“Innovating the Skies, Connecting the World” was the theme of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit where Atlas Air Worldwide Chief Executive Officer Michael Steen joined Lauren Beyer, President of Cargo Airline Association, for a fireside chat highlighting air cargo’s role in shaping global commerce.
“Air cargo is at the center of the global economy and global supply chain,” Michael told the audience of government and industry leaders gathered from across the world to discuss the latest developments, trends, challenges and opportunities in the aviation and space industries.
Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19, Michael expressed how proud he was of the Atlas team, acknowledging the important role pilots, ground staff and partners around the world played in keeping the global supply chain moving—quite literally saving lives by delivering pharmaceuticals and other supplies where they were needed. He also offered his perspective on navigating disparate government policies and the globalization of trade.
“Our industry was disrupted, and we didn’t have harmonized pandemic-related regulations around the world,” Michael explained. “We learned how to be flexible and nimble to build strong partnerships and create solutions on the fly. Trade is truly global – there is no going back from that. We need to make sure that we support that in all the aspects to ensure the supply chains are running more and more smoothly and can withstand some disruption.”
Michael then addressed the dramatic shift in ecommerce post-pandemic, describing how supply chains around the world are changing to deliver direct to the end consumer. He said the industry will face capacity challenges as aging aircrafts are retired and cannot be readily replaced to meet new demand.
“We see now new companies popping up in fast fashion that are not selling through their stores but selling directly to us as consumers, and the majority of that is airfreight based, even for low-cost products, and that is a significant change from what we have seen in the past.”
To close out the session, Lauren asked Michael about the Open Skies Agreement. Michael shared that the U.S. government has been very successful in building open skies relations and bilateral agreements, which have benefitted the U.S. economy and companies like Atlas through increased trade and operational flexibility.
“Atlas was founded 31 years ago and that was the same year that the United States signed its first bilateral Open Skies Agreement,” said Michael. “We serve economies all over the world and that would not be possible to do, and also support our partners, express carriers and customers, if we did not have those bilateral agreements. I urge governments around the world to really uphold this to increase competition by having more of these agreements.”
Click here for The Chamber of Commerce’s event recap.