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CBI inquiry hits AirAsia India plan to appoint CEO

Mumbai | Published: June 5, 2018 4:32:13 AM

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) inquiry into AirAsia India, for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get permission to fly on international routes, seems to have affected the carrier’s plan to appoint a full-fledged CEO to oversee its operations.

CBI, CBI inquiry, AirAsia India, AirAsia to appoint CEOThe company’s CEO, Amar Abrol, who had resigned in early May relinquished office at the end of the month.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) inquiry into AirAsia India, for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get permission to fly on international routes, seems to have affected the carrier’s plan to appoint a full-fledged CEO to oversee its operations. Another casualty of the ongoing investigation could be its plan to fly overseas later this year or early next year.

The company’s CEO, Amar Abrol, who had resigned in early May relinquished office at the end of the month. Sources said the airline is now going to appoint Manish Uppal, director (flight operations) as an interim CEO because it plans to appoint a full-fledged CEO — Eash Sundaram, currently chief digital and technology officer at the American carrier, JetBlue — may not work out as it requires security clearance from the government as he is an expat.

Though a formal announcement of Sundaram’s name was not made, sources said he had pipped another contender for the post — Jet Airways’ former executive KG Vishwanath — but a formal approval from the board has not taken place so far. Sources said Uppal has been asked to continue as CEO till July-end.
AirAsia India, which was looking to fly to international markets later this year or beginning of 2019, may now have to hang up such plans till it is able to get out of the mess. The policy to fly on overseas routes was changed by the NDA government by doing away with mandatory five years of operations but carriers need to have 20 aircraft in their fleet. AirAsia currently has 18.

The charge against AirAsia, its global CEO Tony Fernandes, its non-executive director R Venkataramanan and other officials is that they allegedly tried to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get permission to fly on international routes. At that time (during the time of UPA government when AirAsia entered the market) to fly overseas a carrier needed to complete five years of operations along with having 20 aircraft.

AirAsia’s Fernandes has been summoned by the CBI on June 6 in regard to the investigation process. It is not clear as yet whether he would be coming. When contacted an AirAsia India spokesperson said, “As a matter of policy we do not comment on speculation.” Uppal, who is currently heading the flight operations at AAI is a trained commercial pilot with over 14 years of experience in training fleet and managing operations. He was with budget airline IndiGo till 2013 and appointed the director of flight operations in 2016.

By: Manisha Singhal

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