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Leaders & Builders

They are a breed apart. Unique as individuals, yet united by uncommon ideals that see them consistently achieving growth and success through innovation.

Ajay Singh

Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet

Ajay Singh and SpiceJet are committed to linking more than 400 airports and communities across the country, bringing affordable air travel to citizens nationwide.

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Calin Rovinescu

President & CEO, Air Canada

Calin Rovinescu is reinventing the corporate world with his very own brand of smart leadership. He often describes his role as not only being the CEO, but often “Chief Cheerleading Officer.

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Jaime Bautista

President & COO, Philippine Airlines

Jaime “Jimmy” Bautista never thinks twice about putting family before business. But, as he points out, his Philippine Airlines is his family.

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Rickard Gustafson

CEO, Scandinavian Airlines

Rickard Gustafson is pushing Scandinavian Airlines to new heights in both service and efficiency as an innovative explorer of exciting possibilities and new frontiers.

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Robert Deluce

President & CEO, Porter Airlines

Build a better service at Porter Airlines, and watch customers and recognition come. More than a formula for success, it’s a code for Robert Deluce.

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Tewolde GebreMariam

Group CEO, Ethiopian Airlines

Tewolde GebreMariam's ambitious vision for both Ethiopian Airlines and Africa is supported by the people’s can-do mindset.

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Wu Longjiang

President, China Express Airlines

Wu Longjiang admits that he is as much a big brother or teacher to his China Express “students” as he is a management leader.

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Ajay Singh

Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet

Today, as a key partner in India’s Regional Connectivity Scheme, Ajay Singh and SpiceJet are leading protagonists in a plan to ultimately link more than 400 airports and communities across the country. Bringing affordable air travel to citizens nationwide is a network-building task of some magnitude, but as Ajay Singh sees it, one that has the potential to change life in India for everyone, forever.

  • 01

    Favourite country and culture outside of India:

    Italy

  • 02

    Also:

    President of the boxing federation of India

  • 03

    Appreciates:

    Doing things differently

  • 04

    Favourite thing about India:

    The Energy of its young men and women

  • 05

    Looking forward to:

    Launching Asia's first 90-seat Q400 series

  • 06

    Believes:

    Data is the new gold

  • 07

    Dislikes:

    Turbulence

  • 08

    Claims:

    Spicejet's cricket team is the best in corporate India

India

Ajay Singh

Beyond playing a leading role in India’s drive to create accessible and affordable air travel for its citizens everywhere, SpiceJet’s Ajay Singh possesses a visionary’s belief in just how empowering an asset this new freedom will become. Ajay Singh’s inspired airline leadership is fuelled in great part by a passionate longing to see the people of India flying more often, easily and affordably, whether it be for business, to visit family or purely for pleasure.

From witnessing first-hand as a government advisor the introduction of a less costly mobile phone service that was to transform everyday life across India, the SpiceJet founder and current CEO embarked on a journey to similarly revolutionize regional travel across India—an initiative now providing new opportunities for entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens alike.

Mr. Singh’s commitment to building a network that better serves all of India is unwavering. But uppermost in his mind is an energetic force of young men and women emerging from India’s 800 million people under 30. Already he sees the impact that more affordable and accessible air travel is having on these aspiring entrepreneurs, both in business performance and their everyday lives.

Calin Rovinescu

President & CEO, Air Canada

Disarmingly approachable and quick-witted, Calin Rovinescu, the award-winning head of Air Canada, has climbed to great heights. Literally. Mount Kilimanjaro, among others. As to scaling summits in the corporate world, his brand of smart leadership involves listening to and empowering those around him so that they become great leaders in their turn. He often describes his role as not only being the CEO, but often “Chief Cheerleading Officer.” Cheers to that.

  • 01

    Hobbies:

    Began climbing mountains in 1993

  • 02

    Greatly admires:

    Seeing our crews continuing to do their best in 40 below zero weather

  • 03

    Last major climb:

    Mount Rainier

  • 04

    Favorite thing about Air Canada:

    The enthusiasm and energy of its employees

  • 05

    Great pride:

    Seeing our stock price perform amongst the best in the country last year

  • 06

    On retiring:

    Plans to write a book entitled "Letters and emails to an airline CEO"

  • 07

    He's also:

    Currently chancellor of the university of Ottawa

  • 08

    Best cardio workout:

    Several trips up and down mount Royal's 260 steps in Montreal

Canada

Calin Rovinescu

Arriving in Canada as a five-year-old immigrant who spoke neither of the country’s official languages, Calin Rovinescu initially rose to become the managing partner of one of Canada’s largest law firms before overseeing Air Canada’s restructuring, and eventually being named its President and CEO. He has definite ideas about what constitutes “smart leadership.” Rovinescu’s childhood experience has influenced much of his thinking in his professional life. As he puts it, “Immigrants are fundamentally insecure because they don’t know where their next dollar is coming from. But they’re also very confident because they’ve had the courage to leave their homeland to start a new life in a new country. And it’s the combination of these two qualities that gives them their drive and their desire to achieve more.”

