Air India may have COO in place by January

New Delhi: Beleaguered Air India is likely to have a new chief operating officer (COO) in place by January next year, a person ideally from the domestic industry, according to a top executive. It will also be looking at appointing a COO for its low-cost arm, Air India Express.

The last time state-owned Air India had a COO in place was in February this year when expatriate Gustav Baldauf resigned following differences with the government.

"We are looking for professionals from the Indian aviation industry this time and would not prefer to have a foreign national, mainly because you can't pay them anything below Rs3 crore," Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan said, adding that the new appointment would happen within four months.

The carrier is burdened with debts of Rs43,000 crore and accumulated losses of over Rs13,000 crore. Thelast tie mot posted any profits at all was in 2007.

"We expect an Indian professional to understand both the milieu and the market better," Nandan said.

Low-cost carrier IndiGo, with a fleet of 39 aircraft, has overtaken  the state-owned behemoth Maharaja with a fleet-size of 124 aircraft in market share. The carrier's market share dwindled to a low of 13.2% in May this year, but has since recovered somewhat to 16.5% in July and over 17% in August.