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   Vol. 18 No. 32
Friday May 3, 2019

Neel Shah Of Flexport

Hot on the heels of Flexport’s latest funding infusion, FlyingTypers spoke to Neel Jones Shah, the forwarder’s SVP and Global Head of Air Freight.

Ryan Petersen      U.S.-based Flexport is not lacking ambition. Formed in 2013 and offering a full suite of air and ocean forwarding services, it has been open about its determination to disrupt forwarding and logistic markets by using its powerful technology platform to deliver “deep visibility and control, predictable supply chain costs, and more reliable transit times”.
     Last month it announced a $1bn injection of funds, led by the venture capital (VC) arm of Japanese investment conglomerate Softbank. CEO Ryan Petersen (right) said the war chest would be used to build out Flexport’s physical infrastructure of global warehouses and offices, including building warehousing/cross-docking facilities at major gateways.
     Neel Jones Shah told FlyingTypers that for the company’s air freight forwarding network this would result in major service and infrastructure upgrades in the coming months. “We will be using our recently raised funding to do three primary things: invest in our platform/technology, build/acquire infrastructure to support our customers and hire expertise,” he told Flying Typers.
     “On the specific question of infrastructure, we are continuing to build out our gateway strategy so we have true end to end control of our customer’s freight in the key trade lanes.
     “We are currently a few weeks away from opening our brand new state of the art gateway in ORD which will complement its sister gateway in LAX.
     “In addition, we will soon be moving into our new space in HKG at the AFFC which is double our old footprint and will incorporate the latest screening technology as we prepare for HK CAD requirement of 100% screening for all outbound flights including freighters.
     “Our gateways in ORD and LAX are bonded, CCSF facilities and will also be TAPA certified along with HKG in the near future.”
     Additional network enhancements are also under consideration. “Our teams are in the process of evaluating our next round of investments that will include additional gateways in the U.S. as well as key European hubs,” he said.
     Despite the threat of further trade policy disruption to the company’s key Transpacific lane due to the U.S.-China trade war, Shah was optimistic about the rest of 2019, He said that although the post-Chinese New Year period was “one of the slowest that I’ve ever experienced in my 17 years in the business” demand would gradually improve.
     “After the holiday was officially over, factories took much longer to get started and volumes just still haven’t even come close to what they were pre-CNY,” he said. “But we are anticipating that things will start to pick up by the end of March, so by the 3rd and 4th week of March and into early April – the traditional Q1, end of Q1 push.”
     And while there are clouds over China and Hong Kong both of which are seeing slower than expected export demand growth, elsewhere in Asia there are positive signs. South East Asia and Japan are “performing strongly”, for example, with the former benefitting from a shift of manufacturing from China due to U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports.
     Shah also thinks China will rebound. “Looking at the balance of the year, I am extremely optimistic, as I think most people are now, that the U.S. and China are going to solve their trade dispute, and may even roll back even the 10% tariff,” he said. “And if they do that, clearly Chinese exports are going to become extremely competitive once again.
     “They had lost a little bit of their edge because of the tariff and the overall labor environment in China, but if they roll back the 10%, China’s going to become competitive again which will slow the exodus of business to other parts of Asia. If there is a deal, we could see a pretty strong second half of the year out of the main Asia markets.
     “However, I don’t think a China rebound would slow down the growth of places like Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia. I think you’re going to continue seeing these places growing at double digit rates.
     “Without a doubt they are the new manufacturing hubs for Asia. The issue is the infrastructure has to catch up. You can’t just move into the country and think that they have the trained labor force, they have the roads, the trucks, the warehousing, the airports. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
     He said signs that U.S. demand was slowing were also overstated. “Things are slowing down a little bit in the U.S. but it’s by no means heading into a recession any time soon,” he said.      “Companies brought in a lot of inventory to try and beat the tariffs at the end of last year.
     “I think the U.S. economy is still quite strong. People are still consuming and buying, so we’re ok there, and I think that because of the heavy push to beat tariffs at the end of last year, companies had a lot of inventory so they just didn’t need to ship as much in Q1. They’re just drawing it down. Hopefully things will start to pick back up in the April time period.”
     “I think later on this year there will likely be an inventory build and I think it will impact ocean first - people will start shipping on ocean and then you will see some of that ocean conversion in the latter half of the year.”

Chuckles For April 24, 2014

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Hot on the heels of Flexport’s latest funding infusion recently, FlyingTypers spoke to Neel Jones Shah, the forwarder’s SVP and Global Head of Air Freight.
Shah has occupied top posts at United and Delta Cargo so he has gained a unique perspective and reputation for advancing keen analytics, frank observations and conclusive projections as an industry voice that is heard in transportation worldwide.

Claiming “to advance JFK International Airport’s place as an international cargo handler,” a “place” that the airport once upon a time dominated from its opening in 1948 until the early 1990s when more than half of all airborne cargo in USA transited the facility, airport operator The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey signed a deal to allow JFK Air Cargo LLC to lease a new 250,000 sq. ft. cargo transfer facility to be built with $70 million in private funds at the airport.


  "Effective leadership is required to handle the customers' constantly diversifying demands accurately across the air cargo industry.
  “I truly believe that my new membership duty of the TIACA committee will reinforce this leadership, and provide a positive contribution to development of the international air cargo industry."
  As if he didn’t already have enough on his plate, with the opening of the dazzling new Istanbul International Airport and a projected future of four million tons of air cargo throughput on the menu, Turhan Ozen, Chief Cargo Officer Turkish Airlines, has decided to give something back to the industry, consenting to join The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) Committee that aims to enhance air cargo via an intensive effort toward developing global standards.
  Sebastiaan Scholte, Chairman of TIACA and CEO of Jan de Rijk Logistics, said:
  “Turkey has become a mega hub for air transportation between Europe and Asia.
  “All steps taken and experiences gone through by Mr. Ozen for completion of the giant Mega Terminal at the stunning new Istanbul International Airport will be invaluable to the TIACA committee and its members,” Mr. Scholte said.

