Fantastic Five: Meet Top Women Leaders of Air India Express

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As the world marked International Women’s Day 2021, we celebrated the achievements and contributions of our top female leaders, who, with their sheer determination and hard work, helped the Airline catapult to greater heights.

Five important departments viz., Commercial, Finance, Company Secretariat, Flight Dispatch and Training, are captained by women professionals at Air India Express.

In the photograph, from left to right are Ms. Tara Ashok Naidu, Chief of Commercial, Ms Leena S Sharma- Chief Manager Flight Dispatch, Ms. Aditi A. Khandekar – Company Secretary, Ms. Garrimella Swarna Sunanda – Chief Manager Training and Ms. Renjita Kumari- Chief of Finance.

Ms. Tara Ashok Naidu, Chief of Commercial

The Commercial Department is the backbone of any airline. It has multiple responsibilities across multiple functional areas and plays a pivotal role in successfully running the carrier.

Ms. Tara Ashok Naidu, leading from the front, made this task much easier for all of us. Ms. Tara started her aviation career at Air India in 1987 as a Management Trainee in the Commercial Department. She handled several important roles at Air India before joining Air India Express as Chief of Commercial in August 2019. She had served as the Chief of Commercial at Air India Express earlier too, between 2008 and 2014.

At IX, her responsibilities include Revenue Management, Pricing, Network Planning, Scheduling, Sales & Marketing, Budgeting and forecasting demand, System Administration, Contact Centre monitoring, Customer Support and Ancillaries with the main objective of optimising the Airline Revenue.

According to Ms. Tara, women need to be aware of their strengths and opportunities to take their career to greater heights.

Ms. Aditi A. Khandekar – Company Secretary

What is common between a yoga practitioner and a Company Secretary? Both of them are disciplined, well-organized individuals with never-ending enthusiasm towards their professions. Ms. Aditi Khandekar falls into this category of professionals, whose areas of interest seem like poles apart, but in reality, one forms the ground for another to flourish.


Ms. Aditi, our Company Secretary, was part of the founding team of Air India Express, which was started in 2005. A law graduate, Ms. Aditi joined Air India in February 1995. She has been looking after the functions of Company Secretary at Air India Charters Ltd since 1996.

As a member of the secretarial department team in Air India, Ms Aditi was, inter alia, actively involved in the merger between Air India Ltd & Indian Airlines Ltd. She is also actively involved in identifying & monitoring projects for CSR spend of the Company.

A yoga enthusiast and a nature lover, Ms Aditi is keen to bring positive changes in society and believes that women have a bigger role to play in realizing it.

Ms.Ranjita Kumari- Chief of Finance

Ms. Ranjita Kumari is among a handful of women who made it to the top in the finance sector. The first female Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Air India Express, Ms. Ranjita is a strong leader who guides and motivates her team of professionals to identify their strengths and achieve maximum productivity.

A Chartered Accountant with over 21 years of experience, Ranjita Kumari has proved her mettle across diverse industry verticals including manufacturing, textiles, retail, real estate and media before entering the aviation sector, which she describes as the most challenging of all.

She believes in creating a meaningful work-life balance, besides hard and intelligent work. For that reason, all her endeavours are tilted towards promoting the same in the organization.

Ms Leena S Sharma- Chief Manager Flight Dispatch

“If you have the will, nothing can stop you from achieving your dream.” This is not a random motivational quote, but a statement from a woman aviation professional who proved it true with her successful career. Ms. Sharma fearlessly walked into the then male bastion of an airline called Flight Dispatch.

Ms Leena, an aviation enthusiast, joined Air India’s Administrative Cadre in 1978 after rejecting a job offer in the Reserve Bank of India. She worked in the Training Department of Air India for 12 years. Soon, the 9 to 5 job got her restless and she applied for the post of Operations Assistant in the Flight Dispatch section, a profession where no woman had ventured before. She took it as a challenge to work with male colleagues 24×7.

A Flight Dispatcher has to take care of multiple and varied tasks from preparation of a flight, to crew planning or monitoring the flight. After retiring from the services of Air India in 2016, she joined Air India Express as Chief Manager-Flight Dispatch.

Ms. Garrimella Swarna Sunanda – Chief Manager Training

A Karate expert who loves to dance her heart out! Take a look at the impressive career of our Chief Manager, Training, Lt Cdr Garrimella Swarna Sunanda, you’ll easily understand why women are unstoppable and cannot be stereotyped.

A Naval Officer with more than 17 years of diverse experience in Military and Civil Aviation Training, Ms Sunanda was accredited with the title of Iron Lady during her Naval Training. She is also a qualified Black Belt Karate Dan III instructor. And still, there is another side of her, who enjoys creative pursuits like singing, dancing and fictional writing. 

As the Chief Manager, Training, Ms. Sunanda implements tailor-made training programmes for Air India Express’ cockpit crew to boost their performance and efficiency. Joining Air India Express in 2015, she was instrumental in setting up and integrating the processes of the Training Department at the Airline. Prior to this, Ms. Sunanda served as an Air Traffic Control Officer with the Indian Navy.

She was awarded Commendation by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command for exhibiting the presence of mind and crisis management skills while averting a major accident involving Paramount Airways aircraft at Visakhapatnam in 2007.

Indian aviation industry offers multiple opportunities for women. The industry is inviting services of female employees into their core operations and they are playing a greater role from cabin to cockpit.

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