After an outstanding legal career, he moved to Air Canada at a time when the airline was beset with a host of problems and supervised its successful restructuring in 2004. His return to Air Canada in 2009 as President and CEO marked the start of a new era for the country’s first carrier—one in which he’s overseen the company’s rise to recognition as one of the finest airlines in the world. He intends to ensure this trend continues with the objective of being “Top 10 in everything we do around the world.”

And what are the keys to “smart leadership”? Principally, for Calin Rovinescu, the ability to listen to, encourage and empower those around him to become great leaders on their own. “We’ve fostered a number of leaders here,” he says, “who will make the future very promising for Air Canada long after I’m gone.” He sometimes thinks that his real role is not so much that of CEO as it is “Chief Cheerleading Officer.” One more “smart” observation.

Jaime Bautista

President & COO, Philippine Airlines

“Jimmy” Bautista never thinks twice about putting family before business. But, as he points out, his Philippine Airlines is family. The “Heart of the Filipino” carrier is home to both second- and third-generation company pilots, as well as many whose parents and grandparents worked there or still do. This all fits well with the leader’s mantra of “investing in time,” which is reflected in his airline’s surging on-time performance, an impressive watch collection, and most importantly, quality time with his wife and family.

  • 01

    Believes:

    That fate led him to be COO at PAL

  • 02

    Insists on:

    Quality time with family on saturdays and sundays

  • 03

    Looking forward to:

    Playing unvisited golf courses worldwide with his wife upon retirement

  • 04

    On the Q400:

    Love it's all-around island service advantages

  • 05

    Collects:

    Watches and some 50 other timepieces

  • 06

    Favourite generation:

    "Millennials, because they make me feel young. I'm a 'feel-ennial.'"

  • 07

    Dislikes:

    Sudden closures of airspace that threaten cancellations

  • 08

    Likes::

    Intercontinental teamwork that solves issues to get flights off time

Philippines

Jaime Bautista

Jaime Bautista would never call himself an ambitious man. Others might disagree, and with good reason. In his time at the helm of Philippine Airlines (PAL), he’s carried them to prominence as the country’s only full-service carrier. Now, under his guidance, the nation’s number-one airline joins only 40 others worldwide with a 4-star global rating—a first in the Philippines. But there’s no resting on laurels for Bautista. He and his team have their sights firmly set on that elusive fifth star.

PAL’s generational profile is equally unique. For 70 years, the entire organization has been a family affair. Even today’s Chief Pilot is the grandson of a former Chief Pilot. “Business is very important, but family is more important,” says Bautista, adding, “No amount of success can compensate for failure at home.” But then, he truly considers the airline as part of that home, and its people his close relatives. Time is Bautista’s next most prized asset. Good airlines run on it, and PAL’s boss knows that time’s arrow only flies one way. And so he gathers it, as a tribute perhaps, in the form of an impressive collection of watches that he’s built over the years.

From their family-centric focus to the practice of a company prayer, nobody questions the passion and belief of PAL’s people, or their leader. “Jimmy” Bautista is a man of the people, as intent on upholding Filipino values as he is committed to doubling the fleet and destinations during his tenure. The Philippines’ 7,100 islands and some 106 million people are eager for more connectivity. “Do I see myself as a network builder?” ponders Bautista, “Yes, I think so. We’re continuing to develop markets … allowing people to enjoy flying … and welcoming visitors to more of our country.” It would seem that time, an inspired family of employees, and an entire nation are very much on his side.

Rickard Gustafson

CEO, Scandinavian Airlines

If asked about his heroes, Rickard Gustafson would likely cite the SAS crews that pioneered commercial aviation’s first polar routes in the ’50s. These men and women were armed and trained for the “unlikely event” of a polar bear encounter. Possessing that same adventurous spirit that’s so much a part of every Scandinavian’s DNA, he’s pushing SAS to new heights in both service and efficiency as an innovative explorer of exciting possibilities and new frontiers.

  • 01

    In his downtime:

    Enjoys running, skiing, skating

  • 02

    Favourite little-known fact about Stockholm:

    The more than 20,000 islands just outside of the city

  • 03

    On the CRJ Series:

    '... Fits perfectly well with our strategic intent... the perfect aircraft to complement and fulfill that need.'

