Will he, won’t he?
Air India has a new hands-on operations head, but his terms are not yet set, putting a big if on whether he is in or not.
A month after the formal announcement that he would be the first Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Air India, Gustav Baldauf has arrived in India to negotiate his remuneration package and other details with the company’s top brass.
Baldauf was at the Air India (AI) headquarters at Nariman Point in Mumbai last week where he met senior airline officials including some board members. “During the weekend, he was in Delhi where he met the company’s Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Arvind Jadhav, who will be negotiating with Baldauf his package,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
Both sides are expected to bargain hard with Baldauf retaining the right to turn down the offer if it doesn’t suit him. Air India’s board will call the shots on the three-year contract extendable by another two years based on performance.
Baldauf, a veteran with 25 years in the aviation industry, was with Austrian Airlines as its executive vice-president (flight operations) and has also served AI’s national rival Jet Airways as its vice-president (flight operations). He was among three shortlisted from among 140 candidates. The others were Brock Friesen, COO of Air Malta, and George Reeleder, MD of Rapidair.
Sources connected with the development said Baldauf could be offered anywhere between 3 to 4 lakh euros (Rs. 1.74 – 2.32 crore) per annum. “This would be his cost-to-company, which would include perks such as a house and a car. Expat pilots flying our Boeing 777’s are paid between $ 10,000 – 11,000 (Rs 4.5 – 5 lakh) per month,” the official said.
Senior officials said it would be a setback for the airline if Baldauf turned down the offer.
“We can’t rule out that possibility but we are quite confident that both sides would reach an agreement. He is aware of the condition of the aviation sector in India in general and AI in particular. He is on his first familiarisation trip here since the announcement,” he said.
The Mumbai-based COO will be a part of the top team what would oversee key operations including engineering, commercial, operational aspects and will report directly to the chairman and managing director.
A committee chaired by the civil aviation secretary had interviewed three candidates to head the airline. While it has been run by bureaucrats for ages, rising competition and an intention to eventually list on the bourses is driving the urge to seek veteran professionals.