Work in progress

posted on 17th March 2022
Work in progress

American Airlines Cargo’s aims this year include identifying operational challenges at the source and learning how to implement proactive preventative measures to mitigate issues – and evaluating how to replicate the good days – says its vice president for operations Sam Mendenhall

What have you been doing to improve air freight operational efficiency and communications, and what will you do this year?
The pandemic has provided many businesses and industries a natural opportunity for self-evaluation. Having joined the American Airlines Cargo team during the pandemic, I quickly recognised an opportunity for increased coordination across our sales, revenue management, and operations teams – especially as the environment was constantly changing.
Our aim this year is to make sure we identify operational challenges at the source and learn how to implement proactive preventative measures to mitigate issues. Similarly, we are also looking at the days when our operation runs smoothly and measuring what happens on a good day – not just learning from the challenges but learning from the wins and evaluating how we can replicate those days.
While this remains a constant work in progress, we are focused on improving communication between our teams, tracking metrics that are upstream of departure and arrival, and overall getting the basics of the operation correct so we can deliver on our promise to our customers consistently.

How can you and other stakeholders in the air freight supply chain work more effectively this year to improve visibility and streamline cargo operational processes – to minimise some of the congestion, delays and volatility experienced last year at certain cargo handling stations and airports?
Many challenges, such as capacity shortages, infrastructure challenges at airports, and staffing constraints are still prevalent for the air cargo industry. As an industry, we need to find ways to partner with our stakeholders where we can to mitigate these challenges.
There is also a big opportunity to streamline and standardise country restrictions for crew and passengers, so we can operate more efficiently as a supply chain. Consistency is an important part of a streamlined operational process, and that includes consistency in flight schedules – particularly for passenger airlines. A stable schedule allows for sourcing of the right equipment as well as staffing. We’ve seen our industry react creatively to the challenges the pandemic has created, and if we stay creative and adaptable, we can continue to tackle whatever the future may hold.

How can we better incentivise stakeholders in the air freight supply chain to support these aims?
At American, we are focused on the safety and wellbeing of our team members and vendor partners. We have worked with our partners in various locations to provide retention and hiring incentives, but overall, we are focused on ensuring that team members feel appreciated, supported, and cared for. “We’ve also re-introduced performance-based awards for our cargo teams to make sure great work is recognised and celebrated.”

What role will new and emerging technology play?
Technology will certainly continue to transform the industry through modernisation. Things like real-time data, seamless connectivity, transparency in pricing and capacity are critical factors for moving the industry forward. At American, we’re also focused on technology that creates access to a broader range of customers and makes it easier for them to do business with us, wherever they are. Technology will also be a big enabler for the industry in terms of the ability to standardise less-complex business efforts so that team members are free to focus on solutions for unique challenges.