On the third and final day of the annual AirCargo Conference, AGI CEO Jared Azcuy participated in a panel discussion focused on looking at the issue of airport congestion and identifying root causes, and – more importantly – highlighting developments and solutions.
From where the industry was at the start of the pandemic, Azcuy shared, things have evolved and changed significantly. He expressed his most sincere appreciation for our 5,000 employees across 4 brands in 25 locations around the country for their dedication over the past two years, especially in environments that do not lend themselves well to masking or social distancing under all conditions.
AGI handles nearly 250 million kilograms of freight per month systemwide. In Chicago, our largest operating location, AGI handles 175 flights every weekend from Friday to Sunday.
The amount of freight that these flights bring in – and out – means that when it comes off the plane it has to go somewhere. At the peak of the challenging times, the limitations of both physical space and for forwarders to take cargo meant that for our on-airport facilities which are meant to function as transit stations, they were turning into warehouses instead.
The warehousing of freight, coupled with the July 1st requirement that all cargo be screened at 100% placed a premium on available space. We optimized to the best of our ability, but we really just needed more room.
Late last year, we made multiple strategic moves in Chicago and significantly improved our operations. The first was the opening of an import-only building on Busse Rd. on the west side of O’Hare Airport. This facility is actually much closer to a lot of the largest forwarder customers and makes recovery for them easier. Second, we implemented a bypass system for BUP’s (built-up pallets) where the cargo was unloaded directly from the aircraft and transferred to forwarder warehouses. This kept unnecessary cargo from making an extra stop, requiring extra touches, and expedited it from our custody to the recipient. Finally, our acquisition of MIC Cargo which had opened a large off-airport import facility has given us a total of 1.2 million square feet of space under our control. Congestion in our eyes is a thing of the past.
Our off-airport facilities are also outside the jurisdiction of the badging requirement for the City of Chicago for our employees who have immediate access on the ramp to aircraft. When that process was taking 6 – 8 weeks to get an employee badged and onboarded, we found ourselves losing candidates to other positions they could start immediately.
Imports represent 60% of our operations, but for the 40% of export cargo we handle, AGI is currently screening over 85% of that cargo, which means having to make hard decisions about earlier lockouts to allow our partners at Global K9 complete the task of screening the cargo to be built.
Technology has also been a necessary investment to communicate with airlines, forwarders and truckers and coupled with that automation a nationwide call center is in the early stages of development.
None of this would be possible without our people, and we are committed to thanking them and helping make them successful. We have also increased pay significantly and have created a full-time, nationwide recruiting division who will only help us more.