The double life of Ilker Ayci, Tatas’ pick to head Air India

Ilker Ayci is more than the successful former chairman of Turkish Airlines. He has a side to him that should set off alarm bells.

Was Mehmet Ilker Ayci a star chairman who took Turkish Airlines to new heights or a dictatorial leader who loved to divide and rule? 

Two extreme views emerged after we spoke to executives in India and Turkey to understand the person who in April is set to take over as the chief executive officer and managing director of Air India. That’s the most important aviation job in India right now, after the airline changed owners from the government to the Tatas. On 14 February, Tata Sons had named Ayci, who stepped down as chairman of Turkish Airlines on 27 January, as the new Air India chief. 

The divergent views are not without basis. In one life, Ayci is seen as this super successful airline head. In the other, he is a hardliner with conservative views and scant respect for employee relations. 

Perhaps the first is what got him the Tata job.

Sources said that multiple senior executives from across the Tata group were involved in the search. Its


Prince M. Thomas

Prince leads coverage for our Business section at The Morning Context. A fascination with the written word has taken Prince to some of the leading newsrooms across the country, including The Economic Times, Dow Jones Newswires, Forbes India and Moneycontrol. In a career spanning over 18 years, Prince has led teams, managed pages, projects and special editions, and has authored The Consolidators, published by Penguin Random House in 2017.

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