The Power of Three

03 / 10 / 2012

  • Harry Steiner MD of the Charter Store


EARLIER this year The Charter Store, alongside Pacific Airlift of Singapore and NEO Air Charter of Germany became the founder members of the Global Charter Alliance (GCA).

The trio not only pool resources, sharing costs, knowledge and contacts they have particular approach to the industry they believe will see them come out on top over larger competitors.

Charter Store managing director Harry Steiner shares his views on what the industry is getting right, where it is going wrong and gives his prediction for the rest of the year: 

"Four years ago I started The Charter Store with my long time friend and colleague Rusty Durden. I certainly wont forget what I learnt in Europe and I visit a lot but I don’t plan to go back. I like the way Americans do business and the way they understand airfreight.

"Talking to colleagues and customers and from my own perspective the air cargo industry is in a holding pattern. American consumer confidence has improved but it has not recovered and there are still problems in Europe. People are just hanging in there waiting for things to improve.

"Having said that some in the industry are better prepared than others. We have our partnership and we don’t have a lot of the fixed costs our competitors have. The East Pacific may not be booming but there is still a need for charters. We are taking a long view of the situation and we’re more than holding our own.

"At The Charter Store we have a solid customer base of repeat charterers and freight forwarders who are active in government and energy, which puts them outside the problems of the domestic market.

"For us I think the fourth quarter of the year will be the ‘picker upper’ but I don’t think the recession will end until after the US election and we know what direction we are travelling in.

"There will always be a need for air cargo. The industry will adapt and the signs of recovery are here and there. Simply walking down the mall you can see there are more people with shopping bags so I do think confidence is returning but it is going to take a while before we feel the difference in this business.

"Earlier this year we started GCA with our friends from Pacific Airlift in Singapore and NEO Air Charter in Frankfurt. We wanted to match the advantages of scale of some of our competitors while keeping the flexibility and personality of a smaller business. 

"It is a new venture but we are ‘old school’ and we are protective of the freight forwarder. In the short term some large brokers see an advantage in dealing directly with shippers but in the long term they will be impacted. Some other brokers become hybrid forwarder-brokers and yet others get into the direction of being an aircraft operator or aircraft management company.

"GCA has always respected existing relationships between freight forwarders and their shipper clients. We believe freight agents play a vital role in the supply chain, which we absolutely respect – we work with them not against them – I think that will be key to our success.

"These ideas and the GCA itself came about quite naturally. The three of us have been working together for several years – we treat each other’s offices as our own, we help each other out and we share a lot of costs. 

"Thanks to the alliance we have also made significant savings by pooling our resources – especially on marketing, buying software and consolidating information and other resources, we would not be able to afford individually.

"We also draw upon a group of ‘service partner’ organisations around the world. We work closely with them and may be they too will become part of the alliance.

"Success in charter broking is all about people, their knowledge and their contacts. I believe we have a fantastic group of individuals who will now be even more successful together."

Steiner says the three teams have been working together for years and it is this strong personal relationship, which is at the heart of GCA – "the trust is complete," he adds.

As told to Will Grahame-Clarke, Air Cargo News Senior Journalist