TIACA’s air cargo forum in Miami on 08-10NOV22 had one key goal: to bring the people of the air cargo industry together and give them a forum for discussion and networking. On that front, the event was a total success, according to the attendees CargoForwarder Global (CFG) spoke with. Great atmosphere, a number of highlights, but also a few improvements required before the repeat event in 2024.
Cutting the Ribbon
A good dozen government VIPs from Miami and Germany were present at the official ribbon cutting at 10:00 on the morning of 08NOV22, to kick-off three days of conference panels and exhibition booth meetings. Among them, Miami Beach’s Mayor, Dan Gelber, who TIACA’s Glyn Hughes obviously envied for his official attire and who confirmed that “as Mayor of Miami Beach, you get to wear [floral] shirts like this and drink Pina Coladas every morning!” Gelber told the audience that Miami Beach’s goal was “to create moments for the people visiting.” The event that had originally been planned for 2020 and then fallen victim to the pandemic, was about to take place. More than 3,800 participants had registered their interest (“All except Nicole are welcome here!” Glyn Hughes announced, referring to the late and unexpected hurricane threat hanging over the area not far from Miami, that thankfully only brought rain to the conference location during that time), and over 200 exhibitors had booths in the large, newly renovated Miami Beach Conference Center (Built in 1958, it was completely overhauled during 2015-2018 for the princely sum of USD 620 million, and still had a very new feel about it.), making TIACA’s air cargo forum the largest air cargo event of the year, “and I believe it will be the best,” said Steven Polmans, TIACA Chair. Robert Schönberger of Messe München announced that already the event had exceeded expectations with double the exhibiting space and three times the number of attendees.
Two TIACA highlights took place: One was honoring two veterans of air cargo for their life-time contribution to the industry - Larry Coyne (2020 winner) and Olivier Bijaoui (2022 winner), were invited onto the stage to receive an award and address the audience. The other was the 2022 Sustainability Awards on 09NOV22. The well-deserved Corporate category award went to Edmonton International Airport (YEG), which CFG has reported on in the past, see previous articles 1 & 2. Awarded for its Airport City Sustainability Campus (“a growing hub of transportation, cargo logistics, manufacturing, sustainability, technology development and tourism [...], an integrated ecosystem that spurs collaboration and innovation while fostering the commercialization of emerging clean technologies”), when CFG told Mammen Tharakan afterwards that YEG would be a hard act to follow, he was surprised since the airport still had a lot of plans for the road ahead. This illustrated Steven Polmans’ advice to companies to put their sustainability initiatives forward for the 5th awards even if they thought they were nothing out of the ordinary, to share them and inspire others.
The three finalists in the Start-Up and Small Business category, AeroVect (Ground support equipment automation), CargoAi (the Cargo2ZERO solutions suite and CO2 efficiency score for forwarders to assist in decarbonizing the air cargo industry), and Elite Champ Limited (Air Cargo Vacuum Pallet), were given the floor to showcase their projects after which the audience voted for their favorite. CargoAi took away the main prize of USD 10,000, with the runners-up each receiving USD 2,500. Congratulating the winners, Chris McDermott, CEO of CHAMP Cargosystems which has sponsored the awards since the start in 2019, revealed: “The Air Cargo Sustainability Awards have grown considerably this year. The strong entries show the evolution and innovation throughout the industry and are a good sign of things to come. Now and in future, sustainability will be an integral part of air cargo.”
