Vinod Kannan takes over as CEO of Vistara

Vistara, the joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines for Indian aviation, saw a change in the top leadership today.

Vinod Kannan, who was the Chief Commercial Officer of Vistara, succeeded Leslie Thng effective January 1, 2022. He joined the airline in June 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer and in 2020, became the Chief Commercial Officer, heading, 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.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to carry forward the momentum that Mr Leslie Thng has built during his time at Vistara. I look forward to continue strengthening Vistara’s position, in both – Domestic and International markets, along with such a capable and resilient team”, said Mr Vinod Kannan.

Vinod Kannan, Chief Executive Officer, Vistara

Deepak Rajawat, the new Chief Commercial Officer,  has been with Vistara since its inception and held leadership roles in the Corporate Planning and Finance functions. He was the Divisional Vice President & Head of Corporate Planning with the airline until 31 December 2021. In his new role, he will be spearheading a wide portfolio of Vistara’s strategic and commercial functions, including but not limited to pricing and revenue management, network planning, sales & distribution, partnerships & alliances, product development, in-flight services, marketing, branding and customer experience.

Leslie Thng, the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of Vistara, will take up a ‘senior’ role at Singapore Airlines. 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 these plans through fully, as 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, Deepak and the rest of the management team will undoubtedly have a long road ahead of him. There is still no clarity about the coexistence of the two full-service airlines in the Tata portfolio, with the takeover of Air India, which is expected to be completed in January 2022. Not just that, international operations have not taken off in the desired fashion, with the airline largely operating with their hands tied under the air-bubble arrangement where they are not able to offer true Vistara hospitality. Also, a lot of their Boeing 787 aircraft are stuck at the pre-delivery stage with an embargo on 787 deliveries placed by the US regulator of Boeing, the FAA, on account of structural issues detected on the plane. Even on the domestic front, the airline has tonnes of issues to solve on various fronts including profitability, and service delivery and pacifying loyal members who have seen their loyalty not being rewarded by the airline in return for their loyalty.

In the case of 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, it 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.

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 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.

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

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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