Rajiv Bansal named Air India chief after Ashwani Lohani moved to Railway Board

Time & Us
Last Updated: August 25, 2017 at 2:57 am

New Delhi: In a day of dramatic developments, Rajiv Bansal has replaced Ashwani Lohani as the chairman and managing director (CMD) of Air India after the latter was appointed chairman of the Railway Board.

The tenure comes for three months and is likely to be extended.

Bansal, a 1988 batch IAS officer of Nagaland cadre is currently the additional secretary and financial advisor in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and the CMD’s job is an additional charge.

Bansal in his career so far has served at various positions including stints at ministry of heavy industries and electronics and IT, but his stint as director in the ministry of civil aviation will come most handy.

For Air India, the issue of disinvesting government’s stake to bring in a strategic investor is the top priority.

With a debt of Rs 50,000, Air India has been in the red for years. “The CMD’s position is of paramount importance as he has to manage the daily operations of an airline that has been hand-to-mouth for years,” said a government official, who did not wish to be named.

It was only recently that Air India failed timely disbursement of July salaries.

Air India, which is part of the 28-member international airlines group, Star Alliance, has 35 destinations in its overseas network across the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Gulf. The national carrier also has plans to add at least 7 more international destinations this year, including Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and Nairobi.

Turnaround specialist, as Lohani often referred to himself, leaves Air India with slightly better financials since he took the corner office in 2015. In 2016-17, Lohani managed to steer the airline towards a 10% increase in revenue and a 5% trimming of losses. But as Bansal takes over, the national carrier’s steady loss of market share to private players is a matter of concern.

Bansal’s biggest test will be to ensure that the Maharaja is readied for disinvestment without too much interference from unions.