Aviation: It may be a while before the national airline has a new CEO.

Drukair’s former CEO, Tandin Jamso, who submitted his resignation to the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) board in March, left office at the end of last week.

The former CEO, who had more than two years remaining on his contract, resigned for personal reasons, according to DHI.

However, sources in the aviation industry have said other factors were at play.

A CEO’s term with the airline is usually for three years. The CEO is paid a basic pay of Nu 80,000 a month, along with 100 percent of basic pay contract allowance, and 25 percent performance based variable allowance.

While the vacancy for the post of CEO was announced in March a selection could not be made given a small number of local applicants, according to DHI director (Dr) Damber S Kharka.

As an interim measure, the next senior most person in Drukair will officiate as CEO until a selection is made.

(Dr) Damber S Kharka said that the company will most likely expand the eligibility pool to obtain more applications. “It’s quite difficult to get candidates given the requirements of the company,” he said. However, he added that the selection process will not be hurried to ensure that the right person is chosen.

There is a multi stage selection process. Once the former CEO submitted his resignation, the company first looked for candidates within the company, explained (Dr) Damber S Kharka. Unable to find a suitable candidate the post was advertised. The third stage is looking in the private sector and even the government for an “outstanding” candidate.

A few foreigners have also applied for the post. (Dr) Damber S Kharka said that the nomination committee will meet to decide on the foreign applicants. But he added that the preference is for local applicants.

The terms of reference for the post of Drukair CEO says that managing an airline is very demanding but that it has become “even more demanding with the arrival of competition.”

Private airline Tashi Air began competing with Drukair on its most lucrative route between Paro and Bangkok in 2013, increasing capacity by 100 percent on a daily basis.However, passenger demand grew by much less. Tashi Air also plans to compete with Drukair on the Delhi sector.

The challenges the new CEO will face include retaining market share, employees, ensuring financial viability, and leading a “major transformation program”, as per the terms of reference.

“Over the next few years, the focus of the role will be on initiating and then continuing a major transformation program at Drukair and successfully driving the upcoming change,” it is stated. “The CEO will build a thorough understanding of the need for change, including the potential effects on people before implementation, drawing on people with experience and skills who can support the transition process.”

Another major challenge, among others, will be on whether to continue operating domestically and compete with Tashi Air, which has been required to recommence domestic operations by November this year. Both airlines and the government are already in agreement that the domestic sector is not large enough for two airlines.

However, the government recently shot down a Drukair proposal to divide the domestic market and allow the national airline to monopolise the more lucrative Bumthang route. The government has informed the airline that it would also have to operate to Trashigang and the untested market of Gelephu if it wants to continue operating domestically.

By Gyalsten K Dorji