  • 04

    Favourite foreign city:

    San Francisco

  • 05

    Simple pleasure:

    Half an hour in the forest

  • 06

    First leadership role:

    Camp counsellor as a 15 year-old

  • 07

    Nature:

    Something we can't be without

  • 08

    Favourtie Sweedish icon:

    BJÖRN BORG,
    TENNIS PLAYER

Sweden

Rickard Gustafson

CEO Rickard Gustafson knows that savvy marketing, whether to passengers or stakeholders, is only ever as successful as the fulfilment of its promise. “I think the next generation of passengers and colleagues expects that we build business models that are futureproof,” he says, alluding to the sustainability, both economic and environmental, that is part of his mission and a regional obsession.

The success of this 71-year-young airline is deeply rooted in its pioneering heritage, newly inspired under this leader’s keen supervision. Among its top assets is an unparalleled ability to innovate, spearheaded by the SAS Lab and enthusiastically supported by Gustafson. Countless breakthroughs have first seen the light of day here: the e-ticket, radical new uses of social media, and now, the exploration of chip implants—possibly the next big thing in passenger convenience. “Leaders foster innovation by creating environments for ideas,” Gustafson reminds us.

Ask him about heroes and Rickard Gustafson still names the SAS crews that established Europe’s first polar routes to California in the 1950s. These men and women were armed and trained to protect their Hollywood movie-star passengers in the “unlikely event” of a polar bear encounter. Outside of the rigours of maintaining an airline, Gustafson works up a sweat by running in the woods or sharing fitness workouts with his wife. Possessing the adventurer spirit that’s so much a part of every Scandinavian, he’s a future-minded explorer of possibilities, leading SAS to unprecedented heights in truly Nordic style.

Robert Deluce

President & CEO, Porter Airlines

Build a better service, and watch customers and recognition come. More than a formula for success, it’s a code by which Porter CEO and Canada’s Aviation Hall of Famer, Robert Deluce, has lived, led and grown throughout an impressively fruitful career. Today’s leader of this thriving regional carrier, having ranked among Condé Nast Traveler’s “Best Airlines in the World,” knows that you only get there with bold ideas, firm resolve, and the right people to make it all work.

  • 01

    Starts his day:

    Generally around 3:30 A.M.

  • 02

    Parallel between aviation and innovative industries:

    'The devil is in the detail, and you really do have to get that detail right'

  • 03

    Favourite Q400 traits:

    A Turboprop that behaves more like a jet, with short runway performance

  • 04

    Great memory:

    Growing up with 8 siblings in nothern Ontario

  • 05

    Hobbies:

    Flying a float plane up north with friends to fish

  • 06

    Best catch:

    25-28 pound lake trout

  • 07

    Top value:

    The golden rule, treating others as you would wish to be treated

  • 08

    Heroes:

    First his parents, then far too many canadian aviation pioneers to list here

Canada

Robert Deluce

Robert Deluce is one of Toronto’s earliest early birds, often getting back from a run and a gym session before most of the city has hit the snooze button for the first time. But firsts are something of a trademark for the Porter Airlines founder and CEO. First father and son inductees in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. First operator of a bio-fuelled passenger flight in Canada, with a Bombardier Q400 aircraft. First-ever winner of Skytrax’s award for North America’s Best Regional Airline.

Still very much the spirited Ontario boy who earned his wings in the family’s charter business up north, Bob—as friends and peers know him—exudes that same assuredness in all aspects of his duties today. “We’re a highly focused, short-haul, premium economy airline,” he maintains, adding, “We’ve reset the bar and there are others now trying to imitate what we do. It’s a compliment, I think.”

It’s hard to imagine any airline matching the business model, or indeed the slick airport infrastructure that Robert Deluce has built here with Toronto’s downtown Billy Bishop Airport. A gem of a hub, set just offshore on the city’s harbour front. Yet ironically, much of Bob’s inspiration comes from looking at airlines worldwide and seeing what the best practices are. “It’s good to know what’s going on out there. In some instances, we’re developing things that no one else has done before,” Robert beams. As tenacious as he is courageous, Deluce still takes piloting seriously and running an airline personally. A true status quo challenger, he was born to fly and is as committed as ever to connecting smaller communities and their people to each other and the world. “Flying Refined” is Porter’s promise and current signature. One might easily add: “Regional Redefined.”

Tewolde GebreMariam

Group CEO, Ethiopian Airlines

More than just creating an exemplary business model, Tewolde GebreMariam is also helping to transform a nation, and possibly an entire continent. His ambitious vision for both Ethiopian Airlines and Africa is supported by the people’s can-do mindset. In this new and more self-sufficient world, higher education is empowering a generation. Young men and women are becoming pilots, technicians and mechanics. Communities are connecting with one another and with the world. And Africans everywhere are invited and inspired—to unite, endeavour and achieve.

