CEO change at Vistara: Vinod Kannan to succeed Leslie Thng in January 2022

Vistara, the joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines for Indian aviation, is set to see a change in the organisation’s leadership in 2022.

Leslie Thng, the current Chief Executive Officer of Vistara, will take up a ‘senior’ role at Singapore Airlines on January 1, 2022. He arrived at Vistara in 2017 from Singapore Airlines and was charged with the international expansion of the airline. Launch the international operations and conceptualise the products that will fly abroad he did under his stewardship.  However, he could not see his vision through fully, and halfway there, Covid-19 struck, which first grounded airlines around the globe, and then had them all scurrying to resurrect their networks as aviation picked up the pieces. I’m sure he’d have loved to have seen regular flights to more places around the globe before he left, but that task would have to be done by his successor now.

Vinod Kannan, who is the Chief Commercial Officer of Vistara, will succeed Leslie Thng effective January 1, 2022. Vinod Kannan is currently Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer. He joined the airline in June 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer and now heads, amongst others, the Network Planning, Revenue Management, Marketing, Customer Experience and Cabin Service functions.

Vinod started his career with Singapore Airlines in 2001 and has held various senior positions in the airline. Before joining Vistara, he served as Chief Commercial Officer for Scoot, the budget airline subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. He has handled global network planning and has spent eight years running operations in Indonesia, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

Vinod will undoubtedly have a long road ahead of him, especially if Tata Sons’ bid to acquire Air India succeeds, as this would most likely result in the amalgamation of the two full-service airlines. What name would it bear remains to be seen as well? So, the new CEO will have a larger canvas to work with, but in what role remains to be seen, since the project to merge Vistara and Air India would be a long and tumulous process, and would need someone with a lot of change management experience to be at the helm. Not just that, Vinod will also have his hands full with the (re)launch or stabilisation of Vistara’s international network and the launch of a flight to the US, which should be a flagship route when it launches.

Leslie Thng, no doubt, is going to return to SQ at one of the most challenging times for the industry, and we look forward to hearing what role he takes on. But I am also looking at the Singapore Airlines group to see who will they send in as the CCO next, given they have traditionally deputed one of theirs to the CCO/CSO positions (apart from Sanjiv Kapoor, who came from another airline).

This will be an exciting time for Vinod as well as his team, as 2022 will see the (re)launch of Jet Airways, the launch of Akasa and also perhaps the return of the MAX to SpiceJet, which might help them cut their costs of operating flights, so there will be many more challengers to the same pie in the sky.

Bottomline

Vistara will see a CEO transition, with current CEO Leslie Thng moving on, back to the Singapore Airlines Group. Vinod Kannan, the current CCO will take his spot at the airline on January 1, 2022.

What do you think will be the priorities of the new CEO of Vistara as he comes in?


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