Controversies, continuing losses, corner room changes. For AirAsia India, 2018 was no different from 2017. Its Chief Executive Officer Amar Abrol left following a disciplinary enquiry and the company had a hard time finding his replacement. Its image took a nosedive when the Central Bureau of Investigation accused chairman Tony Fernandes of bribing government officials for regulatory approvals.
The upshot of all this was a change in the dynamics of the company’s management. Tata Sons, the majority shareholder, is now playing a far more active role. For the first time, the CEO has been handpicked by Bombay House. Sunil Bhaskaran, a former Tata Steel honcho with experience in dealing with corporate affairs (read: dealing with government and regulators) has been appointed CEO. To streamline operations, it has roped in Sanjay Kumar, a veteran in Indian aviation, as chief operating officer. The airline has started a re-evaluation of its route network and is cutting the number of destinations to which it flies. This marks a major change from the days when, it was alleged, the company’s day-to-day operations were handled from AirAsia headquarters in Malaysia.
The next year the airline will reach the 20-aircraft mark that will make it eligible to fly overseas. Simultaneously, it will have to strengthen its domestic market as it looks to break even. In the process, the çompany might see a restructuring of the shareholding as Tata Sons gains more control. In all, 2019 promises to be a transformational year for AirAsia India.