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   Vol. 14  No. 20
Friday March 6, 2015

Awards Awards Awards


Get ready for this.
     Between February 20 and June 8th, no less than three publications and probably half a dozen more organizations will be dispensing air cargo industry awards at fancy bowtie affairs around the world.
     There are awards for everything, from Company of the Year to Person of the Year, from Most Influential to Lifetime Service. The awards will be handed out left and right by trade shows, industry organizations, and publications alike.
     The idea of recognizing and awarding exemplary effort is as old as organized business itself. But right now, handing out awards seems a bit over the top, if not downright inappropriate.
     For starters, there are too many awards.
     Awards have become moneymakers, especially for publications who can convince candidates to buy full-blown advertising programs that beggar readers to “Vote for us!”
     The amount of correspondence we are seeing from otherwise sensible, dedicated air cargo people, pleading for people to vote them best airport or best airlines would be laughable were it not so pathetic. The offenders know who they are.
     Forgetting everything else, does no one smell a scam?
     Advertising programs, event sponsorships, corporate tables at galas sold as part of an awards package—these reek of set-ups, in our humble opinion. My eldest daughter, a writer, likened it to the emails and letters she sometimes receives congratulating her on her inclusion in a new book, Best Poetry of [Insert Year], for which she need only provide $50-100 to receive a copy. That small fee covers inclusion in the book as well. The judge of what is the “best” poetry is the dispassionate, almighty dollar.
     It’s sort of like purchasing a star, which you can also do if you’re willing to fork over the cash.
     The guys on the street here in New York City call it a kickback, pure and simple.
     Hard working companies and people in air cargo don’t need that kind of grief at what should be a moment of encouragement, enlightenment, and reflection for a job well done. By and large, there is no clarity as to what are the criteria for a great number of the awards. The prerequisites for the vast majority of awards are totally nebulous. For example: Best Cargo Carrier of Europe, Best Cargo Carrier of the Middle East, Outstanding Cargo Carrier of Asia/Pacific, and so on.
     Between 2005 and now, air cargo was growing so fast that award overkill reduced credibility and increased the creation of award schemes. This led to a worldwide inflation of accolades that popped up like mushrooms in every corner of the planet. This grotesque proliferation of awards devalues and undermines those few awards that are based on thorough and scientific research.
     The best thing would be for the major and most respected cargo carriers to form a sort of informal alliance demanding that the number of awards be reduced to a comprehensible number, let’s say, four or five per year, honoring different transport and service categories and items along the entire supply chain
     In past rants about industry awards we have wondered why IATA or some other multinational and neutral body might not manage awards by initiating and conducting surveys in close cooperation with international airfreight and transport media.
     Instead, IATA, while still not in the awards loop, has acquiesced to another publication’s awards shindig during WCS. No doubt there is plenty of constructing thought out there when it comes to the giving and receiving of air cargo industry awards. A highly-placed air cargo executive who has requested anonymity thinks that maybe awards committees need to look a little closer when they go about the business of recognizing true winners:
     “We think too highly of our senior teams and not enough of the people making it happen every day at the terminals, sales offices, and GSA locations.
     “Air cargo needs to recognize the great job all of our people do to make this industry successful.
     “Maybe there should be some new award categories to include a broader spectrum of people and businesses.
     “There are plenty of other categories that could and should be considered outside of the aforementioned ‘narrow band’ of awards recipients as the industry gears up for the rest of 2015.”
     Another top executive in air cargo (unnamed) thinks awards should come in part from customers with some benchmarking:
     “Performance should be based on profitability and the views of our customers.
     “They should decide who is performing best and we should use more analytical methods to measure performance.”
     In the meantime, there is no doubt in our minds that the air cargo awards trend will continue.
     It will just be a matter of what the awards now mean for those who win them, considering they mean very little in the grand scheme of things.
Geoffrey Arend

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