Just as many people in air cargo decided
that enough is enough with this lockdown, and may have chosen in some
respects to throw caution to the winds and attend trade events, or be
damned, it might be helpful to step back a bit and observe that changes
in the organizations that put up these events may leave them unable to
recoup momentum to pull off a trade show or do much else in 2021.
Start by wondering in all the mayhem of
the last year and a half, who can truly mount a successful event in 2021
for an industry that currently is just operating at half of what it was
Right now, some carriers’ road-to-recovery
plan includes realigning space back to passenger capacity that cargo people
had utilized with those in-cabin cargo flights and all cargo operations.
This has left some air cargo stalwarts scrambling.
No conspiracy here and no coincidences either.
Air cargo is simply, in some cases, going
back to where it once belonged before it saved the world, and now is predictably
taking a plunge in the eyes of some airline management.
But we remain optimistic, because in cases
like Air Canada adding a new freighter fleet that takes off this October;
or the enlightened management at Qatar, Virgin, and some others that get
it about the future; air cargo people are being heard, are supported accordingly.
This year some events in terms of audience
and revenue appear at this stage to be barely squeaking by on committed
revenue that had been frozen in one place or another since everything
was cancelled in 2020.
As example, in the case of World Cargo Symposium
Istanbul later this year Turkish Airlines, we hear, tried to back out
of WCS in Istanbul (of all places), and was told: show up or lose your
In the buy-it-now game has anyone noticed
that in the air cargo publications by and large there is very little advertising
from the airlines?
But at the same time there are advertisements
running in some of those “Official” air cargo event publications?
What do you think that is all about?
No doubt business as usual is unusual in
this 2021 recovery year.
So, the books will be closed on 2019/20
as event organizers, damn the torpedo’s and move full speed ahead,
grab some additional 2021 trade show revenue from the restless this summer.
This despite continued pandemic variant pop-ups and surges in different
parts of the world, including Central and Latin America, Asia and elsewhere,
that in late June 2021 remain under-vaccinated.
But in the scorched earth path of COVID-19
there is a larger challenge ahead for air cargo.
During the last year, the industry has seen
quite a change in individuals from key organizations that represent the
airline industry. Many senior people have left the associations for other
positions. What is worse we have not seen anyone filling the shoes of
these positions that are more important to have than ever for an industry
that is in a state of dramatic growth.
Magical Mystery Tour of Associations
Merritt, Managing Director of Cargo, Airlines for America (A4A), which
represents the U.S.-based airlines resigned after over ten years with
the organization. Merritt was lead in many issues for the U.S.-based airlines
with the U.S. TSA and CBP. As one of the most knowledgeable people of
the rules and regulations airlines must comply with, she was a top spokesperson
and led many important committee chairs that made sure the airlines had
Since her departure, James Van Epps has
taken over as the new head of cargo for the association. Van Epps has
quite an extensive background as he was formerly with Delta, Northwest
and United. It is great to see someone with some airline experience in
IATA Careens Toward Tomorrow
The most dramatic change has been with CNS
and IATA. It seems that their reorganizations have not filled several
open positions but have eliminated them completely. In IATA’s global
role there has been more of a purge. It has been almost six months since
the IATA global head of cargo position has been open. Well known Glyn
Hughes left IATA after taking a voluntary package and then joined The
International Air Cargo Association as the Director General.
In February, IATA Senior Vice President
Nick Careen was quoted as saying that the position was especially important,
and they would expect to fill the position with a well-known senior air
cargo leader. As of this writing no one has been announced to fill this
Other key air cargo positions within IATA
have yet to be filled and many have been combined, eliminated, or just
left open. Even though air cargo has been a key role in keeping many airlines
afloat during the COVID-19 period, IATA has also had to make some serious
cuts to keep the organization operating.
Jumping Ship From IATA
IATA has seen the Head of Cargo Border Management,
Gordon Wright, leave for a position at DHL as Vice President Customs and
Regulatory for the EU. Shawn Beddows who was Senior Manager in the same
department as Wright departed IATA to take a position as VP at CT Strategies
Most recent departure is Andrea Gruber,
Head of Special Cargo. Ms. Gruber, who had been charged with all the standards
for live animals, pharma and other specialized cargo, will be a missed
talent in the organization.
IATA has dwindled their cargo representation
down with many of the regional cargo manager positions eliminated. Asia,
Europe, Africa, and the Americas are now left to a handful of positions
that have been the face of the industry, yet IATA does not have much an
agenda for cargo.
Concentration On Passengers
At the end of the day, passenger issues
are what the association is most focused on. The
airline industry is at a crux and so is IATA as to what they feel is most
important to sustain the industry and the association.
One of the biggest losses for IATA was the
departure of Michael White of CNS. White was known to be the voice of
the IATA membership in the U.S. via CNS for over 13 years and was also
the former Managing Director of Cargo for the U.S.-based Air Transport
Association. His 23 years in Washington is not totally a loss, as his
new company, Trade Network Consultants (TNC) is up and running, representing
many of the carriers and organizations that have relied on associations
in the past.
So how about the other associations in Washington
that represent other air cargo interest?
Alterman@39 Years & CAA
One of the mainstays of the all-cargo airlines
is Steven Alterman, President of Cargo Airline Association. The association
represent carriers like Atlas, National, FedEx, DHL, UPS, and others.
Alterman has been with the organization for almost 39 years, how long
he will continue with the association is not known.
CAA has two VP’s, Yvette Rose and Gina
Zuckerman who play important roles and have a combined 41 years of experience
with the CAA.
Future of Mullen & EAA
Another association is the Express Association
of America headed by Executive Director, Michael Mullen. The former U.S.
Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner oversees the interest
of DHL, FedEx, and UPS. The association is extremely focused on the interest
of the three big integrators. The depth of the organization though is
limited to Michael with much support from the members.
So What Happens Next?
At a time when air cargo is in a state of
change, there is still much to do to stay on top when it comes to issues
affecting air cargo. In the U.S., there are upcoming developments that
The development of the new U.S. ACE Export system,
requiring all forms of transport to file their export information electronically
is a major change in the way transport will do business in the U.S. Will
other countries follow suit, and will the e-freight world go forward?
Security & Safety Top Agenda
Security and safety are two key areas that
will always exist. Who will speak with expertise and experience on behalf
of the airlines in the future? Is the industry going to be represented
by the associations they are members of, or will they have to do it on
Air Cargo Looking For A Voice
In this period when the air cargo industry
has to adapt to the e-commerce world, which is growing at a much faster
pace than was expected, will trade associations continue to be the voice,
Associations have been the voice for decades
and there have always been changes in personnel. However we hope that
in this next phase of evolution and development in the air cargo industry
there will be individuals with knowledge and proficiency present. Only
time will tell.