Aviation: With more than two years remaining on his contract, the national airline’s CEO, Tandin Jamso, submitted his resignation to the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) board, this week.

The DHI board has accepted his resignation and will be announcing the vacancy for the Drukair CEO today. Drukair is a state owned enterprise managed by the government’s investment arm.

Kuensel has learnt that the CEO’s contract was renewed in June last month and two and half years of the contract remain. A Drukair CEO’s term is usually three years.

DHI director (Dr) Damber S Kharka said that the CEO is resigning for personal reasons and that it was in no way connected to performance or recent issues concerning the national airline.

He added that as per the terms of agreement between DHI and Tandin Jamso, he will have to serve as CEO for the next three months after which the newly selected CEO will take over the airline.

CEO Tandin Jamso could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

With a monthly pay of more than Nu 100,000 a month, the position is undeniably a plush and coveted one.

And according to sources within the aviation industry, the resignation may not have been motivated simply by personal reasons and that recent issues concerning the airline are a factor.

There are new and pressing challenges for the airline’s CEO and for DHI, namely competing with private airline Tashi Air. This was displayed in recent months when Drukair raised a number of issues concerning the private airline.

A primary challenge will be competing for limited passengers on shared routes such as the lucrative Bangkok route. While capacity grew by 100 percent with Tashi Air introducing daily flights to Bangkok in 2013, passenger demand grew by less than 30 percent, as of October last year.

In addition, Tashi Air also competes with Drukair on the Kolkata and Kathmandu sectors, and plans to add another Drukair sector of New Delhi to its route later this year.

Drukair has recommended that instead of competing on the same routes, Tashi Air open new ones to other destinations like Kaula Lampur, and recently also strongly suggested that Tashi Air not consider adding Singapore to its network on grounds that demand on the route was not enough for two airlines to sustain.

It was also known in the aviation circles that Drukair was not happy about Tashi Air being let off the domestic air services hook in 2012 so that it could start its international services.

Tashi Air recently proposed that either airline be granted a monopoly of the domestic market. But Drukair countered with its own proposal of dividing the domestic market between the two airlines with Tashi Air operating to Gelephu and Yonphula, while the national airline operated to Bumthang.

Perhaps the most sensitive issue that emerged between the two competing airlines recently was on the issue of radio call signs. Drukair raised safety concerns that the call signs of the two airlines were too similar and could lead to an incident.

A radio call sign is used by an air traffic controller to identify a specific aircraft and provide it with instructions. The call sign for Drukair is Royal Bhutan and Bhutan Air for Tashi Air. Drukair reasoned that similarity in call signs could cause aircraft to follow instructions intended for the other aircraft, however, this argument was dismissed by both airline pilots and the Department of Civil Aviation recently.

The national airline also opposed Tashi Air’s use of the term Bhutan Airlines on its aircrafts on grounds that it has confused passengers. Bhutan Airlines is a Tashi Air subsidiary and the change occurred so that people abroad would be able to recognise where the airline is from, according to its former CEO.

Drukair CEO Tandin Jamso took over as CEO from the late Sangay Tenzin in 2008, who also resigned. The late Sangay Tenzin resigned on moral grounds after two of the airline’s pilots left for better opportunities abroad.

By Gyalsten K Dorji