Alaska Air Cargo fuels the growth of Pilot Freight Services.
Patrick Allen is the owner and CEO of Transmark Logistics and Pilot Freight Services Northwest franchise (Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Boise, and Spokane). Bill Raine is perishables manager of Pilot Freight Services. Pilot uses Alaska Air Cargo to ship a range of items, especially perishables.
How did your relationship with Alaska Air Cargo start?
We started shipping hardgoods and some seafood up and down the West Coast in 1990. As Alaska Air Cargo has grown we’ve grown along with them, particularly with more perishables.
What kinds of perishables do you ship?
All kinds, and usually in short intense bursts of time. We just finished our cherry season, for example. Ten weeks of demanding around-the-clock work, dealing with overseas customers, airlines, truckers, suppliers, and growers. Now it’s crab season, shipping live Dungeness crab from Portland, Seattle, and Anchorage. Then it’s salmon and geoduck.
How has Pilot’s business with Alaska Air Cargo grown?
We’ve more or less followed their expansion beyond the West Coast. With perishables, nonstop service is paramount. We need the quickest way from point A to point B. When Alaska Airlines started stretching their muscles and opening up new, nonstop destinations, we were able to open up new seafood markets in those same locations. They’re now our number one domestic perishable carrier.
Where have you grown new markets?
Every time Alaska opens a new route there are potential customers in that city. Whatever they do to grow themselves, we benefit as well. For example, we needed a connection to New Orleans. Alaska opened up nonstop service there, and we went from two stops to no stops. Boston, New York, Houston, and Dallas are other big cities where we can now ship our seafood.
How does Alaska work with you to maintain perishable quality?
Alaska Air Cargo is the best-suited carrier in moving seafood, because they have the knowledge on what is realistic and what isn’t. And they have cooler facilities wherever they have cargo facilities. We take the cold chain very seriously, especially in the summer months. It’s important to ship good, clean seafood. Alaska has extensive experience there. Daily communication is a huge deal. They are quick and responsive. They’ll warn us of flight delays, cancellations, etc. They’re very good at communicating potential pitfalls.
There’s obviously been flight reductions due to COVID-19, how has Alaska Air Cargo handled that?
Of all the carriers, Alaska has been the most communicative during this crisis. And 100% professional. When the virus first hit, anxiety levels were up, and you didn’t know who was working and who was not. Some of the other carriers would not even answer the phone. It’s not easy going into an unknown crisis and continuing to perform at a high level, but they kept in good communication with us, offered up alternatives, and just as importantly, told us when we just should not ship product. That honesty is critical for our product integrity. Our customers expect the straight scoop from us, and that’s what we get, in turn, from Alaska.
What about rates? How do they compare?
Rates are critical, obviously. And there are others that are cheaper, but our customers prefer to pay for the services they are getting with Alaska Air Cargo. Most other carriers have various surcharges. But Alaska has restructured their rates to be “all-in” and that’s very helpful.
Are you using the new website?
Yes, our staff uses it every day. Online booking is simple. We do all our orders in the morning, and by 10 a.m. everything has been booked.
Do you ship on the freighters?
Yes, most definitely. They’ve been good for our hard cargo too. The support we get from Alaska’s Anchorage office has been amazing.
You’ve talked about the Alaska Air Cargo staff. Can you elaborate?
They are on the front lines, performing to the highest standards in the industry. Ravelle Snyder, Adam Drouhard, Jeff Olver, and Rick Bendix are all very responsible and easy to work with. Ravelle is a fantastic rep. And Rick was instrumental in bringing the two companies together to do more business. The folks in the Seattle warehouse are great as well; they really support us, particularly Larry Desmet and Manu Tuiasosospo.