Nandan gets 3 months; AI to focus on turnaround

Refusing Air India Chairman Rohit Nandan’s request for a longer extension, government has asked the carrier to focus on revival plan.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju gave a list of suggestions to the carrier, asking it to fill up the seats, ensure on-time performance and rationalise manpower.

Nandan, an UP cadre IAS officer whose term ended last Monday, has been awarded a three-month extension despite the Ministry’s request that he be given two more years to oversee the turnaround plan.

Sources said the decision signals the government’s intention to replace Nandan. Though Raju was reportedly in favour of Nandan’s extension, Prime Minister Modi did not prefer the IAS officer and has different plans for the carrier.

Raju has recently given a set of instructions to Air India to ensure that the national carrier does not lose its focus on turnaround plan. He professed not to have enemity towards public sector companies like Air India, but said they have a role to play.

Sources said Raju asked the carrier to maintain at least a 90-per cent on-time performance and wanted flight delays beyond 30 minutes to be reported to him directly.

He has also asked Air India to fill up seats that otherwise go empty through intervention, including discounted fares. The minister also asked for a report on its route-wise profitability to find out the areas where the carrier needs focus.  The minister also asked the airline to work on improving cabin cleanliness, hygiene, standard of food served on board and quality of in-flight entertainment.

The instructions come at a time when Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines are preparing to launch their full-service carrier Vistara (as a joint venture) in October, which would directly compete with Air India.

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