Campbell Wilson is CEO and managing director of Air India
Tata Sons on Thursday announced the appointment of Campbell Wilson as the chief executive officer (CEO) and managing director of Air India.
The Air India board approved the appointment of Wilson subject to requisite regulatory approvals.
The appointment of another expat CEO comes after Mehmet Ilker Ayci, the former chairman of Turkish Airlines, turned down a similar offer after an RSS-backed outfit opposed his appointment for his previous political links.
Wilson, 50, has 26 years of experience across both full service and low-cost airlines. He is the CEO of Scoot, the wholly owned low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines.
Tata Sons completed its purchase of Air India in January and has been searching for an executive to lead a major turnaround plan.
Singapore Airlines is Tata Sons’ joint venture partner in a separate Indian airline, Vistara, but did not join the bid for Air India. Analysts said Wilson’s appointment made a future merger between Air India and Vistara more likely.
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.
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.
“He brings a rare combination of low-cost carrier and full-service carrier experience,” Singapore-based independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie said.
“It’s a very challenging position, but I can't think of anyone else better to take this on.”
Wilson said in a statement that Air India aimed to become one of the best airlines in the world. “I am excited to join Air India and Tata colleagues in the mission of realising that ambition,” he said.