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Former Turkish Airlines boss not to lead Air India: owners

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Former Turkish Airlines boss İlker Aycı will not take the helm at newly privatized Air India after all, despite being named the airline’s CEO last month, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Tata group on Tuesday.

Aycı — who oversaw extensive cost-cutting at Turkish Airlines — was chosen as the debt-ridden carrier’s first foreign CEO in mid-February after the Tata group bought it back from the government following 69 years of state ownership.

But a Hindu nationalist group with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party criticized his appointment over his connections to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling on the government to block it.

India and Turkey’s relationship has been strained in recent years over Erdogan’s criticism of New Delhi’s rule in Indian-administered Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority area.

“I can confirm that Aycı will not be taking up the post,” a spokesperson for tea-to-steel conglomerate Tata told AFP, without commenting further.

In a written statement to Turkish media, Aycı reportedly stated that he had been “closely following the efforts to give another meaning to my appointment,” without providing details.

He added that it was “not appropriate to take this position as long as these debates are ongoing” and that he had come to the decision after “long and detailed consideration” and following discussions with Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran.

Aycı, 51, led Turkish Airlines from 2015 to January 2022 and oversaw its return to profitability last year following the coronavirus pandemic.

He was an advisor to Erdoğan in 1994, and the Turkish president acted as a witness at Aycı’s wedding in 2018.

The Tata group now operates four airlines in India and has been looking to impose wholesale change at the top of Air India as it seeks to revive the ailing carrier.

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