Of all the transportation executives at all the companies
serving air cargo no one is more public or more involved in supporting
the cause of U.S. air forwarders than Brandon Fried.
Brandon is a one-person passion field that
carries forward a point of view about what’s new and what things
mean to air cargo people all across the nation.
The thing that Brandon brings to the table
every day is recognizing and making himself available to the hard-working,
dedicated all-in people of air cargo especially where our business really
counts, down in the trenches.
During the non-COVID times, Brandon, when
not conducting Airforwarders Association business, was the public face
of forwarding found on trade show panels or out on the hustings making
appearances, delivering keynote and meeting speeches at airport air cargo
clubs all over the U.S. from New York to Los Angeles.
Brandon has been situate atop the Airforwarders
Association Since 2005. Prior to that he was Chief Operating Officer of
He is a valuable resource who has been around
long enough to be very much part of the fabric of everyday air cargo in
But as organized air cargo struggles to
get back to face-to-face meetings and event planning, we observe that
the main sponsors of these events, namely the airlines appear to be in
full organized cargo marketing retreat, despite all the positive uplifting
business and good news as to how much air cargo meant at a time when passengers
deserted the airlines altogether.
No doubt that The Airforwarders Association
is the organization that often backs the little guy.
We think AfA is the association for everybody
else, quite unlike the other, more powerful, albeit faceless associations
and trade show groups.
Airforwarders Association punches way above
its weight with determination and style and actually gets things done.
Here are a couple of truths.
Airforwarders Association is unique as the
voice of the freight forwarding business in the U.S., the country with
the biggest market economy.
Airforwarders Association has the lobby
action at work in Washington, D.C.
Not much of that effort makes news but can
be absolutely vital at times impacting all of air cargo because of the
expertise and actions of Brandon Fried.
Right now we can only hope that Brandon
and Company catch a break in their efforts to energize both their base
and that they are able to weather the current challenging climate of “no
As I read the upfront, smart and even heartfelt
answers to some questions we posed to Brandon recently, the words “you
don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it,” start
to rattle round my brain.
Air cargo benefits from Brandon and the
Both together are a constant force with
voices that need and should continue to be heard at every level of air
Consider right now as the second quarter
of 2021 begins, that first spate of retirements as companies worked furiously
a year ago to trim payroll. appears to be morphing into a second round
of good people leaving the industry.
As example, we just learned that brilliant
and promising people like Jim Butler at AA have retired and others at
other companies are moving out of our business altogether.
In a reviewable time in our existence as
an industry, when business and attention from the rest of the world to
our abilities to get the job done are being accepted at an all-time high,
it’s also high-time to get behind the better spirited forces of
the industry like Brandon and the Airforwarders Association.
Joining with others in our industry that
have served and that we will need to help guide business growth in the
future, should be TOPIC-A as the world comes back from COVID.
has changed as the result of the pandemic?
past year has been a significant change for freight forwarders, their
service partners and of course, customers. First, years of technology
investment paid dividends as increased reliance on automation became essential.
While many administrative office staffers worked from home relying on
Zoom and other communication platforms, those in the terminals moving
the cargo wore face masks, practiced social distancing and of course,
sanitized warehouse machinery and frequently touched surfaces. Finally,
the most significant change may be that the 9-5 workday could be a thing
of the past since technology allows easily accessible access to work-related
information and operational automation, 24 hours a day.
Air cargo faces a unique challenge in that much of its capacity is driven
by passenger demand and if people stop flying, a huge portion (almost
50%) of cargo space disappears.
see record backlogs and no airplanes left to lease from the boneyards.
Why do you suppose people in our business seem to be pulling in their
horns and just bumping along?
some freight transportation businesses continue to experience pandemic-related
challenges such as lower cargo volume and capacity issues, many Airforwarders
Association members are posting significant gains due to their involvement
in e-commerce, essential medical and other high demand business verticals
that continue to demonstrate importance during this crisis.
is that (if you agree) a mistake?
only error many businesses make is that they stop trying. Forwarders know
that to survive in this constantly changing business environment, they
must be creative and stay competitive to meet new customer demands. This
requires increasing knowledge and education which is why our organization
presents an ongoing webinar program and online learning designed to foster
education and new ideas for our members.
has your membership handled difficult choices between family (children,
wives, husbands) and work?
many of our members continue to commute and work from their offices safely,
some choose to work from home which may be convenient, but requires self-discipline
including separation from children and other family members who share
the same house. Working from home can be a juggling act balancing interruptions
and other distractions but its convenience and no significant commute
may provide more time for work projects and meetings. However, there is
no substitute for the creative energy derived from in-person, face-to-face
interaction and many look forward to going back to their actual offices
for that very reason.
some names and give a couple of short shout outs and examples.
Airforwarders Association members continue to thrive during these challenging
times. For example, one of our members is EliteExpo from Chicago. When
faced with a downturn in the trade show industry, they immediately started
offering work desk partitions and pandemic-safe exhibit solutions for
their customers. Theirs is a shining example of forwarder creativity responding
to rapid change.
is AfA membership telling you about the AfA post pandemic?
members are generally optimistic, especially since the vaccine distribution
is ongoing and companies begin to reopen. They realize that once consumer
confidence grows, manufacturing and product demand increases and so will
their forwarding businesses. We are already seeing an uptick in passenger
travel which will ultimately bring back much more capacity for belly freight.
reasons membership should be maintained and even be expanded as in our
unique position in this time as a premier way to move goods on the national
and international stage.
the pandemic challenges over the last year, our organization continues
to provide essential information and advocacy for its members. For example,
our engagement with government regulatory agencies including TSA , CBP,
The U.S. Department of Commerce and others never stopped because the wheels
of government continue to roll, creating ongoing challenges that must
be addressed on behalf of the companies we represent.
are the major issues ahead in 2021 and beyond that can benefit AfA members?
AfA has several issues on its radar screen including:
upcoming June 2021 ICAO alleviation of Account Consignor and its impact
on cargo flown on international freighter flights.
The ongoing airport and maritime port
congestion issue which continues to cost our members significant time
and financial resources.
The constant threat of cybersecurity and
ransomware attacks on our industry and its members.
Engagement with the new Presidential Administration
with a focus on recognizing the essential role of international trade.
the Biden Administration and Congress in devising a new infrastructure
package that funds our roads, airports, and maritime ports to keep
goods moving efficiently.
Climate sustainability and how our industry
can support efforts to address the issue.
long will you continue? You have been Mr. Air Freight Forwarder, a natural
guy for longer than anybody can remember and must have set some kind of
record of service for your years.
organization has accomplished so much but there is also more work to be
done. Helping freight forwarders and their supporting businesses is the
passion that fuels my energy, and I am not quitting any time soon. This
continues to be a great job and aside from a loss of hair on my head,
I am physically ready for the challenges ahead.
work is not done? What are you most proud and satisfied with for your
years in service?
would like to accomplish more membership growth and increase our value
do you admire in public service in air cargo over your years?
have been so impressed with the caliber and intelligence of so many of
the public figures encountered throughout my career. Most especially,
the dedication and passion of those protecting our country including the
TSA, CBP and our military leaders continue to inspire me to work hard
are your heroes?
from my wife, Kim and children being the significant heroes in my life,
there are the many AfA members and Board Directors whom I continue to
serve. But Fred Smith of FedEx is one of my noteworthy heroes as he created
an industry segment that thrives while he serves as a valued statesman