Somon Air gets new leader

Somon Air is one of the few carriers in the CIS to be run by an expat top-executive The Tajik airline is one of the few carriers in the CIS to be run by an expat top-executive (Photo by Sergey Sergeyev / Russian Aviation Insider)

Somon Air has got a new top-manager—Tom Hallam replaced Eugenio Jaime Manzano as general director of the private Tajik carrier, and became the third foreign citizen to run the airline.

The reason for changing the top-manager remains unknown. Somon Air’s press-secretary Timur Bandishoyev called the occurrence “a surprise.” “I don’t know what to say in regards to why the board decided to appoint a new general director,” he admitted to Russian Aviation Insider.

According to open sources, Tom Hallam worked as senior flight operations manager for Air Astana from 2007 to 2011, and as a flight instructor for Delta Global Services (a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines) from 2011 until last year, when he became Somon Air’s flight manager. At the same time, from 2012 to 2015 he served as authorized inspector of the Civil Aviation Department of Aruba.

Bandishoyev characterized Hallam as “an experienced, competent manager, respected by the international aviation community.” “We are confident that he will lead the airline in the right way of further development towards international level of operations,” he said.

The European Footprint

Somon Air launched regular service in 2008 and was initially run by local specialists. The first expat to occupy the top-manager position was ex-Air Astana leader Lloyd Paxton. During his term at the helm of the airline from 2012 to May 2015, he concentrated on improving Somon Air’s operational performance. In particular, he started working towards securing the carrier’s membership in the IATA through the IOSA operational audit and improved distribution by joining the IATA Clearing House and BSP. He also insured better flight punctuality through improving the fleet’s technical availability rate, and enhanced passenger experience through higher standards of service. In general, the entire structure underwent scrupulous revision for reduction of any overlapping functions.

Paxton’s successor Eugenio Jaime Manzano, who had served as Somon Air’s vice-president for operations in Europe for five years, received Boeing’s Performance Excellence award, after Somon Air’s fleet of Boeing 737-800/900s flew 440 days without technical delays. Other achievements included the opening of three new routes and the finalization of the IOSA process.

Further Prospects

According to Timur Bandishoyev, Somon Air won’t limit itself to the existing fleet of six aircraft and is looking for expansion opportunities. “We want to continue developing, open new long-haul routes and increase frequencies. For this, we’ll need more aircraft and more capacity. IATA membership is still our desired goal. We’ve got many plans, but they won’t happen overnight. We’re confident that Mr Hallam will get on these plans starting on day one.”

Last year Somon Air carried 477,000 passengers, down 16% YOY, but up 78% to 2010 traffic. It is currently Tajikistan’s number one carrier in terms of traffic, operating two Boeing 737-300s, two Boeing 737-800s and two 737-900s.

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