Elliott Paige is in his office above the atrium welcome area of beautiful
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The ATL Air Services Development Manager
is looking at a vertical picture of the airport taken from about 1,000
feet above the field.
Airport people from Atlanta to Timbuktu
love those vertical pictures. They help visualize how buildings can be
moved around, reshaping the airport as needs and business changes.
“You see our cargo area today,”
Elliott says, pointing at the picture.
“We have an additional 100,000 square
feet of handling on the way, but beyond that what we will eventually build
another half-a-million square feet of handling capabilities that will
accelerate our air cargo growth by delivering advanced, state-of-the-art
air cargo facilities.”
“The buzz-word around here is quality,”
Elliott says, leveling his gaze.
“Last year (2017) was a good year
for ATL air cargo growth with an increase of more than 6 percent, and
cargo YTD June 2018 is up 4 percent.
“Our mission moving forward is to
offer the highest levels of service quality, specialized services, facilities,
systems and product offerings to attract the highest value cargo.
“But we also are moving to recapture
cargo volumes that are “leaking” to other airports, while
at the same time broadening ATL’s own cargo catchment area.
“We are all into the cargo business
recognizing that we need to be inventive, but also hands on, supporting
existing and prospective carriers at ATL, which are increasingly dependent
on air cargo contribution for profitability.”
“Latin America and Asia rank high
on our list of markets that we want to grow.
“Latin America pharma imports and
perishables exports continue to grow. Asia is a growing market, of course,
with its continued dynamism and growth across the region via our direct
services to Shanghai and 30-plus freighter flights per week from China
and elsewhere in that region.
“But in all cases, everything comes
back to quality.
“I don’t have a challenge convincing
an airline to fly into Atlanta because it’s a great location for
air cargo distribution.
“That is not a problem,” Elliott
“Quite frankly, my problem is that
when they get here, we need to provide the best world-class quality service.
“I know that if we deliver the best
services from ground handling to warehouse handling, new service will
fly into Atlanta, and folks that are already here that want to increase
their schedules can be accommodated.”
On Tap New Warehouse
“The warehouse challenge is being
solved. A new facility will be out on bid for a ground handler to invest
and take control of it, adding 100,000 square feet of Class A cargo handling
space to our cargo area.”
Down On The Ground
Elliott notes without hesitation:
“Staffing our cargo terminals is also
a challenge as Atlanta is building like crazy, so we compete for every
job here with a building industry that is going great and pays a bit more
than air cargo.
“Atlanta airport right now is under
a 6 billion USD capital improvement program, so when we get an individual
badged and working for a ground handling company, suddenly a contractor
who is doing something on the airport, building or renovating the airport
infrastructure offers more money.
“So with the ground handler having
paid to obtain their badge, we lose an employee that goes to work for
more money elsewhere on the field.
“The ongoing challenge continues to
be getting enough people to join and stay with ground handling.
“We are trying different approaches,
in fact as we speak there is a group meeting in this building with State
and the City of Atlanta, Clayton State University and Georgia Tech University,
outlining our priorities and offering training programs to open up the
talent pool to the full range of positions that we have created at this
“In my view, the potential for air
cargo is unlimited, so taking nothing for granted with the increasing
demand, we are actively making our case in an aggressive outreach effort
to attract new talent into this business.”
For All Seasons
Elliott often says “we” when
referring to projects, like securing more and better staff for ground
The thought arises: doesn’t Alliance
Ground Handling, Swissport and Lufthansa, for example, handle ground?
But in talking to Elliott, you recognize
the word “we” means that the attitude of the airport is simply
not “us or them” when it comes to challenges like staffing,
badging, or the needs of the aforementioned and others.
“We work very closely with our business
partners and extend every effort and opportunity to ensure success,”
Around The Zoo
“Today I am trying to make sure a
vaccine needed at once gets on a flight to Mumbai.
“The antidote is manufactured in Athens,
Georgia and is needed to save the lives of some lions and tigers (oh my!)
suffering from a deadly virus in a zoo in Mumbai.
“It’s all about relationships,
plus recognizing and acting upon challenges,” Elliott says.
“Whether it is an issue at customs
or some needed, must-ride pharma, most of the meaningful contact does
come to bear as we go the extra steps as friends to help each other out,”
In Air Cargo
Elliott Paige is a development economist
Born in Antigua, Elliott, who speaks easily
with a light rhythm in his voice, recalls that one of his first jobs was
working in air cargo.
‘While in college I worked for Leeward
Islands Air Transport (LIAT), a small carrier that flew Dash 8s, Twin
Otters, and today utilizes ATRs.
“I got to do everything in air cargo
from sales to customer service to bookings to loadings and loved it, and
now I suppose a positive memory of an earlier time in my life has stayed
Twist In Atlanta
“I was well ensconced in trade policy,
diplomacy, and trade promotion based in Geneva, Switzerland, for the World
Trade Organization (WTO), negotiating trade agreements, and I worked for
WTO Secretariat in technical assistance and training.
“Later I was responsible for Latin
America & The Caribbean, where I went to conduct the training courses
in policy and trade rules.
“As time moved on, I worked at the
International Trade Center (ITC) assisting countries in developing their
“But I wanted to return to the Americas,
specifically Washington, D.C., where the action is and where I thought
I would fit in well.
“A friend mentioned: why don’t
you apply for this job in Atlanta?
“I landed the position in Atlanta,
began travelling the world, again, promoting Atlanta, selling the airport
and with some focus on air cargo, added four new freighter services my
If you ask a “money” guy with
no lack of passion and courage which virtue is paramount to make a success
out of any situation, the answer is deceptively simple:
“I think all of my career has been
about creating an opportunity for wealth growth, creating an economy,
“I like to see that my impact on an
economy has made it work and function to the benefit of its stakeholders.
“I like to smooth things out for a
company so that they can trade and build success and continue to do business.
“Years ago, here in Atlanta, a company
told me that they could not export their products via ATL, which were
armored vehicles. U.S. Customs thought the vehicles were potentially going
“The finished vehicles were being
trucked to New York for shipment around the world.
“So, I went to U.S. Customs, requesting
that the officers walk the plant to see what was going on.
“Customs was amazed at the degree
of technology and sophistication of these vehicles, from armor plate to
“These vehicles are exported to top
political leaders all over the world who feel the need for added protection.
“Today the company loves New York,
but ships via Atlanta,” Elliott smiles.