Along with being bestowed the award, which is given to an airline CEO whose impact on the passenger experience exceeds the scope of their own airline, Calin Rovinescu will be delivering a keynote speech at APEX EXPO in Boston this year.

Calin has served as the president and chief executive officer of Air Canada since 2009. His previous roles with the airline include executive vice-president, Corporate Development and Strategy, and chief restructuring officer.

What does winning the APEX CEO Lifetime Achievement Award mean  to you?

It means the Air Canada team has made me look good over the last 10 years.

What kind of leader are you?

One who spends more time listening than instructing.

The award recognizes the span of your entire career, but would you say there was a defining moment?

The burning platform on April 1, 2009. My first day on the job as CEO was a defining moment for me; Air Canada was facing major liquidity, labor and commercial challenges. Since that day, Air Canada has greatly strengthened its balance sheet, struck long-term labor agreements and out-performed in the stock market all while winning industry awards for our passenger experience.

Who were some of your earliest professional role models?

Some of the senior partners at Stikeman Elliott – the law firm where I worked for 20 years.

You fled Romania for Canada with your family at just six years old. How has that experience informed your worldview and your professional drive?

The immigrant mindset – optimistic and curious, yet hopeful – has instructed  my thinking.

“The immigrant mindset – optimistic and curious, yet hopeful – has instructed my thinking.” 

During your tenure at Air Canada, you’ve overcome everything from a global financial crisis to major labor issues. What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from these hurdles?

Out of adversity comes great strength, especially when you have excellent people.

What have you learned about yourself during these difficult times?

I can be more patient than I thought.

How do you stay inspired and motivated after all these years in the industry?

The industry presents new twists and turns and opportunities every year. It’s only 100 years old!

Air Canada has consistently been named the Best Airline in North America by Skytrax under your leadership. What is your strategy for maintaining a competitive edge?

Looking at the best in the world and aiming high.

You’ve also served as a chairman of Star Alliance and IATA. How important are these additional engagements in the arc of your career?

Great at keeping us at the forefront of all issues that are important to the alliance and industry generally, from safety to marketing.

You’ve been at the helm of Air Canada since 2009. How has the airline industry evolved in the past decade?

Consolidation and new low-cost competition have made us better.

What changes do you hope to see made to the airline industry at large?

That it becomes more of a business than a utility and that governments treat it with the respect it deserves for its contribution to economies globally.

What exciting new developments can travelers expect from Air Canada in the years to come?

Best in breed for our premium experience as exemplified by our recently introduced Air Canada Signature Service.

This story was originally published in the 8.4 September/October issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Register for APEX EXPO, taking place in Boston from September 24 to 27.