Luis Felipe de Oliveira
Director General - Airports Council International
Part of the Spotlight on Montreal’s International Organizations

Montreal: An International City for Global Organizations


  1. Montreal’s diverse community, welcoming environment and multilingualism make it highly inviting to foreign workers, which helps to attract and retain international talent.
  2. Local economic development agency, Montreal International, supports international organizations with relocating their headquarters, and forms a long-lasting relationship that will help enterprises adapt and grow in their new environment.
  3. Montreal’s top-tier universities provide skilled students, and international students in particular, to global organizations seeking to hire employees.


International organizations benefit from ample support from both economic development agencies and the federal, provincial and municipal governments, making a move to Montreal a sound decision for any global institution.

Can you describe Airports Council International and its mission? 

The Airports Council International represents the community of airports around the world. We have 2,000 members worldwide.

We decided to create the Airports Council International around 30 years ago, and this year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary. We were initially created in Geneva, Switzerland, to represent the global interests of the airports around the globe. 

From there, we started to work in standing committees on economics, environment, facilitation services, security and safety, and technical issues. In 2009, we included technologies in our committees as well. In 2011, we moved to Montreal and we are very happy being established there. 

Why did Airports Council International choose Montreal as the location of its international headquarters? 

As an international executive, I have lived in different countries and I am a testimony of how easy it is to have international workers in Montreal. Canada is also a friendly country in terms of how it receives international citizens who work for international organizations. Basically, Montreal is the capital of the aviation world. 

“As an international executive, I have lived in different countries and I am a testimony of how easy it is to have international workers in Montreal.”

In Montreal, we have the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and our organization, representing the airports. This is a key place to work in the aviation sector because we can congregate all of the stakeholders in the industry in one place to advance regulatory frameworks.

Montreal is also a very nice city in terms of how they receive the international community, and we have more than 20 nationalities represented in our organization of around 70 to 75 employees. That helps us connect to the world and to work towards the development of the aviation and airport sector globally.

ICAO is a key element here. It is an organization that represents the aviation sector, which is a very regulated environment, so it is good to be in the same place as this organization. Together with ICAO and other countries, we are able to provide different parts of the world with the same regulatory framework and harmonization of the processes that we might need. 

Especially now, during the crisis, it is good to be in the same place so we can align our objectives, particularly when we need to talk about the hygiene and health measures that need to be implemented around the world, and begin the recovery from COVID-19. Of course, the implementation of these processes need to be done with different governments from around the world as well. That is why the key element is to work with ICAO, so that we can build trust in the aviation sector and create a reliable sector globally.

How does Montreal’s diversity and multilingualism impact its attractiveness for international organizations? 

As I mentioned, we are a small organization with many international workers, and for an organization like ours, multilingualism and diversity are very important. The languages spoken in the city are fundamental, because we have people working in both English and French. That diverse atmosphere and cultural environment attracts people from different  parts of the world—from Singapore to Latin America to Europe—who are working here because it is an easy city to move to. 

“For an organization like ours, multilingualism and diversity are very important.”

Canada is a country that attracts a lot of international workers because it is an open community. We also see international workers who come here to develop their careers or to study. There are plenty of universities and thousands of students in Montreal who come here for school, and this creates an opportunity for the students to advance into an international job. 

The way that the government and organizations like Montréal International attract companies to the city is very important as well. They help develop networks in technology and aviation, for example, which provides an opportunity for people to not only come and work here, but to develop local Canadian workers for key jobs in our industry.

What is the availability of talent in Montreal? 

Montreal has a lot of international talent. One of the key elements to this are the universities, which are well-known around the world for their capabilities and the number of international students that come to study here. This allows us to have employees who are prepared to take positions in our organization.

Additionally, Montreal is very welcoming to international employees, and there are mechanisms for attracting workers if we do not find the right people in Canada. The way that Canada expedites visas helps us to fill employment gaps if we need to.

What is the perception of Montreal and of the Canadian brand internationally? 

Canada and Montreal have one of the best qualities of life in the world, which attracts families and people. The health system, the universities and the schools are great. The multilingual environment is very important for us as citizens and as families—to grow and be involved in a country that works in different languages.

In addition, the friendliness of the people who welcome foreigners helps to attract and maintain relationships within the community, which is very important. Montrealers receive and take care of both tourists and guests, which is an asset in how we attract and keep human resources, develop those workers, and sometimes export them around the world.

In my case, even living in different countries around the world, from Brazil to Africa and the Netherlands to Switzerland, I know how to deal with tough weather. But I never imagined that the weather was this tough in Montreal, with our season of heavy snow. My colleagues welcomed me by saying that that year, the weather was quite nice, which helped to prepare me for the next year because the cold weather was coming.

Adapting to this new reality of 1.5 meters of snow in front of your house is something that you need to work through with good humour, but you also see the efficiency of the community to clean up the city. The airport continued to work uninterrupted, and that is why I think that the quality of life and quality of service in Montreal is well-perceived, not only by myself but by all Canadians and foreigners who live in this country.

What are some of the government supports available for international organizations in Montreal? 

As a non-profit organization, it is quite complex for us to move our headquarters because we do not always have the resources, so we need support. Montréal International was a key element 10 years ago to attract us here. The financial support that we received helped us to register and move our head office from Switzerland to Montreal.

We also had the support from the Canadian government, the Quebec government and the City of Montreal, which helped us with the international mobility of our members. The network also helped us engage with the local community, which is a great approach for learning strategic and local advice on how things work in Montreal, how we can build our company, and to make our organization the most efficient in this environment.

When we started a new program here to support airports around the world in safety and passenger experience, Airport Excellence (APEX), we developed a new product, and again, the team at Montréal International brought more people in to support us with the development of new products. That proves that it is not only a one-time relationship, where the government and Montréal International forget you—it is a continuous process which helped us to grow and create new products and services, and of course employ more people in Montreal.

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Luis Felipe de Oliveira
Director General - Airports Council International

Bio: Luis Felipe de Oliveira is the Director General of Airports Council International, or ACI World, which he joined in June 2020. He previously led the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) between 2017 and 2020. Prior to ALTA, he served as the World Fuel Services’ Vice President Supply Development for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Organization Profile: Airports Council International (ACI) is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports. Established in 1991, ACI represents airports’ interests with international organizations, governments, and other key stakeholders to develop standards, policies and recommended practices for airports.