Air India unlikely to hire expats as COO

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SummaryIn its renewed attempt to hire a Chief Operating Officer, Air India’s top management has ruled out any expat or foreign candidates for the top job

In its renewed attempt to hire a Chief Operating Officer (COO), Air India’s top management has ruled out any expat or foreign candidates for the top job.

“We have received 15-16 applications for the post. We shall soon be examining these,” said a top airline executive. The job, which was advertised a few weeks ago, is likely to assume strategic importance as the shortlisted candidate would be expected to walk a tightrope in implementing the Cabinet-approved turnaround plan of the beleaguered carrier. The tenure of the COO would be two years, extendible by one year.

“A lot of talent is available within the company. Many senior officials have put in a number of years with the airline and gathered vast experience. We are not looking at expats for this job,” said the executive. The latest advertisement for the job, however, does not bar foreigners from applying for the post of COO. 

The airline’s experience with expats in key management positions had turned bitter when two of them were shunted out by the government.

In April 2010, the airline had hired an Austrian professional, Gustav Baldauf, as the COO at an annual package of Rs three crore. He was shown the door by the then civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi after an interview in February 2011 with The Indian Express where he complained about the government’s interference in the day-to-day running of the airline.

Two others who were hired along with Baldauf at top posts — Stephan Sukumar and Pawan Arora — were also sacked.

Their credentials were doubted and their pay packets criticised as extravagant.

This time, the airline has fixed the pay packet at Rs 60 lakh per annum excluding perks, a stark contrast to the Rs three crore package offered earlier.

In its latest advertisement, the airline has clearly stated that it is looking for a senior captain with managerial experience who would be responsible for flight safety, ground operations, flight training, quality management systems and integrated operations control centre, apart from executing the turnaround plan.

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