Indian carriers look west for management talent

India’s new and established low-cost carriers are busy hiring senior executives from the west to strengthen their management teams. One of the latest recruits is Bruce Ashby, a key architect of the US Airways survival and recovery effort, who will serve as chief executive of IndiGo, a low-fares start-up that will enter the domestic India market in the next six to nine months. The carrier ordered up to 100 Airbus A320s at the Paris air show in June.

IndiGo is a privately held unit of InterGlobe Enterprises, a major player in travel in the burgeoning India market. Other investors in the Delhi-based carrier are former US Airways president Rakesh Gangwal, now Worldspan’s chief executive, and Indigo Partners, the US equity venture backed by Bill Franke and David Bonderman, which also has stakes in European low-fares player Wizz Air and Singaporean budget carrier Tiger Airways.

Ashby, 44, has left US Airways ahead of its merger into America West Airlines from the post of executive vice-president marketing & planning. He is a nine-year veteran of the carrier, having managed the carrier’s Express operations, both owned and affiliated, and was central in its choice of the Embraer 170 regional jet as a major tool in its restructuring as a lower capacity, point-to-point carrier. Ashby, who also led recent labour negotiations with US Airways flight attendants and pilots, directed its integration into the Star Alliance. He is a Stanford University graduate in operations research. US Airways president Bruce Lakefield says Ashby “is a brilliant individual and has played a pivotal role in our reorganisation”.

Another start-up, Mumbai-based Kingfisher Airways, has hired Nigel Harwood to join its senior management team, most probably as chief operating officer. He was previously Airbus vice-president of sales for the Indian subcontinent. The move casts doubt over the future of the carrier’s current chief operating officer, Alex Wilcox, will be taking on a different role at Kingfisher, but could possibly leave to return to the USA. Wilcox joined Kingfisher last year from JetBlue Airways.

Elsewhere, Bangalore-based Air Deccan has turned to Ryanair’s Warwick Brady to bolster its operations team. The Irish carrier’s deputy director operations and head of its London Stansted Airport operation will join Air Deccan in September as chief operating officer. Fast-growing Air Deccan operates a fleet of ATR turboprops and A320s and is adding more of both types at a fast rate.

David Field Washington and Mark Pilling London

Source: Airline Business