By Benet J. Wilson –

A job at consulting from Bain & Company in the early 2000s was Claudia Sender’s entry into the aviation industry. She is now among a handful of women around the world holding the position of CEO at an airline.

When Sender was still attending the University of Sao Paulo in 1998, she started her career as a trainee at Bain. She remained there for seven years during which time she consulted for several airlines, including Brazilian operator TAM.

Thereafter, Sender worked for Whirlpool Latin America as part of its strategic planning team and was eventually promoted to vice president of marketing. She spent seven years at Whirlpool “and was given a 360-degree view of a great company”, she says. “An important lesson I learned [there] was to use the consumer’s voice to define how a company develops and delivers its products and services.”

At the end of 2011, she joined TAM “to participate in its association with [Chile’s] LAN and the construction of LATAM Airlines Group”. Then in May 2013, she was tapped to lead the company in Brazil, now known as LATAM Airlines Brasil. Sender was chosen for the job for a combination of reasons. “But in particular, it was because of my experience and track record of consistent results,” she says. The skills learned at Whirlpool proved beneficial, with Sender citing the ability to work “with a wide range of different people in complex environments and a focus on employee engagement” as being key.

Her educational background also provided a solid foundation. Although Sender has a degree in engineering, she felt it was important to pursue her MBA at Harvard University. “As an engineering graduate, I reached the stage where I felt I needed a greater theoretical knowledge of business. I also wanted to gain multicultural experience, interacting with professionals from diverse places and backgrounds, and Harvard was a natural choice,” she explains. “Harvard gave me a solid foundation in business and combined with the cultural experience, the MBA prepared me to deal with diverse business environments.”

That MBA has served Sender well as she tackles the most challenging project of her career: helping with the continued consolidation of LATAM. “It is the largest airline group in Latin America, with six domestic markets in the region. We are leading this mission in Brazil, which is a country full of idiosyncrasies and challenges of its own,” she says. “Our goal is to achieve all the synergies necessary to deliver the customer a new company identity and experience that meets the changing needs of today’s consumer, who values connectivity, technology and efficiency.”

Sender says she’s read a lot about female leadership, noting it’s an important topic in her life. “Companies that have women in senior management positions or on the board tend to perform much better than peer companies that don’t. Diversity adds value, and if companies don’t recognize the need to have different points of view, they will begin to lose consumers and space in the marketplace,” she concludes.

When it comes to gender, there is still bias in the evaluation and choice of leadership, says Sender. “As more men generally evaluate future leaders, unconscious biases can sometimes be formed, which create obstacles for increasing women’s participation in top positions. To improve this, it is important to work to transform the patriarchal nature of society as a whole. It is an evolving process and there is still a long way to go, not only to incorporate more female leaders, but also to harness a culture of diversity.”

Leadership is about preparation, perseverance, competence and hard work, not gender, Sender emphasizes. “Therefore, if business is defined by efficiency and results, diversity – not just gender – can develop in a much more powerful way.”

Sender admires Carolyn McCall, the CEO of EasyJet. “In addition to being one of the first women to lead a large airline, she has done a great job in driving the sustainable growth of her business,” she says.

Her advice for women who want to climb the career ladder in aviation?

“Persevere and learn to work with many different people. Knowing how to listen is also essential.  Aviation is an engaging and challenging business and I have passionate ties to this industry,” she says. “But beyond passion, what makes one strong is humility and being able to learn every day, as well as deal with a whole universe of challenges.”

Tom Jobim Airport

China’s group HNA is purchasing a 51% stake in Rio de Janeiro’s airport from Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht, which has been tainted by corruption scandals.

The Tom Jobim airport in Rio,  is Brazil’s second busiest airport with around 17 million passengers per year.

HNA runs airlines, airports and hotels among other operations, and in August 2016 it acquired a 23% stake in Azul Linhas Aéreas, Brazil’s third largest carrier, which recently completed its IPO in the Brazilian and American stock markets.

It will hold $8 billion stake in the airport as one half of a consortium along with Singaporean firm Changi Airports International.

HNA will hold a 51 % stake in the airport in a consortium called RioGaleao. The remaining 49% is held by the Brazilian state.

Brazilian President Michel Temer  signed a decree  allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of local airlines, in a move to increase foreign investments in the country and improve the travel industry and the influx of tourists into the country, as expected by the Tourism minister.
On the news, shares of Brazilian carriers GOL and Azul, which started trading just the day before jumped on the stock market, on expectations that foreign companies or carriers might acquire a major part or the majority of those companies.


On its third IPO attempt, Brazil’s Azul Airlines, the third largest carrier in Brazil in terms of revenue, but the number one in number of cities served, raised around $650 million Dollars in New York and Sao Paulo.

The fresh infusion of cash will allow the carrier to invest in areas where it needs to further expand and compete with Brazil’s other major carriers LATAM and GOL.

Below the interview with Azul founder David Neeleman, who also founded JetBlue in the United States.




Avianca Brasil will fly daily from São Paulo to Miami and Santiago. The new international connections come to add to the Fortaleza-Bogota flight. The aircraft will be an A330-200 with 206 passengers in economy class (aircraft configuration 2-4-2) and 32 in executive. The flight to Miami starts on June 23 and is now on sale on all Avianca Brasil channels. It will take off from Guarulhos at 11:55 pm and will land in the United States at 7:25 am.

On the return it leaves Miami at 7:30 p.m. arriving in São Paulo at 5:00 p.m. Local times. “It is one of the best destinations, there is demand, and that is where we are going, where there are many Brazilians living and sightseeing, where there is a Brazilian culture of traveling,” said José Efromovich, founder of Avianca Brasil .

In July, the company will also fly to Santiago with the new A330, at times yet to be announced. “Brazil is the second in the list to send more tourists to Chile, and Santiago is the most popular destination, which justifies this other international route, and we announce at a good moment due to the winter season.”

Avianca Brazil will have, at first, three A330-200. One is already in Brazil and will fly São Paulo-Fortaleza to train its operations with the new equipment. The next two model aircraft will arrive in the coming weeks. The airline should also launch yet another international service this year,”however, we can not reveal,” said President Frederico Pedreira. Avianca Brasil plans to grow from 8% to 10% in revenue in a year filled with these two new routes. “There will be approximately 500 seats available daily in the round trip from Miami and Santiago, which amounts to approximately 250,000 passengers annually on both routes,” Gargioni said. The Avianca Brasil fleet consists of 47 Airbus, which make 230 daily departures.