Celebrating a 40th birthday may not seem to be something unusual these days.
It is however a milestone for Air Menzies International (AMI) who celebrates being forty years in the business this month.
The company, which was founded in 1976 as part of the UK Air Marketing International Group, claims that it has in the meantime grown into the world’s largest airfreight and express cargo wholesaler.
A small start leads to a large and successful company
AMI as we know it today split away from the mother company in 1978 after two years together.
The AMI team went out on their own under the leadership of the founder and one-time managing director, Tony Realff.
AMI set up what they termed as a unique trade-only concept with smaller freight forwarders who until then had only been able to co-load shipments with the larger forwarders who often were their direct competitors.
In the early years of operation, AMI set up dedicated trade lanes from its UK base to the Middle East, USA, Australia and Africa by creating a network of partners (agents) in the destination
countries. These were successfully used to take care of all formalities at destination such as Customs, breakdown and delivery of incoming goods.
AMI did not just use one carrier on certain routes, but split their eggs into various baskets by using different carriers, thereby giving their clients a varied choice of delivery times and flexible rates.
Those days the AMI rate tariff which became known as the “industry bible,” was more than 200 pages long and encompassed almost 1,000 destinations.
It was in 1986, ten years after its birth, that AMI started up its own General Sales Agency (GSA) which represented the U.S. carrier Continental Airlines Cargo within the United Kingdom.
It was also in 1986 that AMI launched the AMI express product.
This led to a strange development.
Continental Airlines then bought AMI in 1987, only to sell it back to Tony Realff in 1990 as a result of the airline’s new policy to concentrate on its core business - flying!
Menzies Aviation takeover in 1993
The success of AMI was apparently being closed followed by Menzies Aviation who made a bid and were successful in taking over AMI - hence the name, Air Menzies International.
The company was not sucked into the Menzies product as such, but continues to this date to trade under its own AMI identity.
Financial support came from Menzies allowing AMI to continue on a road to global expansion.
Des Vertannes took up the reins in 1999
Most of our readers are familiar with Des Vertannes who before going into retirement not long ago was head of IATA Cargo.
Des was appointed by PeterSmith, then CEO of Menzies Aviation, to succeed Tony Realff in 1999 as head of AMI. He stayed with AMI until 2005 before becoming Head of Cargo at Gulf Air in Bahrain.
We asked Des if he would comment on his tenure at AMI and here is what he stated:
“It was a privilege to succeed Tony Realff and steer AMI towards becoming a global brand. During this period we aligned our preferred carrier network closer to Menzies Cargo Handling contracts at the same time enhancing the Express and European D2D portfolio through alliances with FedEx, DHL and TNT linking our systems!
We opened offices in HKG and FRA, the latter in cooperation with QCS (Quick Cargo Services - a relationship which remains to this date).
AMI became industry leaders in electronic trading with its wholesale customers and I was fortunate to possess an extremely strong management team among whom Sharon Wright was a backbone. I brought in Paul Williams to the team and appointed him as General Manager at a time when I needed to focus on Menzies’s Cargo Handling portfolio following 9/11!
I wish to congratulate AMI and its present management on taking it to new and greater heights and I remain extremely proud to have been a member of that team.”
One of the first moves at that time was the acquisition of Universal Air Consolidators who were AMI’s Australian and U.S. partners.
There then followed the takeover of AMI’s both African partner, MMA in 2008.
Today, AMI has a worldwide network of operations at 27 different locations.
Policy of continuing online development
It was already back in the year 2000 that the AMI management saw the future necessity of building up an online booking forum for its customers.
The company claims that in the meantime around 40% of cargo quotes and bookings are online.
This, they say is ‚thanks to a highly developed web presence which enables customers to react quickly to quote requests and receive continuous up-to-date status information on a 24/7 basis.
Much has been achieved since the small start back in 1976.
Rates are no longer seen as being the most important factor in driving the business.
Sharon Wright, AMI’s VP-Europe, who has been with the company since its inception forty years ago, states: “when we first launched AMI, it was all about offering the lowest rates. By consolidating cargo from different agents, we qualified for the lower carrier rates at higher breakpoints, and passed the savings back to our agent customers. We took this further, she says, by building our own pallets and mixing dense cargo with volume cargo to optimise the yield from every unit.”
But, markets change and Sharon Wright and her team realized long ago that their job was to keep the smaller agents in the business and helping them to become more efficient and flexible by continually updated processes and offering new product lines.
The latest one being AMI’s Quote&Book portal which is exclusively reserved for AMI approved agent clients.
All of this seems to have paid off for AMI during these past four decades and will surely continue so in the foreseeable future.
Let’s see what the next 40 years bring!
John Mc Donagh