Air India chairman and MD Arvind Jadhav could be on his way out. Sources said the government was seriously considering removing Jadhav and a search has already begun to find his successor.
Getting a replacement, however, would be tough as those approached till now have flatly refused to take up the top job due to the poor condition of the state-run carrier. Sources said even the Prime Minister's office was miffed with Jadhav's style of functioning.
The airline's independent directors had last November met a senior official in PMO and complained against Jadhav's style of functioning saying they had lost confidence in his leadership.
AI is surviving on government lifeline. It has a bleeding balance sheet with Rs 21,000 crore of working capital availed from different banks on which it pays an annual interest burden of Rs 2,400 crore. It has availed long term loans to the tune of Rs 22,000 crore, which has an annual interest liability of Rs 1,000 crore. Its accumulated losses are estimated to be more than Rs 20,000 crore.
"In basketball you have 'slam dunk'. The people who put Jadhav as CMD have played a 'scam dunk' on Air India. Instead of undertaking the job he was entrusted with, Jadhav has sent Air India to the undertakers," said aviation expert Mohan Ranganathan.
Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi could not be reached for comments as his phone was switched off.
Not only has AI suffered record losses under Jadhav's leadership but there has been employee unrest and labour problems since he took charge. There have been three strikes since Jadhav took over - the last was by pilots a few months back when the airline's domestic operations were almost shut down for ten days.