From his office overlooking Charles de Gaulle Airport, Jean-Cyril Spinetta can nearly see the remains of Terminal 2E, the $900 million building that collapsed in May 2004, killing four people. The terminal handled 90 Air France flights a day, and the accident left hundreds of confused travelers amid broken glass, screaming ambulances, police and rescue workers. "What was exceptional," Spinetta muses months later, "was that it collapsed at 7:30 in the morning, and we didn't cancel a single flight."

Exceptional, maybe. But hardly surprising. In his eight-year career at Air France Spinetta has shown a knack for turning turbulent situations into smooth landings. In the 1990s he transformed a moneylosing state-owned airline into one of Europe's best. After Sept. 11, when competitors folded or slashed fares and flights, Air France turned a profit and increased the number of passengers coming through Paris. And as the industry retrenched to stave off the inevitable wave of bankruptcies, Spinetta did what many thought was impossible: He merged Air France with the Dutch KLM to create the world's largest airline by revenue.

Now, at age 61, Spinetta has emerged as head of Air France-KLM, a $24 billion (sales) global power that has maintained the trappings of two individual airlines--two sets of planes and two sets of marketing materials, for instance--but has combined routes to create a massive network that sells 225 worldwide destinations to 70 million passengers per year.

Get the full story at Forbes