The Tata-owned Air India is targeting to be the carrier of choice for travelers across the world and compete with leading airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines, CEO & MD Campbell Wilson told.
“We want to appeal not just to the people of India but we want the world to see Air India in the same category as Emirates, Qatar Airways, or Singapore Airlines.
So, it’s not just about making it the choice of Indians, it’s about people from all parts of the world flying Air India by choice…”Wilson told the reporter in his 1st media interview since assuming charge. “Air India carries national pride and we want to represent India in a way, it wants to be represented on the international stage, “he stated.
Campbell Wilson, CEO & MD
The New Zealand-born 52-year-old Wilson is the 1st CEO of the privatized Air India. He joined the airline in May after working for more than twenty years at Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Scoot.
“I think it’s no secret that there’s a huge market between North America and India, also between greater Europe and India, Australasia, and Southeast Asia which is underserved,” Wilson stated.
“So those are the geographies that we’re going to target 1st. But with India’s geographic position and diaspora, and the manufacturing capacity arriving here, there is an opportunity to be connected far more,” he stated.
“In the 1st phase, we are addressing all legacy issues, secondly we are bringing in new systems, practices, and aircraft, upgrading skills of our people, and then in the 3rd phase, we will do a million things consistently right which transforms us from being very good to world-class,” Wilson stated. The airline will expand its fleet to increase network density and expand the footprint to new areas, he added.“Financial turnaround is a consequence of operational turnaround. While we have renegotiated a lot of contracts… much of the turnaround will come by improving the foundation.”— Campbell Wilson
Sources told Air India intends to boost its presence to 100 destinations from the current 50 while on the international front, it will aim to expand to 125 destinations from the recent 75. The airline intends to triple its capacity on US routes beyond Delhi and Mumbai and also add more flights to Europe and Australia.
Wilson indicated that the airline will rejig its network in a manner where it can carry travelers from neighboring nations using Indian airports as the hub. “In the course of flying to and from India, we can take people from Southeast Asia to the Middle East or from the Indian subcontinent to North America operating Indian airports as hubs in the same way that some of our neighbors do,” he told.
While he declined to provide a timeline for Air India’s financial turnaround, Wilson told that operational turnaround will lead to an increase in the top line. “Financial turnaround is a consequence of operational turnaround. While we have renegotiated a lot of contracts which has made us leaner, much of the turnaround will come by improving the foundation,” he told.
Listing the changes that have taken place since Air India has been privatized, Wilson said around 2.5 lakh cases totaling more than Rs 150 crore refund, which was pending since COVID, has been processed by the new owners.
The airline has also significantly improved its on-time performance (OTP), refurbished its menu and aircraft with new seats and cushions, and improved inflight entertainment.
In September, the airline had the best on-time performance among Indian airlines. “Air India has not been number one in OTP in any month, since 2014. So these are indications that the airline is making significant steps forward,” Wilson told.