With the government having recently granted security clearance to Air India CEO and Managing Director Campbell Wilson, he can now go full throttle to restore the once-iconic airline to glory. Wilson (50), the former boss of Scoot, the low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, was appointed to the post in May.

With a Masters in Business Administration, Wilson joined Singapore Airlines in Auckland in 1996. In a career spanning over 26 years, he has worked in various fields such as distribution, e-commerce, merchandising, brand and marketing, and global sales. He has also worked in Canada, Hong Kong and Japan.

Welcoming the appointment of Wilson, a commentator and former Air India chief executive, Jitender Bhargava told Business Today that a lack of professional leadership had resulted in virtually no improvement at the national airline since the Tatas regained control six months ago.

“Realizing that the other two airline brands in this group, Vistara and AirAsia India, were largely managed by their partners, the focus was on appointing a professional to initiate action to exit Air India turbulent waters,” Bhargava said.

People often forget that the Tata Group’s association with aviation goes back decades and no one in the current management team had the requisite industry experience. The main challenge facing Wilson would therefore be to get a solid team of professionals on board.

“It is sincerely hoped that he can put together a team of experienced professionals as soon as the task ahead is herculean. It should not be overlooked that Air India over the past two decades has suffered tremendously even as the market has become intensely competitive,” Bhargava added.

So what key actions can we expect from Wilson since Air India’s unique problems are just too well known? In his 2013 book, The Descent of Air India, Bhargava identified several areas that need priority repair.

“It shouldn’t take Campbell long to identify weak spots. However, with time running out, he will need to put in place a team that will focus on introducing productive, customer-focused practices into the business as soon as possible. airline,” Bhargava said. .

Wilson reportedly actively tried to understand the airline’s structure and challenges for a few weeks while awaiting regulatory approval of his appointment.

Hit the ground running

Another industry analyst told BT that given the time constraint, Wilson will have to act quickly.

“Any new CEO would want to build his team but within his [Wilson’s] case even that is too much of a luxury. There is just no time… He will have to get down to business and that means Air Asia India and Air India Express will merge with Air India,” the analyst said on condition of anonymity. “It is possible that he will use outside help during the mergers. lead to difficult decisions for people. Once the merger is complete, he may be in a better position to appoint a more permanent team.”

It is clear that following the initial euphoria aroused by the long-awaited takeover of Air India by the Tata group, people were a little disillusioned.

“Barring some cosmetic changes, action on the systemic overhaul has yet to take place within the airline. This may have been put on hold due to the absence of a CEO,” said Bhargava.

Another area that will be of particular interest to Wilson is the early implementation of appropriate technologies and systems.

“The importance of systems cannot be stressed enough. Air India is a shell. It is practically a living skeleton that needs to be rehabilitated with IT systems in every area,” the analyst said.

Although the airline has implemented critical technologies such as the Passenger Service System (PSS), there is still a long way to go.

“The good thing is that Wilson will be familiar with both Amadeus and Navitaire, the systems used by Air India and AirAsia India respectively. Air India Express uses Radixx, whose contract expires in 2026. This prevents a full merger unless they decide to terminate Air India Express PSS contract early,” the analyst pointed out.

Leadership Skills Test

Meanwhile, industry veterans like Bhargava are quick to point out to be aware of other aspects of Wilson’s appointment.

“As the Managing Director of the low-cost subsidiary Scoot of Singapore Airlines, he is more familiar with the LCC model and he also has no experience of working in the Indian market which has its own particularities. So it will take more that the deep pockets of Tatas and its intention to transform the airline,” he said.

Add to that the fact that the country’s aviation sector has no record of a successful merger between two carriers. In the past, major mergers like Air Deccan-Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways-Air Sahara have failed. Similarly, the merger of Air India and government-controlled Indian Airlines has often been blamed for pushing the former deeper into the red. Incidentally, all three mergers took place in 2007.

“On the other hand, American industry is adept at inorganic growth through mergers. It might be prudent for Air India management to consider taking their help even though it will be an expensive proposition.” , said the analyst. “A merger between the Tata Group airlines is still very well positioned and comparatively much simpler as the majority of the pain has been absorbed in the Air India-Indian Airlines merger.”

The airline is also said to be in talks for the rental of 4 lakh square foot office space in the Vatika complex in Gurugram. This exercise aimed at synergizing the aeronautical assets of the Tata group under one roof will be supervised by Wilson.

Bhargava felt the coming months will put Wilson’s leadership skills to the test.

“What is expected most from the new CEO of Air India are inspiring leadership qualities and an ability to identify weaknesses and provide solutions,” Bhargava said. “As a staunch supporter of Air India, I wish Campbell every success in making the brand the airline of choice for passengers!”