Air Cargo has long been the toast of shippers across the globe, as the industry takes a giant leap towards modernisation and technology; cargo carriers will need to adapt in order to maintain a competitive offering. Jessica Tyler, VP- Strategy and Development at American Airlines Cargo, in conversation with Saurabh Sharma, informs how they have consistently pushed the edge of cargo technology and expanded their network around the world, with the commitment to providing the highest level of care as they safely and reliably transport more than 2 billion pounds of freight and mail around the world each year.
Kindly share some insights about the genesis and lineage of American Airlines Cargo.
We can trace our lineage back to an association of air transport companies that merged to become American Airways, which was the direct predecessor of American Airlines. The first cargo flown by our predecessor was a mail contract route from Chicago, Illinois, to St Louis, Missouri. American Airlines Cargo marks the 75th anniversary of the first-ever cargo flight on October 15.
What makes American Airlines Cargo a compelling business case for air cargo operations?
2018 was a record-breaking year for us at American both in terms of operational performance (FAB), volume, and revenue. We reported $1B for the first time and moved two billion pounds of freight, and our global team worked hard to make that happen. In fact, we’ve had 12 months of record-breaking operational performance – delivering what we promise customers day in and day out is what we do best. Due to many external factors, the market for all cargo shippers has softened throughout the first half of the year, but our resilience lies in our network strength and exceptional customer service.
Domestically, we carry freight and mail on both wide-body and narrow-body flights as it is our home market. Our narrow bodies and their frequency of service are ideally suited to accommodate the ever-growing E-commerce business which predominantly consists of small parcels.
What practices make you stand out in technology, innovation and automation while handling cargo movement?
We are well down the road to modernisation, much like the entire industry. We’re currently making significant investments in technology with the development and upcoming implementation of our new iCargo system. This year, the headline is about offering customers new self-service tools and booking experience that is more in line with the user’s experience. The platform allows us to streamline our processes, and give customers easier access to our teams every step of the way.
The investment in iCargo and the accompanying evolution is American’s largest investment in cargo throughout history, which will allow us to further improve our products and increase our capacity for customers. It’s exciting to see how investments like this will help to shape the industry over the next several years.
What state-of-the-art facilities are employed by AA Cargo to manage such a huge network of air carriers?
We offer various cooling solutions to customers with our ExpediteTC°product. The product includes service features and benefits, dedicated infrastructure, enhanced tracking technologies, and temperature-controlled containers. We have a flagship, purpose-built pharma facility at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) where we have made significant investments and commitments to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. We also have infrastructures positioned across the world at many locations including Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Miami International Airport (MIA), San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), Heathrow Airport (LHR), Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), and Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
What are the chief markets that AA Cargo caters to? What is the share of the Indian market in AA Cargo’s operations?
Asia is a long-standing region for us with operations in China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. We are encouraged by the two new slots at the Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) for service beginning 2020 and look forward to the solutions we can bring to our customers with these additions. Those slots include a daily DFW-HND flight using a 777-200ER, and a daily LAX-HND flight using a 787-8.
Latin America is another important market for us. We operate the largest number of wide-body frequencies from the US to that region, particularly to Brazil and Argentina. The Transatlantic and Transpacific markets remain very crucial to our global network offering for customers in addition to Asia, Europe and Latin America. We continue to expand the overall offering with more new routes.
Europe has long been a key market for us with cargo operations at London Heathrow, Paris and Frankfurt, and a growing range of other cities now served year-round or seasonally. In August, new direct routes from our US hubs to locations including Krakow, Prague, Budapest, Tel Aviv and Casablanca were announced to begin in 2020. We are excited to expand further into an existing strong market.
For India, specifically, we serve the region through our strategic partnerships and consistently find new ways to connect customers across the globe. India is an important market for us, and we have interlined connections and GSA operations in place to fully support our activities. Customers across India have full access to our global network as a result.
Enlighten us on the endeavours made by AA Cargo towards curbing carbon emissions to ensure a sustainable environment.
Sustainability is at the core of American’s business strategy. AA Cargo is committed to safeguarding the environment. We are doing all we can to proactively minimise our impact – recognising that the success of our efforts will affect future generations. That’s why we’re pursuing a goal to cut our CO2 emissions to half over the next 30 years. Our efforts—in the air and on the ground—to operate more sustainably are also in line with the expectations of our team members, customers and shareholders.
If you look at how we’re investing in aircraft, you can see our focus on sustainability. Our fleet renewal program is retiring older models for more fuel-efficient aircraft, and we’ve brought on 500 new planes since 2013 – making our fleet the youngest US fleet in the industry. We’re burning less fuel, reducing emissions and cutting energy costs. The new models are also quieter, improving passenger comfort and reducing the impact of noise on communities near airports where we operate.
What trends you believe will shape the global air freight market in the upcoming years?
Today, consumer expectations are completely different than what it was a few years ago. As the bar for expedited shipping raises across consumer services, cargo carriers will need to adapt in order to maintain a competitive offering. Expectations will only continue to rise, and at American, we focus on listening to our customers, providing solutions based on their needs, and even providing what they may not know they need.
With the influence of new players in the air cargo industry, it’s important to learn and look to the future with new, creative ideas. As the industry begins to revolutionise through digital enhancements and investments in technology, an industry-wide mindset change is also necessary to modernise and grow forward. In a few years, my hope is that we’ll be talking about digital solutions that go beyond tracking and digital platforms for the state of the industry is significantly more advanced across all products and services.