Ashwani Lohani appointed as new Air India CMD

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AUG 21, 2015: Ashwani Lohani is appointed the new chairman and managing director (CMD) of state-run Air India for a period of three years. Lohani, currently the managing director of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, replaces Rohit Nandan whose three-year term ended last year and who was on a one-year extension till the government was able to find a new chief for Air India.

Lohani’s appointment was made public after the appointments committee of the cabinet at the central government had approved the choice of Lohani as the new CMD of Air India. Confirming his appointment, RN Choubey, secretary at the Ministry of Aviation, said, “A lot of thought went into choosing the AI chairman.” In fact, Choubey himself was brought in by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to restructure the aviation industry and to manage the state-run airline profitably.

Lohani has a tough task ahead at Air India. The national flag carrier is surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore government bailout. The airline, which had a total debt of Rs 40,000 crore as on 31 March, is expected to turn around only by 2018-19. In June, the ministry of civil aviation asked merchant banker SBI Capital Markets Ltd to review the turnaround plan of the loss-making airline in the backdrop of changes in the operating environment and increased competition.

Lohani’s appointment comes in as a surprise because he has so far been running departments in railways and tourism. An engineer-turned-bureaucrat, Lohani is the first Railway Service officer to be made the CMD of Air India. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. Besides, he is the founder member of the Indian Steam Railway Society and member of CII National Council on Tourism.

Lohani has also authored two books including one on management entitled ‘Winning at work against all odds’ published in January 2006, and the other a coffee table book ‘Smoking Beauties’ that came out in March 2004. In January 2006, Lohani also authored a comprehensive report on ‘Rail Heritage and Tourism’. He is also life member of Museums Associations of India and Institute of Rolling Stock Engineers.

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