Pandemic is an emerging era for air cargo: IATA’s Brendan Sullivan

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Brendan Sullivan who took charge as the global head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in July said that the air cargo is the bright spot and its revenue is expected to represent about 30 percent of airline revenues in 2021, which normally accounts to 12 percent. Though the airline industry is going through tough times, from the air cargo perspective it is a great opportunity to move some initiatives forward.

Sullivan has been the acting global cargo head since January, alongside his role as head of cargo operations and ecommerce. He succeeded Glyn Hughes who assumed the mantle at The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) as the director general in February. 

Speaking at Cargo Masterminds, a video series hosted by the STAT Media Group and powered by cargo.one, Sullivan shared his concerns on the regulations related to dangerous goods shipments and punishments to the offenders. “In the case of dangerous goods incidents, we need governments to step up and regulators to take responsibility for stopping the offenders - be it a shipper, producer or exporter. Even regulators need to do their part so that airlines and the other segments of the industry continue to do theirs. In addition to that, IATA looks at supplementary fire protection, how that can assist the industry in managing their risk, incorporating changes to the safety risk management frameworks that might exist.  The regulators' focus should be on penalising and criminalising the stakeholders who violate the regulations. I can say that it is disappointing and we have not achieved enough traction on this front.”


Sullivan began his career in air cargo at Air Canada in 2000 where he gained frontline operational experience and developed expertise in dangerous goods handling that facilitated his transition to IATA in 2007.

Keeping in view with the incident of Vivo phones shipment fire at Hactl in April, when asked if the proliferation of ecommerce is one of the reasons for dangerous goods incidents, he stated, “In terms of volume, ecommerce should represent over 20 percent of the cargo in 2022. Certainly, ecommerce has the potential to be a contributor. It adds complexity to the situation when it comes to managing risk. A lot of goods will be electronics which will significantly allow more connectivity and potential shippers. So we need to make sure that the ecommerce retailers understand the aviation regulations. Currently, we are developing a code of conduct with several of them.”

He even declared that IATA is committed to putting sustainability at the core of everything and is looking forward to strengthening partnerships with the airlines, their partners and customers. On the digitalisation front, IATA expects to reach 100 percent by the end of 2022 on airway bill.

The Canadian national who has been working in the air cargo industry for 20 years, spending 14 years in IATA, will continue to oversee the cargo operations and ecommerce business. 

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