was quite a surprise when, in 2008, Neel Jones Shah jumped
from United Airlines Cargo, where he had built a long and
illustrious career, and moved over to Delta Air Cargo to
take on the responsibilities of Senior Vice President and
Chief Cargo Officer.
On the last Friday of July
2012, Neel once again made a sudden and unexpected move,
surprising many industry colleagues and observers when he
abruptly packed his sack and walked away from Delta Cargo.
But as many have learned in
air cargo, a move from one point to another is often a natural
progression of development in this business.
So as ACF opens in Atlanta
next week, where Mr. Jones Shah will be in attendance as
part of a panel session on security, we take note that it
has been about two months since Neel made his last move.
“I am doing great,”
"Building a business,
as everyone knows, is quite tough and I felt we had achieved
our major goals.
After nine years at United
and five years at Delta, I wanted to be close to my family
and growing children while also staying in the business—involved
with ventures that would allow me more flexibility to address
“I guess getting in
touch with myself and considering how much family means
to me says that I am now listening to a higher authority,”
Neel Jones Shah said.
“I did go through all
of the usual emotions over the past few weeks and am very
grateful for the Delta experience, but I’m truly at
peace with everything and really looking forward to my next
“I recently had the
best executive physical of my career, so my body is certainly
responding in the right way!
“The one thing I miss
is the wonderful people I worked with on a daily basis,
but now I look forward to staying in touch with many of
my friends and colleagues at DL as we all move ahead.
“I am also very appreciative
of all of the support that I received from friends and colleagues
over the past months.
“It has been truly incredible!
“One of the first things
I did after returning from a vacation was to form a consulting
company, which I named JS Aviation Consulting Inc. (for
“I have been in close
touch with all of the major executive recruiting firms and
also reached out to a number of my contacts across the industry.
“A good friend of mine
for the better part of the past decade, Orlando Wong, who
operates the premier perishable exporter in USA, Able Freight,
reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I would be interested
in joining him and his business partner, Scott Murray, as
that company embarks on the next phase of its market development.
“I am really thrilled
to report that I have agreed on a trial basis to join Able
as Chief Commercial Officer.
“Able is a remarkable
company that has experienced tremendous growth over the
past 5 years and is one of the largest export agents in
the U.S. today.
“I am also very interested
to experience the air cargo industry from the forwarder
“My take is that turning
the tables by being at Able should be a real eye opener
after a lifetime on the other side.
“I think I am really
going to enjoy myself!”
Neel Shah has hit the ground
running. He neatly wrapped up his career at Delta Air Cargo
and placed a billion dollar bow atop the business he and
his team built into a grand, moneymaking enterprise. Neel
has a special vantage point from which to take a long look
at what lies ahead for air cargo.
there doesn't appear to be any clear signals that we are
close to turning any corners, and I believe there is close
to consensus in the industry that we won't have any sort
of a peak season, in spite of the iPhone 5 launch, and rates
will continue to be at these low levels.
“My view is that all
of this is putting extreme pressure on many of the all-cargo
airlines, and we should see some sort of capacity shakeout
in the coming months.
“This is the only way
that we will see rates go up to the point where we have
long term viability.
“The passenger side
of the business realized this a few years ago and has proven
that they have the capacity discipline now to create a reasonable
return on invested capital.
“We must learn this
important lesson on the cargo side.
“Even though I am quite
pessimistic about the near term, I believe that our industry
has long legs and we will begin to recover by the end of
next year, and hopefully enjoy a few years of prosperity
in the industry.
“My forecast is not
as bullish as Boeing or Airbus because I am also not trying
to sell airplanes, so I still believe we will have a CAGR
of 3-4 percent over the next 5 years, but there will be
some bumps in the road.
“The shippers are obviously
on the winning side of things during these tough times,
but I believe the rest of us can also survive by running
a sound business.
“In this sort of environment,
those businesses that don't have solid managers will definitely
perish because there is very little margin for error.
“This is probably the
natural sort of cleansing that every industry needs to go
through every ten years.”
A footnote here:
The name Neel Jones Shah (coming from Neel Shah) had us
wondering. Turns out that Neel, in deference and honor to
his wife and life partner, has actually carried the name
Neel Jones Shah for more than ten years.
“My wife is one of two daughters and she didn't really
want her family name to come to an end with her generation,
so we agreed many years ago to change our last names to
“My passport has read this way for 10 years, but professionally
I didn't make the change because everyone knew me as just
Neel Shah and I didn't want to create any confusion.
“However in 2012, with this clean break with Delta,
the time is right and I am proudly using my full last name
“I intend to keep it this way.”
Works for us.