For Alaska Air Cargo Managing Director Adam Drouhard, the title may be new, but his history and expertise with the team run deep. Since he started at Alaska Airlines in 2007 as a cargo call center agent, Adam has supported our team and our customers through roles in sales and finance, as well as capacity and fleet planning. He brings a lifelong love of aviation – earning his pilot’s license while still in high school – and his roots in rural Washington give him a strong appreciation for the remote communities we serve in the state of Alaska and across the West.
As Adam took the helm in a busy spring that also brought the birth of his second son, he shared some of his priorities for the cargo team and looked ahead to the exciting opportunities he sees coming for Alaska Air Cargo and the air-freight industry:
What drew you to work with the Alaska Air Cargo team early in your career?
Adam Drouhard: “The cargo work rang true to my own experiences growing up in an agricultural area. I understood quickly what we mean to the supply chain for communities – especially in the state of Alaska, but also in other rural places we serve in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Logistics are a challenge, and these are close-knit communities that rely on helping each other. That’s the kind of role we play in cargo. I also gained a quick appreciation for our work with the seafood industry in Alaska and getting life-saving meds into communities, and I got hooked from there.”
What’s one thing you learned in your early years with cargo that still guides you today?
Adam: “Never miss an opportunity to do the right thing. Over the years, we’ve found ways to step up for the communities we serve. The latest one is our push to support the Covid vaccine distribution in Alaska. We focused on getting it where it needed to be and being part of a key supply chain for something that was unprecedented. It kind of goes back to the Nome dog-sled race to get medicine out to that community [in 1925]. This was another kind of historic moment.”
What was one of the challenges we faced in our operation during the past year?
Adam: “We had to make some repairs to our freighter fleet in Alaska – something we were dealing with before the pandemic. The good thing is that as of last month, we got through that finally. The freighters are back to full health.”
What trends do you see in air freight as we emerge from the pandemic?
Adam: “The whole industry really pivoted toward cargo last year, and we were increasingly busy. We had to make sure grocery stores were well-stocked and communities were getting everything they needed. Everyone was kind of hunkered down for a while, so e-commerce was booming. This really changed consumerism, and air cargo is in higher demand than it was pre-pandemic. There are a lot of things to be optimistic about – as a carrier, and for forwarders. There are many consumer trends that require expedited shipping, and that’s something we look forward to partnering with people on in the years ahead.
And there are a lot of regions in our network that are performing really well – especially in Alaska, Hawaii and California. We’re glad to see the capacity returning so we can keep up with the cargo demand. Now, we’re hoping that other industries we partner with, like the seafood industry, start to come out of the challenges of the past year, too. We’re glad that we’re going to have the capacity ready and with some new routes, like Anchorage to Chicago and San Francisco, we can help meet the market for them once they get ramped up.”
What are your biggest priorities as Managing Director?
Adam: “The immediate emphasis for me is making sure we’re doing the right things in staffing and taking care of our people. As the industry wakes up this year, all airlines are going through this churn. We’re getting people hired as fast as we can. We want to make sure we address customer wait times and that we’re an easy company to work with.
Then there’s the fleet: We’re in active discussion around what the future fleet looks like for cargo. We know there is opportunity for growth. Right now we’re going through a process of projecting that out for the years ahead.
And innovation. We’ve got to get our infrastructure up to speed. We’re already moving toward building something new and innovative on our booking platform, for our customer portals, and for our tracking devices out in the field. We know going forward everyone needs to have information available on their phones and their tablets, and alerts on their smartwatches. For the future, we’re making sure we create an environment that is hassle-free for our employees and our customers.”
What is one of the ways Alaska Air Cargo stands out from our competition?
Adam: “Not many people realize the size of our network in the state of Alaska – and if you overlap that with the rest of the U.S., we really have a much larger and more diverse footprint, covering more miles domestically than a lot of our competitors. And we’re doing this coverage in a much different way because we have a dedicated freighter fleet that does a lot of heavy lifting up in the state of Alaska.”
What do you see for our cargo team in the long haul?
Adam: “We are trying to innovate for 10 to 12 years out. We know that cargo is going to be much more diverse than it is today, so we’re making sure we have the right infrastructure and find the right partners to work with. At the end of the day, we want to create a cargo business that’s sustainable long-term for ourselves, and the places we serve know they can depend on it. We can never stop thinking about how we can be better.”