General aviation

Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu to retire in February

Under Rovinescu, Air Canada built an international network

Rovinescu will be succeeded by current Chief Financial Officer Michael Rousseau

Calin Rovinescu retire
An Air Canada Boeing 777 departs Vancouver International Airport in March 2019 (photo: Brett Ballah).

Leaving behind a business that is less than half the size it was just months ago, Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu announced Friday he would retire as head of the country’s largest airline. Rovinescu made the announcement Friday in a news release. He will be succeeded by his deputy Michael Rousseau.

The head of Canada’s largest airline becomes the third Canadian airline leader to step down since March when the pandemic’s full effects were felt. In April, Steven Greenway stepped down from his post at Swoop. Earlier this week, Flair announced Stephen Jones would take over for a retiring Jim Scott.

Air Canada said the transition to Rousseau would take effect February 15. That same date is the deadline for Air Canada’s revised acquisition of Transat.

“More than anything else in my career, I am especially proud of the company’s transformation over the last dozen years during which we built Air Canada into one of the world’s leading carriers and a global champion for┬áCanada,” said Rovinescu in a news release.

The company has been through a lot since Rovinescu first started advising the company in the 1980s.

Major transition

Rovinescu first started advising Air Canada as a lawyer in the 1980s. Back then, Air Canada was a Crown corporation, preparing for the uncertainty of privatization. Here is a look at how Rovinescu and Air Canada have evolved since then:

  • 1964 – 1992

    Rovinescu first started advising Air Canada as a lawyer in the 1980s. The airline was then a government-owned airline as represented by its red-and-white aircraft. Rovinescu stayed on as advisor through privatization in 1988-89.

  • 1993 – 2003

    In 1999, Rovinescu Air Canada helped fend off a hostile takeover bid by Onex Corporation, who wanted to buy Air Canada and what was then Canadian Airlines International and merge the two carriers. Instead, Air Canada would go on to buy the ailing CAIL and merge their operations.

  • 2004 – 2016

    In 2000, Rovinescu officially joined Air Canada as head of strategy and helped launch the company’s international development.

    In 2009, Rovinescu took the reins at Air Canada as CEO and launched an ambitious international and financial transformation programme. Air Canada revitalized the long-haul fleet and vastly expanding its overseas network. It dramatically cut domestic costs and in-flight services to compete with low-cost carriers. The airline also invested heavily in its premium product, particularly on intercontinental routes.

    Rovinescu called this period the most proud of his carrer, “developing a lasting, empowered and entrepreneurial culture for our airline.”

  • 2017 – present

    After building a strategy around connecting Canadians and U.S. citizens to global points through its three Canadian hubs, Air Canada helped make Toronto-Pearson the continent’s most internationally connected airport, and sixth among the world’s megahubs.

  • 2020 – decline

    As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rovinescu delayed his retirement and instead implemented a drastic downsizing of Air Canada. Some 20,000 of the airline’s 38,000 staff were laid off and dozens of routes were cut. “While Covid-19 has decimated the global airline industry, fortunately we entered the pandemic much healthier than almost any other airline in the world,” he said.

Categories: General aviation

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