Panels and the public
There was an interesting and varied spread of panels (including one set-up and moderated by CFG – we will report separately!), many of which could have benefitted from larger audiences – the Sustainability Awards being a case in point. Another was an excellent initiative to encourage young people to the industry: the panel at 09:00 on 10NOV22, titled ‘Air Cargo – A rewarding career’. Students from a number of local colleges had been invited, yet only about 20 students eventually turned up late, joining a small audience listening to what was a well-thought-out presentation, overview, and discussion panel illustrating the endless possibilities within in the industry, and the very varied career paths that the panelists had had. Perhaps one learning for next time: 09:00 is possibly not a student-friendly time, though, granted, they will also need to adapt to the structure of working life at some point. Other panels dealt with innovation, digitalization, the future of air cargo, and a few CEO discussion rounds. When asked about the current outlook of the industry, the answers were an open “no idea! 2025 perhaps. We need to move and adjust, and find pockets of goodness” (Tim Strauss, CEO Amerijet International), echoed by “no idea for the short-term, though the mid-to long term will be positive” (Gabriel Oliva, CEO Avianca Cargo), to “strong headwinds currently, but better from MAR23 after Chinese New Year” (Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO Astral Aviation).
Wot, no WIFI? The main gripe at the air cargo forum was the fact that, unlike other events, there was no free WIFI within the Exhibition Hall, and at USD 79.99/day, the individual fee for internet access was eye-watering. Whether it performed any better than the weak free WIFI outside the hall, was questionable. The point, however, is that, for an event based on networking – for which most people rely on WhatsApp, LinkedIn, email, and other internet-based channels (not mention an event app which needed downloading to access the agenda and floorplan) - this was a very poor result. Even those having paid for booths still needed to pay for internet access, leaving a bitter taste to what was otherwise – visually at least – a good set-up. The food stalls, too, were expensive. Not everyone was happy with the stand constructors of which there were different companies on offer, apparently. The technical support staff in the panel room were also not completely on the ball. CFG’s panel had inadequate lighting, and on more than one occasion in the various panels, there were microphone issues.
For the WIFI connection, I have a suggestion: While it was pleasing to see a number of women at the event, both in the audience and partly on stage, along with more than one panel having at least one (male) person mention that they would like to see more women in the industry, these positives were offset by the outdated conference concepts of a couple of Middle Eastern carriers who felt the need (again – as this was also the case at the WCS) to add breathing door decorations in the shape of uniformed, female cabin crew. Has anyone ever asked these women how they feel about being booth accessories – simply paid to stand around and look pretty? Demeaning, degrading and utterly superfluous. This is an air cargo event and not a sexist 1980s automobile exhibition. So, think about the message you are sending out and instead of subjecting your female airline staff to an activity they probably are not allowed to say no to, sponsor the internet connection for the next event, instead – that will get you far more positive exposure.
In the TIACA press event, Steven Polmans and Glyn Hughes reported on the association’s activities, pointing to its third edition of the Sustainability Survey and encouraging members – including the press – to fill it out before the end of JAN23 deadline. Similarly, they pointed out that “you don’t have to be retired to be eligible for a Hall of Fame award”, which goes to candidates who have a positive impact on the air cargo industry, and asked for more nominations here, too. Regarding the Sustainability Awards, they had received 35 “spectacular submissions” and will be showcasing the ones that were not shortlisted, in 2023, to gain them much-needed exposure within the industry. Outlining upcoming events, TIACA pointed out that the air cargo forum would take place every two years and was planned to remain in Miami. Two regional events will take place in 2023: in Delhi, India, 27-29MAR23, and Nairobi, Kenya, 19-21JUN23. They also revealed that the next Executive Summit which last took place in San Francisco pre-pandemic, and is also due to happen every two years, will this time be at the historic Skyhall, the former airport terminal in Brussels, Belgium, 06-08NOV23.
Who ya gonna call with your air cargo question?
Most importantly, TIACA underlined its aim to ensure representation across the entire industry. Ideally, “every region in the world has a board seat, and every industry segment”, and to be present at all levels – from sister associations to government bodies, bringing the air cargo focus. Steven Polmans illustrated TIACA’s recent presence at an ICAO meeting talking to 80 ministers and stated: “We want to be the one number people think of to ring when they have questions about air cargo!”
The feedback to TIACA that CFG received when polling air cargo forum attendees, was that the association was on a good path to achieving its aims, and had a much better image now than in the past.
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