Railway officer Ashwani Lohani to be AI's next CMD

Ashwani Lohani, a Railway Service officer who is now the chief of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC), was appointed as CMD of Air India, the state-run carrier whose combined losses currently stood at Rs 30,000 crore

New Delhi: In a surprise choice, Ashwani Lohani, a Railway Service officer who is now the chief of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC), was on Thursday appointed as CMD of Air India, the state-run carrier whose combined losses currently stood at Rs 30,000 crore.

An engineer-turned-bureaucrat, Lohani, who is the first Railway Service officer to be made the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, will succeed Rohit Nandan, a 1982 batch UP cadre IAS officer.

The appointment of Lohani as AI chief for a three-year period from the day he takes charge came at a time when the airline is surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore bailout package for 10 years approved in April 2012 under a Turn Around Plan/Financial Restructuring Plan.

The Appointments Committee of Cabinet approved the appointment of Lohani, a 1980 batch Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME) officer, as CMD, Air India Ltd for a tenure of three years, an order issued by Department of Personnel and Training said today.

Lohani is presently working as Managing Director of MPTDC in Bhopal. Nandan was appointed to the post in August 2011 for a three-year period. He was, however, given extension which is ending this month.

Sources said Lohani is expected to take charge of the AI CMD only in the third week of September and that Nandan may be asked to continue till that time. Air India reported a net loss of Rs 5,547.47 crore in 2014-15 on the back of total revenues of Rs 19,781 crore.

While the loss was wider than the previous fiscal, the airline managed to trim it from the 2012-13 figure of Rs 7,559.74 crore. The national carrier's financial performance during 2014-15 fell well short of its internal estimates, which had pegged the net loss at Rs 4,346 crore and revenues around Rs 21,290 crore.

Besides, the carrier is sitting on a debt pile of Rs 50,000 crore and its combined losses stand at a whopping Rs 30,000 crore. However, following its failure to meet certain parameters, which are stipulated in the TAP, the Government had in June asked the SBI Capital Markets to review the airline's TAP and submit the report within three months.

A qualified mechanical engineer, Lohani is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.

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