Bitter or sweet, most memories
become precious and more meaningful as time moves on.
This story is a memory and I am grateful for it.
We find ourselves with a ringside seat to
the endless interplay of customers and airlines at the CNS Partnership
We are sitting in the lobby of the Gary
Player Villa at Trump National Golf Hotel in Miami, Florida.
Outside, sheets of rain cause small streams
of water to flow and puddle almost everywhere, while inside teams of airline
air cargo sales and service personnel are engaged in non-stop dawn to
dusk customer meetings.
Occasionally a small truck pulls up to deliver
meals for the United Cargo team and their customers – who stay in
direct contact, at breakfast, lunch and dinner and beyond, for the three
days of CNS.
All facets of business are covered: from
catching up socially with global contacts to intense financial negotiations,
all conducted in very genteel surroundings.
Intense Negotiations and What’s
We wonder for a fleeting moment: how strong
are the emotions sparked by these high-stakes games of deal-making and
Without a doubt, there were some very intense
negotiations taking place, not only at UA but at some of the 38 other
airline and customer-filled Trump Villa Suites at CNS.
Taking the Pulse
Although we can only guess at the dollar
amounts discussed, we wonder as business winds down and the partners separate:
with so much at stake, should someone from CNS President Mike White’s
team give the meeting rooms a final once-over to make sure there is no
one tied up in a closet?
Face To Face with Vanya & Jennifer
Seriously, extended face-to-face time with
customers is the great benefit of the CNS Partnership Conference and other
industry clambakes for airline cargo sales teams.
So it is no surprise as we sink into a conversation
that Jennifer Haigh ventures:
“Having the ability to meet with all
of our customers in one venue allows us to spend focused time with the
entire team around one table.”
The Front Line Connection
The great race to connecting with air cargo
customers, in real time and on an all-day basis, is nice work if you can
Enter Vanya Bukova and Jennifer Haigh. Both
are part of the Strategic Partner Sales team reporting to Helen Kristensen,
United Cargo’s MD of Strategic Accounts.
Vanya is based in San Francisco, and she
handles five of the top 20 forwarder accounts at United Cargo.
Vanya, who hails from Bulgaria, earned Master
of Science degrees in both mechanical engineering and international business
before beginning her airline career as an Emirates flight attendant. She
leapt into air cargo sales two years later, first with Singapore Airlines
Cargo and then onto Delta Cargo for 13 years, prior to joining United.
Vanya smiles as she mentions that her partner
works at Air France KLM. “But,” she quickly adds, “we
never talk shop.”
Jennifer also forged an interesting path
on her way to United. She lives in Aberdeen, North Carolina with husband
Paul, who is an artist and potter. Her odyssey features extensive work
on the security side of the business: including directing North American
Aviation Sales for systems provider Morpho Detection and a year-long internship
at the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab.
With this background and her love of animals
(Jen has four dogs), a move to K2 Solutions, a company that trains dogs
for use in transportation security applications, was a logical next step.
“I knew United Cargo as a client,
both at Morpho Detection and K2, and worked with them for many years,”
“I always wanted to work for an airline
so, when the United opportunity beckoned, I quickly agreed to make the
move,” she smiles.
Jennifer started with United in February
and has been on the fast track since, learning something new every day
about what her clients expect from their air cargo carrier.
“It’s a fast-moving, spirited
adventure,” she confides.
“Freight forwarders are looking for
diversity and clear thinking in addressing their transportation needs
“That’s what we aim to deliver,”
A Day In
asked Vanya to describe her typical day managing key and perishable cargo
accounts in United’s U.S. West region.
“The primary activity is maintaining
existing customer relationships and our current quality of support, while
also seeking new, innovative, out-of-the-box business solutions,”
“A typical day might involve contract
negotiations, performance evaluations, and maintenance of agreements with
“We also record our sales activities
and maintain customer profiles of assigned accounts in Salesforce, United
Cargo’s CRM platform.
“My sales role is a very dynamic one,
and every day is different. The only consistent thing a Strategic Partner
Manager can plan for is traveling, traveling and more traveling,”
“My agenda for the next few weeks
includes customer meetings in Seoul, Los Angeles, Brussels and Munich.
“But working for United since 2017
has been fascinating, and I feel very mobile and connected to the world.
“Since authenticity, curiosity and
strong faith are central to my life, wherever I land and whatever the
situation, my goal is to make the most of my unique opportunity at United
“We are truly a great global resource,
so I also feel like I always have something valuable to provide the customer,”
A person’s taste in music can reveal
a lot, so we asked Vanya what she listens to whilst traveling the world.
Her answer was intriguing:
“I actually like silence, but I have
a short playlist on my mobile device – some classical music for
long plane rides and some energetic Latin music for the gym.”
is Gonna Get You
“There’s a lot of variety in
my day-to-day tasks as well,” Jennifer says.
"I try to plan my schedule so I am
on the road one week and home the next. This allows me to catch up and
have a good balance.
“When I am on the road I visit clients
both at a headquarters and local level.
“I really enjoy working with the customer’s
local teams to understand their perspective on the market and how different
support activities influence their success.
“It’s also extremely valuable
to connect with United’s local teams in every city. They have a
unique and beneficial view of whatever challenges we’re facing,
and it’s always quicker and more effective to solve any issues as
The Jen Passion
“My passion is making a difference
in what I do – no matter what I’m doing!
“I also love being home and spending
time with my family and my four little pups.
“Listening to an eclectic mix of musicians
like the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, George Ezra, Ana Tijoux, Lake Street
Dive and The Kooks keeps me relaxed and inspired.
“I’ve been in aviation and cargo
for 9 years, all in security up to a few months ago – protecting
the traveling public!
“Those years were fun and I learned
“Now that I am in airline cargo sales,
I have an entirely new outlook on the industry. I am really enjoying learning
all I can about the diverse markets we serve.
“I am always in the moment, and I
listen and care and I persevere.
“Playing a role in an industry that
bolsters the global economy and creates and sustains jobs for people keeps
What Might Change
As a closer, we asked both ladies: What
needs to change to improve the industry?
“Movement towards common standards
for security, and movement towards a common e-AWB platform,” Jen
says, without hesitation.
Vanya says the industry should become less
commoditized and less volatile. She smiles and adds, “On a personal
level, if I can alleviate stress for our partners, and make their business
run smoother, then they are much happier and I have had a great day.”