What turnaround? AI's independent directors up in arms

This does not bode well for the much-hyped turnaround plans of Air India. A little over six months after they were appointed, the five independent directors of the government-owned 'national carrier' have complained to the prime minister's office that AI is being seriously mismanaged.

Under their guns is managing director Arvind Jadhav and his coterie in the top management, in whom the independent directors say they have ''lost confidence''. They have also unanimously voiced their opposition to recent appointments made by the Air India board, particularly that of Capt Pawan Arora as the new chief operating officer of Air India Express, the airline's low cost international carrier.

The independent directors on Monday met the principal secretary to the prime minister, T K A Nair, for over two hours. No one from the airline management was present at the meeting.

The directors - Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra Group, Harsh Neotia, chairman of Ambuja Realty, Amit Mitra, secretary-general of FICCI, Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali H Major, and Yusuff Ali MA, managing director of Dubai-based industrial house Emke Group - made it clear to Nair that if AI's turnaround strategy is to work, Jadhav has to go.

They held him largely responsible for what they described as the failure of the management to deal with problems arising from the merger of Air India with domestic service Indian Airlines.

''The directors were particularly furious with Arora's appointment, saying they were misguided and kept in the dark about his previous record,'' an Air India executive said. They also complained about the "lackadaisical attitude" of top management to the slow progress of the turnaround plan.