show must go on and by gosh, it did! The airline-centric
world came together for its ritualistic, self-celebratory
event that takes place every two years. The over-the-top
closing ceremony actually had representatives of
the last ten Air Cargo Forum hosts, including the
present ones, passing a symbolic torch along, Olympic-style,
in chronological order. All is well at TIACA, 2014
is all set for Seoul Incheon, and 2016 is scheduled
Some attendees commented
to FlyingTypers that the exhibition was
perhaps one-third smaller than in 2010 in Amsterdam.
There were the majestic, posh stands, which reflected
where the money is these days—Emirates, Saudi,
Qatar, and Turkish strategically flanked by Boeing
and Airbus respectively. Also the long established
majors including the Lufthansa Cargo Group, Skyteam
Cargo, Cargolux, and some of the top airports—Atlanta
Hartsfield-Jackson International, Aeroports de Paris,
Brussels and Liège, Hong Kong, Munich, and
Canada’s gateway airports as well as several
others. On the handling side, Fraport, LUG, Swissport,
and WFS were represented with the IT-systems stand
of CHAMP, Descartes, IBS, Calogi and Mercator. Notable
absentees included the likes of Unisys and a commensurate
presence of Chinese aviation businesses (with the
exception of Hangzhou airport) and Latin American
TAM, for example.
And air cargo received
due respect judging by the keynote address from
none other than the U.S. Secretary of Transportation,
Ray LaHood, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the airline
CEO’s, and the CEVA CEO with CNN moderator
Ali Velshi. TSA and CBP were also well represented.
A good number of airline cargo heads were at the
show: Air Canada, American, Atlas, Delta, Emirates,
Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar, Saudi, and Swiss. Missing
big time were the forwarders, and by Wednesday afternoon,
the exhibitors began talking to each other to pass
time, and mobile phones got a workout.
Did the show deliver?
The event format with
half a day for sessions and two and a half days
of exhibition certainly lent itself to ample networking
opportunities; therefore, as a high-level networking
event, it met that standard. The exhibition hall
layout was conducive to and provided plenty of room
for people to sit down and pow-wow as much as necessary.
The prime location of the Georgia World Congress
Center in midtown Atlanta and the sweet spot surroundings
by CNN Center, Philips Arena, Georgia Dome, the
Aquarium, and the World of Coca Cola, with easy
MARTA public transport and numerous hotels, restaurants,
and bars didn’t leave much to be desired.
The organizers did well.
As far as fresh ideas,
that was overrated, as was the co-location with
the Council for Supply Chain Management, which proved
to be more of a physical proximity of exhibition
areas A and B respectively than any real interaction
or tangible benefit. Cross-access was limited to
the exhibitions, yet the one CSCMP session FlyingTypers
attended was more stimulating than anything we heard
The tantalizing presence
of shippers and forwarders next door, so close yet
so far, must be labeled as a truly missed opportunity
of some magnitude. This was echoed by several exhibitors
as well, as clearly the value proposition and business
opportunities were impacted by their absence.
What came out of
and technology are all worthwhile issues that are
part of the mosaic that is air cargo. Maybe hoping
for or expecting anything revolutionary is unrealistic,
despite the fact that the ongoing global economic
downturn would, under any other circumstances, be
an irresistible driver for the industry to come
up with a new business model in preparation for
the future. Whether it is resignation or weariness,
there has been a paucity of new thinking being expressed.
One can only hope that some renewal will come along
by the time TIACA gets ready for Seoul.
Was Atlanta worthwhile?
That depends on whom
you ask; the five-figure cost for the larger exhibition
stands combined with the mostly company-sponsored
coffee, lunch, and dinner likely worked just fine
for TIACA. Not so much for the exhibitors. If the
yardstick to measure which companies are doing well
and by how much is a display of confidence and presence
at this prestigious event, then that’s one
way to look at it. Another is the ability to talk
to members of the industry while they are all under