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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 25
Wednesday July 1, 2021
What Makes Jason Berry Run?
Jason Berry

Word up from Jason Berry, Air Canada Vice President of Cargo that the airline in a standout move was breaking away from every other North American combination carrier by adding all cargo B767 freighters to the fleet as fast as the carrier can convert them, quickens the heart of every true air cargo executive.
     Imagination, commitment and a roadmap for change are the watchwords at Air Canada Cargo.
     As 2021 continues and the world emerges from the COVID-19 hangover, the carrier is a global standout, having launched more that 9,000 cargo flights during the pandemic that in no small measure has driven change and broadened thinking about the future of air cargo at Air Canada.
     Berry, who exudes an energetic youthful vigor, in fact, has more than 25 years of cargo experience in the aviation industry, having held leadership roles in commercial and operational capacities at Alaska Airlines, Cargolux Airlines, Menzies Aviation and McGee Air Services.
     He learned air cargo from the ground up entering the industry in 1995 as a warehouse agent at Cargolux.
     But Jason was a quick read at the carrier, moving on to leadership positions in operations.
     Berry joined Alaska Airlines in 2013 and that move accelerated his career into the stratosphere as Managing Director, Cargo before his next move to President of McGee Air Services, a wholly owned ground handling subsidiary of Alaska Airlines.
     So now with its first freighter due to arrive sometime early in Q4 of 2021, we thought the man carrying the responsibility to make the future Air Canada Cargo plan work might share some insights and industry views, as his mighty all-cargo fleet is building.
     Sometimes you might view a story like this as “a view from the top,” but wait a minute.
      Here we have an executive who is also a proven handling specialist, so in a switcheroo of sorts we asked some basic human questions and were pleased that      Jason without blinking joined us and offered a view of air cargo from the ground up.

What is the best story you have experienced or have heard during the past fourteen year and a half months during the pandemic?
JB:  There have been so many, it’s difficult to choose! Soon after I started at Air Canada, on February 12, our 5,000th cargo-only flight landed in Shanghai with a full load of live lobster. AC2283 left Toronto with a total of nearly 34,000 kilos of freight on board, all the more memorable because it was Lunar New Year, and Canadian lobsters arrived just in time for celebrations. That flight stands out because Air Canada only started operating cargo-only flights at the start of the pandemic, and here we had hit the 5,000th one already. There was also a particular significance in that handling large shipments of live lobster is a complex, sensitive operation. These were loaded in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a cargo-only flight and flown to Toronto to connect with the flight to PVG. Our teams in Halifax and Toronto did an exceptional job—the tremendous skill and effort that they put in to every one of these flights, from the moment that we first connect with the customer to the day of the operation, is remarkable.
     Additionally, PVG played a critical role at the start of the pandemic, as we transported PPE and medical supplies on cargo-only fights from there at a time when air capacity had been hit hard, and there was a dire need for the supplies. Since the very early stages of the pandemic, the dedication of our team in Asia, particularly PVG, went beyond expectations, adapting to our schedule and the increased number of cargo-only flights out of this region.
     It’s very fitting that we celebrated the 5,000 cargo-only flight by landing in PVG, on New Year’s Day, with a belly full of Canadian lobster. The return flight departed the next day carrying face masks for redistribution in various Canadian cities.
What as a professional transportation executive are you most proud of during this time?
     Similar to other significant events such as 9/11 or the financial crisis, the speed at which the pandemic changed our business only reinforced the importance of remaining laser-focused on doing everything possible to support our people and the communities we serve by keeping them safe and providing continued access to essential goods via air. The collaboration and creativity across branches has been one of the most defining moments for Air Canada and key for our ability carry through with our mission amidst the distractions of COVID-19.

Jason BerryFT:  What are you most looking forward to doing both business and personally as restrictions ease and COVID finally recedes?
JB:  Having joined Air Canada in the midst of the pandemic, I’ve been extremely limited in my ability to visit our teams. I’m most looking forward to getting out and traveling to see our employees and the customers that support us across the globe.

FT:   When do you expect that will be?
JB:  I’m hopeful that some level of business travel will begin now and through the remainder of the year.

FT:   How have you changed? Look at your life before, during and after the pandemic professionally?
JB:  Watching global aviation brought to its knees was a humbling experience. We were powerless to much of what was transpiring around us. The pandemic has been a test of resilience and a reminder that we must focus on what we can control.

FT:   Are you at all or just a bit fatigued of zoom, webinar and other web-driven contact? Or will you make that medium a go to form of contact and communication? If answering yes how much face to face? Or wait and see how you feel?
JB:  Web-based conference calls have become the standard form of communication during lockdown. There are things to be learned from the “virtual” experience and it has proven to been a powerful tool to connect continents, however, in my opinion it can never fully replace in-person meetings and the connections those interactions create. I look forward to collaborating with colleagues and business partners face-to-face again soon.

FT:   In all your contact and communications what has happened or have you experienced that impacted and impressed you the most?
JB:  We often talk about forging partnerships in our business and how critical good communication is. The most impressive and impactful experience has been watching partnerships springing to life in new ways we may have never imagined, delivering vaccines, life-saving equipment, and PPE to those in need across the globe.

FT:   Although your freighter announcement is big news, (congratulations) . . . how else will Air Canada Cargo emerge during the rest of 2021?
JB:  We’re thrilled to be sharing the news of our new freighter routes, however we must keep our eye on the ball and continue to support our customers through the entirety of this complex business cycle. We still have a job to do and it requires a full effort from our entire team to help keep the tenuous supply chain intact.

FT:   Can you feel the respect and encouragement for cargo based on performance? Name the highs of course but also what can we all do better?
JB:  I’ve been passionate about air cargo my whole life, so it’s incredible to see our industry be recognized on a global stage and viewed in this new light. That being said, I look forward to the day when our colleagues on the passenger side of the house are back to full force—that will mean our world is regaining balance and we can hopefully say the worst is finally behind us. We have learned many impactful lessons during COVID. As proud as I am for what air cargo has meant to the industry, it is a small story in the grand scheme of things. We’ve witnessed nations come together to battle a pandemic, social injustices openly addressed and concrete actions around equality are being raised. We still have a lot of work to do, but this is what’s most encouraging from my perspective.

FT:   What has air cargo shown during the pandemic and should there be an industry wide campaign to advance air cargo to targeted industries or some other form of coordinated effort led by FIATA, IATA, CNS or even alliance partners? If so what would be the message?
JB:  Air cargo is and will remain a key piece of the supply chain puzzle. The symbiotic relationship between passenger belly space and main deck freighter capacity cannot be underestimated. There is a place for both today and into the future. The key will be to find ways to best leverage these modes to efficiently and effectively support the logistics supply chain. This includes delivering on global initiatives such as digitalization that improve the speed of our business.

FT:   Is Air Canada participating in any trade shows during 2021? Which ones?
JB:  We are working with our regional sales teams to see whether we will participate in tradeshows as they come up.

FT:   Finally what would you tell a young man or woman entering air cargo right now, knowing what has happened during the past 14 months, in addition to your career experience?
JB:  Air cargo is not for the faint of heart and this year is no exception, yet it can be some of the most rewarding work you will ever have the opportunity to be a part of. While it may not be directly visible, the freight in our warehouses and on our aircraft have a face and a name that depend on us to deliver. Being a vital part of the world’s supply chain provides you with the opportunity to touch endless people’s lives where no day is the same.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Vol. 20 No. 23
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Hit Or Miss Trade Shows
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Vol. 20 No. 24
Air Cargo Needs Ability To Hit The Curve
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Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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