VIRGÍLIO RUSSI: A Brazilian Behind Air Canada’s International Sales

He is responsible for the company’s strategies and sales targets in all international markets and continues to lead Air Canada’s  participation in the Trans-Atlantic joint venture.

By Luis Aparício & Leila Monteiro Lins | Published 20/03/2020

Virgílio Russi gives an exclusive interview to Discover Magazine. 


Air Canada, in Toronto, Canada, named the Brazilian executive Virgílio Russi as its new Managing Director of International Sales. He is  responsible for the Company’s entire commercial business in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America since last December.

While employed with Air Canada since 1996, Russi has had the opportunity to manage the company’s operations in Argentina and Brazil. For the past 15 years, he has been in Toronto, and before his promotion, he was responsible for the company’s national commercial sector. After a restructuring period, Canada and the United States established a single sector and all international divisions were unified under the command of Russi.

Growth of the International Division

Russi has always had an affinity for the international sector. “It’s an interesting challenge to be able to help the company grow in this area. Our priority is the growth of the international division.”

The executive points out the company’s strong growth, more than 80 new destinations in the last five years. However, he does recognize that one needs to take into account the challenges in respect to the available fleet, as in the case of the Boeing 737 Max models, which were unable to fly until the Boeing manufacturer fixed the software problem identified in those aircrafts.

Russi emphasizes that the international sector is subject to geopolitical, public health and economic issues, among others, which directly affect the flights. He mentions the economic situation in Argentina, the fires that are affecting Australia and the Coronavirus in China.

Air Canada launches a second flight to Brazil 

Launch of the São Paulo-Montreal flight was a commercial success.

 From left to right: Virgílio Russi, Managing Director, International Sales – Air Canada; Jennifer May – Ambassador at Embassy of Canada to Brazil; Heather Cameron – Consul-General to the Consulate General of Canada. Photo courtesy of Air Canada.

After registering a high occupancy rate on the Sao Paulo-Toronto flight, Air Canada decided to launch a second flight between Sao Paulo and Montreal, operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, at the end of last year.

According to Virgílio Russi, the market response exceeded their expectations, with an occupation of approximately 90% in the first month (December) alone. “The Montreal flight has become very popular due to the proximity of Mont-Tremblant”, a popular skiing  and  tourist centre, especially during the Canadian winter months.

For the time being, this is a just a seasonal flight, which will be available until March. But the new route, with three weekly flights, is expected to return at the end of 2020, albeit conditioned upon equipment availability.

Air Canada is the first foreign company to establish a partnership with the Government of the State of Sao Paulo and to offer a stopover in Sao Paulo for passengers departing from Toronto or Montreal.

DISCOVER – What are Air Canada’s plans regarding connections with Northeastern Brazilian cities?

Virgílio Russi With the visa exemption for Canadians, we have seen a considerable increase in demand, as well as an interest by some local operators in developing Brazilian beach destinations.

DM – Which Brazilian destinations would you like to recommend to visitors?

Russi A place that I find very special is Paraty. It is completely different from any other destination. Salvador is a city that features a very different history. I still think Rio de Janeiro is the world’s most beautiful city.

  • Air Canada is one of the founders of Star Alliance, the largest global airline alliance. The Star Alliance network was created in 1997 and currently has 26 member airlines.
  • In the past nine years, Air Canada recorded a growth of over 50%.
  • Air Canada has been recognized as the best airline in North America by Skytrax for the third year in a row and the eighth time in ten years.

Luis Aparício

Luis is a freelance journalist with experience in daily news.

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