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TWA Constellation
     A very popular aircraft from the 1950s and early 1960s has ended up as a restaurant, and often as a bar at several locations in USA. Usually perched on a concrete buttress, is all or part of a Lockheed Constellation.
     The aircraft was first operated by TWA, when Howard Hughes owned the airline, and later by all the airlines, including Pan Am, Lufthansa, Air France and many others.
     When Ralph Damon headed up TWA, it was the Lockheed Constellation, which served flights in and out of TWA’s “butterfly” poured concrete building designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen at Idlewild Airport, today known as JFK International Airport.
     Now an elegant Lockheed Constellation or at least part of one has returned to JFK International to sit mounted somewhere near the Saarinen TWA building to serve as (what else?) a bar.
     Richly painted in TWA colors the tube minus wings, engines and tail was ballyhooed through Times Square in Manhattan en route to JFK recently.
     But apparently someone forgot to do their homework as the now dormant aircraft was continually referred to in media reports as a “jet”.
     Of course the Howard Hughes inspired Lockheed Constellation was /is a piston pounder!
The Lockheed is also maybe the most beautiful airplane ever built.
     So now the new 500 plus room hotel at JFK International Airport attached to the iconic TWA “Butterfly” with the Lockheed “Connie” sitting like a cherry on top, opens for business May 15.
     Although Saarinen died before his JFK International Airport masterpiece building debuted (other examples of his work include Dulles Airport & the Jefferson Arch in St. Louis), the Saarinen name is being flouted all over the new hotel in an attempt to create a chic destination.
     Lots of luck, we say.
     To look at it, it all seems like an overcrowded jumble, as the original, breathtakingly beautiful TWA Building and a 500-room hotel sit squeezed together astride the Jet Blue airline passenger terminal, the roadway and a huge vista-obliterating parking garage.
     Despite not being able to enjoy the views, once apparent at TWA JFK, (except if you are in the new hotel looking out), good to report that JFK in 2019 has an on airport hotel that “soft opens” for business May 15 at an average cost of USD$240 per night.
     Yes, at last check there are still some rooms available.
     It is worth noting, in addition to living in an era in which apparently airport hotel people cannot get their airplanes straight, the other on airport JFK hotel, the empty and somewhat forlorn, once upon a time beautiful and iconic International Hotel, has sat empty at the Van Wyck Expressway entrance to JFK for the best part of the last two decades.
     Today, the International Hotel, which welcomed not only Neil Armstrong back from the moon at the Bishop Wright Protestant Chapel Award Dinner, but also World War II hero Jimmy Doolittle, sits as a muted, lone sentinel to a bygone era.
     Talk about not seeing something right under your nose.
     How did the hotel industry and airport operator manage to overlook this place with lots of parking and open space as the natural location to either do an adaptive reuse, restoration or even rebuild?
     Today, John F. Kennedy International Airport, the air field dreamed up by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1942 to ease congested LaGuardia Airport 12 miles away, despite the glitz of a new hotel in the dense, overcrowded airport ring of buildings, otherwise is by and large, an embarrassment.
     The hope is that the JFK Air Cargo Association, KAAMCO, JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce and others will take advantage of the meeting rooms and dining options the TWA Hotel will offer.
     So far these groups, without a truly world class facility on airport, meet at places like Russo’s On The Bay, located off airport in Howard Beach, and at other hotels and function halls near the airport.
     Might be nice, despite the traffic din of the on airport experience, to once more be able to say “Meet Me At TWA!”

TWA Building, JFK Airport and IM Pei National Building, JFK

  When it comes to spotlighting exceptional airport buildings, why did The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey allow I.M. Pei’s exquisite Aviodrome, an acknowledged masterpiece of 1960s art & architecture, fall under the wrecker’s ball in 2010 despite widespread loud and vocal protest? More here.
  Too much of a good thing?
  In this case, too much was not enough!
  When we think back on it, how lucky were we to be able to save the Marine Air Terminal, LaGuardia Airport, New York and Building One, Newark International Airport, New Jersey—historic first-generation aviation buildings.

Harmonize Cargo Meeting

   Upcoming this Sunday May 5, CNS Partnership takes off in Miami at the Doral National.
   Here is some music, a double entendre really, suggesting something that airlines and forwarders and conference organizers might consider advancing.
   Very rare Bing Crosby with some lovely acapella voices that we share after getting a heads up today that the old groaner was born 116 years ago May 3 in Tacoma.
   Wonder if there has ever been an air cargo glee club?
   How cool and maybe even therapeutic would it be to have a few time-outs at a business conference, to let in some sweet sounds?
   Even better if those voices were actually airline and forwarder people who like to sing.
   Your move . . .

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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Access specific articles by clicking on article title
FT042219Vol. 18 No. 29
Supermarket In The Sky
Chuckles for April 22, 2019
Celebrating Earth Day 2019
FT042419Vol. 18 No. 30
Air Cargo Is About People
Chuckles for April 24, 2019
Go Go Guillaume
Brandon Gets It
AFKLMP Change & Forwarders Cheer

FT050119Vol. 18 No. 31
Boeing Pledges MAX Safety
Reimagine Awards As More Rewarding
JFK Cargo Gets A Pulse

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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