending on how we are progressing step by step. So, it means we have to earn more money and gradually reach the break-even point.”
Air India has, so far, received a total of Rs 2,000 crore as equity in two tranches and reports say the Civil Aviation Ministry has sought another Rs 2,000 crore in the next financial year.