Your Global Air Cargo Service Provider in business since 1989.
By Perry King
Despite decades of experience and a large customer base, Airline Services International Inc. (ASI) still faces formidable challenges in today’s competitive air cargo market.
ASI was founded in 1989 by Joseph Lawrence, an ex Wardair Canada employee. The company objective was to provide cost effective sales and marketing solutions for the air cargo market. ASI has just celebrated it’s 25th year in business, has a customer base of over 700 freight forwarders and represents over 10 different airlines — including UPS, The Avianca Group, Ethiopian Airlines, Saudia Airlines and Aeromexico. Sporting an aggressive, strategic national sales team and a customized customer service for their clients, ASI has set the standard for air cargo General Sales Agents (GSA’s).
Headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, ASI has grown exponentially across North America since it’s inception. They operate globally, with Canadian offices in Montreal, Surrey, British Columbia and Calgary, Alberta and US offices located at all the major airline hubs, including New York, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta. The portfolio of airlines represented by Airline Services enables the company to provide service to all major gateways throughout the Globe with a combination of Passenger & All Freighter Aircraft with most of the airlines operating newer generation aircraft with increased capacity and the ability to fly further. Airline Services therefore is the only General Sales Agent with Direct non stop service to Africa via Addis Abbaba.
Despite the growth, Lawrence is cautious of the current economic landscape.
“The last couple years have been tough on the airline industry,” said Lawrence. “The economy in 2014, as much as they say it is improving, it is still far from getting back to the volume we have seen in previous years.”
So when the market is being crowded by more airlines, with larger aircraft and increased frequency it impacts the airline that is trying to maintain yield, provide a reliable service and more importantly be a viable operator. We have certainly seen our share of airlines going bust and the increased activity in mergers as airlines try to consolidate and reduce competition.
“If you look at Canada, being a major importer versus an exporter, we’re definitely faced with an overcapacity situation in the market,” said Lawrence, who served as National Sales & Marketing Manager for the privately run airline Wardair Canada from 1977 to 1989. “Our current capacity exceeds current market demand and as airlines battle for market share, yields continue to erode to the benefit of the shipper. However this erosion in yield has certainly not improved exports as we continue to see exports and manufacturing moving to other countries to remain competitive.
Lawrence speaks in clear and direct language about this topic. To him, this means that it is cheaper to ship now than it was 10 years ago which should be helping air exports.
Lawrence explains that most shippers are able to use this to their advantage and are therefore able to get lower pricing. However this tends to have an adverse effect on the airlines, as this can drive pricing down and not up. Both the shipper and the agent are looking at time in transit and price in determining which airline they will use. While this decline in pricing is a benefit to shippers it is certainly a tough challenge for the airlines to remain a viable service options and to continue maintaining the schedules they fly.
Pricing, time in transit and aircraft type are key components shippers are looking for.
“If you have those key components, you are able to secure the support of the marketplace,” he said, “because they’re looking for competitive pricing and everything is based on time in transit and are you able to take the whole shipment. It doesn’t mean that your margins are good.”
ASI is a members of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Aa a GSA there is never a dull moment as you are not just dealing with local issues in Canada but also playing a critical role with your overseas offices and partners., Lawrence says,
“Our success in managing our business can be attributed to our people and to our internal management information system designed and managed in-house. Our IT Systems, has real-time tracking for freight and helps the company streamline its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Our objective is to be able to automate every function to help efficiency, reduce cost and deliver a higher level of customer service to both our customers, the shippers and the Airlines.
To better enhance the customer service experience for clients, ASI has undertaken several promotions. In co-ordination with AIR MILES® reward miles, all shipments weighing at least 300 kilograms and over will earn miles for the client. The arrangement sees shipments earn 10 miles at 300 kilograms and up, 25 miles for 500 kilograms, 50 for 1,000 kilograms, 100 for 2,500 kilograms and 500 reward miles for shipments 5,000 kilograms and up.
These reward miles are made available to any customers interested in signing up at the time of the booking. These AIR MILES® reward miles are offered for and on behalf of all the airlines represented by Airline Services
“Whether it be high value cargo, Pharmaceutical products including temperature controlled vaccines, Helicopters, Heavy machinery, general cargo, perishables and dangerous goods, is just some of the cargo handled by the airlines represented by Airline Services. The list of types of cargo is endless and it is handled by their staff seven (7) day a week three hundred and sixty five days a year 365. We therefore provide a complete customized service to all our customers anywhere in North America,” according to Joe.
With a strong management team, operations and sales expertise, ASI is moving forward as their global network connects with regions across the planet. The company is currently in the process of expanding their services in key Asian markets IE, The Indian sub-continent and with several locations in the Far East.
“We are in an expansion mode,” Lawrence said.
Managing all of this is a challenging and time consuming. This is a 24/7 job with long hours, and requiresbeing away from home for extended periods of time. Therefore one has to have the motivations and the dedication to the Air Cargo industry to stay the course.
“This is not an industry [for] somebody who thinks they’re going to be looking at becoming a millionaire overnight, it’s not something that could happen, in today’s market”, Lawrence advised. “This is a long term commitment that requires a lot of patience, integrity and the ability to stay the course.”