Aloke Singh, the new chief executive officer of Air India Express, takes over the reins of the low-cost arm of Air India even as the government looks for a new owner for both the carriers.
While the success of the disinvestment is very much in the hands of the government, in Singh - who formally took over at the headquarters in Kochi on November 9 - the airline has now got a veteran who can further expand its wings. And that is because while Air India incurred a loss of Rs 4,600 crore in the last financial year, Air India Express returned its highest-ever net profit, at Rs 412 crore.
Though it will be an uphill task to match the numbers in the present financial year that has been disrupted by COVID-19, Singh will surely dip into his experience to further expand Air India Express' network.
"He is a veteran in network planning and revenue management, an expertise that helped him climb the ladders in Air India," said a senior executive from the industry who didn't want to be named.
Singh is a 25-year veteran of Air India, and that experience includes his stint in Indian Airlines. He left Air India in 2014 to join Oman Air, where he was Chief Officer Network Planning. Singh returned to India in 2016 to co-found OpenSky Resorts, and later joined aviation consultancy firm CAPA.
He now joins Air India Express on a three-year contract.
"Singh is known to have coined the term metro shuttle in 1999. Under this, he created a corridor of a few hours, both in the morning and evening, under which hourly departures were done from Mumbai and Delhi. He was among the first to spot the opportunity," said the executive quoted above.
A trying year
If the COVID-19 impact was not enough, an Air India Express flight was involved in the tragic crash in Kozhikode in August this year. Its investigation continues.
The airline, which operates short-haul international flights from India, though has made the most of the Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights to the Middle East, its biggest market. The airline, which has an all Boeing 737 fleet, largely operates from Kerala.
Not surprisingly, in his first communication to employees, Singh acknowledged the "challenging time for the industry and the airline." At the same time, giving comfort will be the airline's stellar performance. It has been reporting a net profit for five consecutive years.
That's a ripe cultivating ground for someone who excels in discovering newer ways to expand network.