  • 01

    Starts the day:

    With a good coffee, preferably Ethiopian

  • 02

    Fan of the music of:

    Mahmoud Ahmed, an Ethiopan airlines ambassador

  • 03

    Cultural favourites:

    Kitfo, Ethiopian steak tartare, and ethiopian shoulder dancing

  • 04

    On the Q400:

    Efficient, economical, the right airplane for inter-africa connectivity

  • 05

    Modern heroes:

    Ex-ge boss Jack Welch, The late theoretician Peter Drucker

  • 06

    Top Workout:

    45 minutes running on a treadmill

  • 07

    Favourite Ethiopian Airlines destinations:

    ''New York, I love it, probably because I lived there.''

  • 08

    Likes European football:

    Fan of both Barcelona and Manchester united

Ethiopia

Tewolde GebreMariam

Ethiopian Airlines’ leader Tewolde GebreMariam is showing Africa and the world how it’s done. “Indigenous African airlines are going to grow and take their own rightful place in the continent,” he predicts. Most would agree that in his skillful hands, Ethiopian Airlines—“The New Spirit of Africa”—already has. In truth, the challenges to grow for his and other airlines on the continent are nothing short of monumental. Yet this hasn’t for one moment deterred or discouraged Tewolde and his team. The 34-year veteran of the airline he’s led since 2010 has a plan. Ambitiously titled Vision 2025, it’s a model for selfsufficiency and sustainability in an industry that’s already achieving results beyond any expectations, except perhaps Tewolde’s.

“I’m performance focused,” he admits. “I try to balance every action, but in the end, performance drives results, and results are what differentiates a company.” His results to date speak volumes, as do the many awards that both he and his 4-star airline have earned in recent years. Today, Ethiopian Airlines operates Africa's largest flight academy, MRO. This facility hires and trains personnel, of both genders, for every job in the business, including of course flight crews.

Some 214 female pilots and technicians currently serve with Ethiopian. It’s a source of great pride for the leader who’s made it his personal mission to create more opportunity and job parity for women at every level of the company. “We still have a long way to go,” he admits. But as he also knows, it’s a work in progress with a message for people and businesses Africa-wide. Education, equality and empowerment are key among the elements at play in Tewolde’s vision for aviation in the new Africa—but brilliant leadership deserves a mention too.

Wu Longjiang

President, China Express Airlines

President Wu Longjiang admits that he is as much a “big brother” or teacher to his China Express “students” as he is a management leader, and with good reason. As China’s first private regional airline, their learning curve and the airline’s innovative regional business model are showing the way for aviation growth nationwide. With the Chinese people’s passion for travel and their rapidly rising purchasing power, Wu sees the true magnitude of the opportunity. And his impassioned “student body” of employees shares that vision.

  • 01

    First flight:

    In a helicopter aged 15

  • 02

    Favourite spot in China:

    Napahai in Yunnan, where it feels like a paradise on earth

  • 03

    Favourite activity:

    Mountain climbing, for its physical and mental rewards

  • 04

    Chongqing must-see:

    Chongqing tree house with a superb view of the city

  • 05

    First piloting experience:

    30 minutes in a light plane over Montreal

  • 06

    Top view elsewhere:

    On a swiss mountain road watching hot-air balloons

  • 07

    More regularly:

    Walks 10,000 steps a day

  • 08

    On the CRJ900:

    Great operating costs; great feelings from passengers after the ride

China

Wu Longjiang

There’s something distinctly professorial about China Express President Wu Longjiang. A man who seems to balance the roles of leader and industry educator more capably than most. The head of China’s first private regional airline first believes that each member of the company needs to know “the organization’s organized mission,” adding, “I think this is the best way to stimulate passion.” Wu’s mission, and that of his young regional airline, has recently changed. No longer focused solely on growth by providing “small-to-big” connectivity to second-, third- and fourth-tier communities. Now China Express is intent on inviting major city dwellers to explore more of China’s regional wonders, cultural splendours and lifestyle opportunities. And with an eye on providing extended services to more of these experiences.

With over 100 routes established in 12 short years, Wu Longjiang and China Express are now charting new territory by leading the way in the end-to-end customer experience too. From a foundation of easy, worryfree booking, the airline’s vision now includes pre-flight passenger interactivity, and inflight Wi-Fi connectivity, both innovatively bonding the customer community. “The improvement of user value through innovation,” in Wu’s own words.

Wu Longjiang’s passion for flight has carried him a long way since he first took the controls of a small plane while studying in Montreal, Canada. “The inspiration to always go further comes from everywhere … our location, our environment, each other,” claims Wu, “but the young are eclectic … I gain a lot of inspiration from young people.” Still, the idea of this airline as a higherlearning institution persists. “You enter China Express … we create the very broadest sky for you in our field, give you fertile soil.” Wu’s empowering metaphor continues, “We let you be the master, become a dragon, and take off.” And it would seem that in this context, like most others, Wu Longjiang is very much leading by example.