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Tata Group picks New Zealander Campbell Wilson as Air India's new CEO

New Zealand-born Campbell Wilson, 50, started his career with Singapore Airlines in 1996

Air India | Tata group | CEO

Aneesh Phadnis  |  Mumbai 

Campbell Wilson
Campbell Wilson

The on Thursday named another expat — Campbell Wilson — as chief executive officer and managing director of . Wilson, 50, has had long stints at Singapore Airlines and its no-frills subsidiary Scoot. Currently, he’s of Scoot.

Tatas’ joint venture with Singapore Airlines for Vistara may have helped the salt-to-software conglomerate narrow down on Wilson, according to people in the know.

The first choice for and MD had turned controversial even before he could join. Former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci declined to take up the job after political opposition to the appointment over his links with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ayci, who was advisor to Erdogan in 1994, was named Air India chief in February. The following month, he announced that he had declined the offer citing ‘’undesirable colour’’ to his appointment. This came soon after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had made a call to the government to block the appointment because of Turkey’s strained relations with India.

Even after the failed first attempt to get an expat leader for Air India, Tata Sons went ahead with its search for a new and MD from the international aviation circuit.

Wilson's last working day at Scoot is June 15 and he will be succeeded by Vistara’s former CEO Leslie Thng. The did not disclose Wilson’s joining date in Air India. Wilson, a New Zealander, has a background in sales and commercial roles and rose from the ranks of management trainee in Singapore Airlines.

In the pilot’s seat

  • New Zealand-born Campbell Wilson (pictured), 50, started his career with Singapore Airlines in 1996
  • Wilson was the founding CEO of Scoot, the low-cost airline of Singapore Airlines Group; will step down from his current role on June 15
  • Paring Air India’s debt, modernising its fleet, and rationalising routes are among key challenges for the incoming CEO
  • In March, former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci backed away from taking the top job at Air India after facing political opposition

When Singapore Airlines decided to set up its own low-cost long haul airline in 2011, to compete with the likes of AirAsiaX, Jetstar and Cebu Pacific, it chose Wilson, then a general manager in Japan, to head the carrier.

After initial challenges, Scoot under him expanded capacity and started new services including those to India. The airline also saw three years of operational profitability between 2015-2017. Wilson left Scoot to rejoin Singapore Airlines in 2016 but returned for a second stint in 2020.

Announcing his appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said Wilson is an industry veteran having worked in key global markets across market functions. “Air India would benefit from his added experience of having built an airline brand in Asia. I look forward to working with him in building a world class airline,” he said.

“Air India is at the cusp of an exciting journey to become one of the best airlines in the world, offering world class products and services with a distinct customer experience that reflects Indian warmth and hospitality. I am excited to join Air India and Tata colleagues in the mission of realising that ambition," Wilson said in a statement.

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First Published: Thu, May 12 2022. 18:27 IST