© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Scoot, Jetstar and Singapore Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Singapore’s Changi Airport, Singapore January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su
By Jamie Freed and Chandini Monnappa
(Reuters) -Air India’s new owner Tata Sons said on Thursday it would appoint Campbell Wilson, the head of Singapore Airlines (OTC:)’ budget carrier Scoot, as its chief executive, subject to regulatory approvals.
New Zealand-born Wilson, 50, will step down from his current role on June 15, Singapore Airlines said.
Tata Sons completed its purchase of the previously state-owned Indian national carrier in January and has been searching for an executive to lead a major turnaround plan.
Air India, with its maharajah mascot, was once renowned for its lavishly decorated planes and stellar service championed by the airline’s founder, JRD Tata, India’s first commercial pilot.
But since the mid-2000s, its reputation has fallen as financial troubles have mounted.
Wilson’s appointment comes after Turkey’s Ilker Ayci decided not to take on the role of chief executive of Air India after the announcement of his appointment spurred opposition in India over his previous political links.
Air India Chairman N. Chandrasekaran said he was delighted to welcome Wilson, describing him as an industry veteran who had worked in key global markets across many functions.
Wilson, a long-time Singapore Airlines executive, was the founding CEO of Scoot and helped build a casual and irreverent culture at the budget carrier within a broader, more conservative organisation best known for its focus on the premium market.
“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,” Wilson said in a statement. “I am excited to join Air India and Tata colleagues in the mission of realising that ambition.”
Tata Sons said Air India’s board approved the appointment of Wilson, subject to the requisite regulatory approvals.
The appointment of a foreign national as CEO of an airline in India requires government clearance before it can proceed.
Wilson will be replaced at Scoot by Leslie Thng, 47, current senior vice president of sales and marketing, at Singapore Airlines. Thng once headed Vistara, an Indian airline owned jointly by Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines that is operated separately from Air India.