Tata group-owned Air India is accelerating its ongoing transformation programme to ensure consumer visibility for improvements made on ground as the once state-owned airline strives to overcome its legacy issues of outdated aircraft, inefficient service and flight delays.
The latest hiring of Klaus Goersch as chief operations officer is expected to give it a significant boost to the plan, Campbell Wilson, MD, Air India, told ET.
Goersch, who will oversee flight operations, engineering, and cabin crew, has significant global experience with stints in airlines such as British Airways and Air Canada.
“Air India has witnessed significant transformation in the first year of our multi-year transformation initiative, Vihaan.AI and in this context, induction of senior talent from India and beyond brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that is valuable to the ongoing transformation at Air India. We are also progressing well towards building a new organisational culture,” Wilson said.
The airline continues to face criticism over its aircraft quality, service issues and system delays, which are being overhauled gradually, officials close to the development said.
“Our employees on ground are working hard on ground to improve operations, systems and processes. Culture will change gradually and get efficient and the new aircraft coming in will make a visible difference to consumers,” an Air India official said.
Air India is also inducting new planes and the new COO Goersch, who will take charge on Monday, has been mandated to quickly transform operations and inject efficiency on ground before the airline moves on to its next challenge of integrating Vistara.
Simultaneously, JuLi Ng, a former head of inflight services at Scoot – the low-cost arm of Singapore Airlines – has replaced Sandeep Verma as divisional vice-president of cabin crew. Rod Butchers, an independent consultant, is working with the operations control centre at Delhi Airport to improve the airline’s on-time performance.
The flight operations department is the last department to undergo the group’s HR revamp, following commercial and finance. The structural changes have been made with a view to manage succession, streamlining the organisation as also optimising talent from within the Tata airline group. The contemporary organisation structure has been designed to provide clarity on lines of accountability, promote efficiency, cross-functional collaboration and ample growth and advancement of our employees, said Wilson.
“Comparatively it was tougher to bring in new people in flight operations as it is a critical part and people with experience in domestic and international airline functioning can only handle these. So, it took some time to make the changes,” another senior official said.
Air India ‘s organisational culture change will take time since it still carries some legacy mindset, which is being changed with the hiring of new employees, said officials. The Tata group is also tapping the expertise and experience of many of its top talent who have retired from either Air Asia or Air India to help set up its airline training academy and proposed integration with Vistara.
Meanwhile, Air India has deployed its latest Boeing 777 jetliners to all three of its US destinations: New York JFK, Newark Liberty, and San Francisco. The airline has six new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in its fleet, which are being used to upgrade its existing flights to the US.