The news that 2018 saw
United Airlines Cargo not only preserve its number one ranking as top
USA belly cargo carrier, but also
widen the gap, increasing its lead, is certainly welcome word up
and down the halls of the UA Willis Tower headquarters in Chicago.
But at closer look, these days at United,
air cargo often referred to as a “night animal” finds itself
in a run to daylight with an exciting team effort, and a more than charismatic
of Jan Krems
There is something compelling and instantly
engaging in the way Jan Krems, President of United Cargo walks into a
room, telling you right away in his always warm and gracious but also
get to the point manner, anything is possible.
But the thing about Jan that is just outstanding,
is his brilliance as a dreamer and doer in air cargo, coupled with his
love for our industry.
Air cargo is Jan Krems’ vocation and
his avocation. He pitches into every situation with a spirit that has
delivered a team at United Cargo transformed into the best in the business.
One of the
There have been a few people we have known
in our time that could, by example, enrich the heart and spirit of a large
group of people.
Jacques Ancher at KLM comes to mind. Bill
Boesch certainly was a transformational air cargo leader, wherever he
The ability to inspire and lead and be successful
at the same time, albeit somewhat rare, is also a wondrous and beautifully
magical thing to behold and it is going on right now at United Cargo.
There is a sense of something is coming,
season after season at United Cargo.
We have talked to some truly outstanding
and quite outspoken people inside and outside the carrier and the consistent
underlying message is that the switches are all on and Team United Cargo
This week the scene is in Singapore, as
IATA holds its World Cargo Symposium, and everybody seems to be looking
for something, not the least of which might be a well-prepared Singapore
Sling that Somerset Maugham made famous at Raffles Long Bar here. We checked
in with Jan Krems for some rapid-fire give and take.
As usual, the man did not disappoint.
“The state of United Cargo in March
2019 is strong and determined,” Jan smiled.
“To recap recent history, 2017 was
a fantastic year of expansion for us: in overall tonnage, in specialty
products and services, and in the quality of our customer relationships.
“In 2018, the rate of volume growth
eased off slightly but our yields increased, leading to record revenue
of $1.24 billion.
“There were other aspects of 2018
results that were gratifying: unlike many other productive years where
a few regions delivered extraordinary results and compensated for those
who didn’t do as well, in 2018, every United Cargo team around the
globe enjoyed success.
& Pulling Away
“We had a nice balance between general
cargo and specialty product growth in 2018, and we also expanded our lead
over U.S. competition as the #1 U.S. cargo belly carrier.
“So spirits and enthusiasm were running
high when we gathered the team together for our annual Worldwide Meeting
“As your readers know, United Cargo’s
Wordwide Meeting has been in Houston the past two years.
“In 2017, our theme was ‘Unstoppable’
and we paid tribute to the fearless spirit of the cowboys and cowgirls
who led the cattle drives from Texas and pioneered their industry.
“In 2018, our theme was ‘No
Limits’ and we celebrated Houston’s role in space exploration
and all the individuals whose skill and vision engineered improbable achievements
like landing on Venus and Mars and walking on the moon.
“This year we came back to Chicago,
United’s other home town, and the theme was ‘Going Back to
“Our wardrobe, activities and atmosphere
replicated the style of ‘The Windy City’ in the 1920s.
“But the theme had a deeper meaning
than returning to the site of United’s headquarters and largest
Play In 2019
“After recent years of solid year-over-year
gains and expansion, we sense the headwinds against similar levels of
growth getting stronger.
“The headwinds we detect are not exclusive
to United: trade wars, tariffs and protectionism, geopolitical unrest—these
real and perceived threats are already having an impact on our industry
“And while the fundamentals of the
U.S. economy remain in good shape, we can’t say the same about many
of our key trading partners around the world.
“With the signs of a slowdown in global
trade evident, there’s no better time to focus on the many facets
and qualities that make for strong roots in our business.
“So our Annual Meeting’s presentations
and breakout sessions emphasized the importance of nurturing and strengthening
our base, our core, our foundation—in a word, our roots.
“Among the essential components we
discussed during our conference were our infrastructure, our customer
relationships and our team.
“We’ve made great improvements
in our infrastructure over the past year. We knew we had to focus our
human and financial resources in our San Francisco and Newark hubs, where
the rapid growth in business made us a victim of our own success during
the 2017 peak season.
“I’m really proud of the savvy
planning and tireless effort the team made to produce the big boosts in
timeliness and efficiency achieved during the 2018 peak and through the
beginning of 2019.
“Who knows?” Jan laughs easily.
“Despite the current tensions, the
uncertainties and governmental disputes affecting us now could get resolved,
trends in consumer confidence might reverse and demand could begin growing
faster than capacity again.
“Whenever that happens (and we know
it will eventually), we want to be ready to support our customers’
business with the quality they deserve.
Ah! The Customer
“On the subject of customers, softer
phases of the economic cycle are when you find out who your friends are.
“By that I mean, which partners can
you count on to support you through the ups and downs?
“Who wants to build and preserve the
type of relationships of mutual benefit that endure over the long haul?
“We’re lucky enough to have
several of these longtime friends at United Cargo, and we treasure each
one of them.
A Thing Or Two
“The essential roots of any businesses’
success are the people – and the team they forge through their commitment
to each other.
“I never get tired of saying United
Cargo has the most talented and dedicated team in Cargo.
“In 2019, we’re focusing on
job-specific and personal skills training to refine and expand our teammates’
abilities so they can excel at customer service and develop their careers.
“But far more important than what
our team can do is who they are.
“Those of us who have dedicated our
careers to air cargo know there is something special about this business,
and the people who survive and thrive in it, those who have the most fun
and success, have a special set of characteristics that set them apart.
“There’s too many qualities
to list, and most are better sensed that described, so I just say these
people have a ‘Cargo Heart.’
“Whether teammates, business partners
or industry colleagues renewing friendships at the WCS, those with a ‘True
Cargo Heart’ are the connections we value the most,” Jan Krems