‘PASSIONATE, witty, diplomatic, a gifted orator’ are just some of the words people are quick to proffer to describe Des Vertannes, IATA’s global head of cargo.
The flurry of generous compliments come as no surprise to his longtime friend and fellow Brit Roy Stapleton, president of the US-based company Global Logistics Network.
When the two cargo stalwarts first became acquainted in a London classroom back in 1963, they quickly discovered they shared similar interests, including a love of football – and playing pranks.
“I first met Des in the first year at Archbishop Myers Roman Catholic School and we have been ‘muckers’ ever since,” reveals Stapleton.
Both of them “wandered into logistics” after leaving secondary school and further cemented their friendship.
“He is generally known as the ultimate ‘Mr Gentleman’ and never says a bad word about anyone,” Roy states. “Nobody ever has anything negative to say about him.”
However, Stapleton does recall a minor falling out the two partners in crime had in the playground on one occasion.
Typically, it was settled with a three-round boxing match, which ended in a draw. “Diplomacy was still there back in those days,” he mused.
Vertannes’ ascent to executive roles during an air cargo career spanning four decades was swift.
He began working for British Airways in 1970, where he held several positions, including cargo manager for the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia.
Vertannes went on to establish his own forwarding business before becoming vice-president of various global cargo operations for the three major carriers Air Canada Cargo, Gulf Air and Etihad Airways.
The keen sportsman was also chief executive officer for the ground- handling company Air Menzies International, as well as managing director for Menzies World Cargo between 1999 and 2005.
Since assuming his role at IATA, Vertannes has not shrunk from confronting the major problems facing the sector, such as free-falling cargo traffic figures and ongoing economic instability.
Ahead of the next World Cargo Symposium, scheduled for March 2013, he declares: “The aviation industry continues through challenging times.
“Our discussions will focus on improving the sustainability of air cargo through an agenda for improving safety, security, efficiency and quality.
“These are big issues and we can only tackle them by building consensus across the complex air cargo value chain.”
In contrast, Vertannes’ impassioned plea for charitable donations in March on behalf of fellow cargo loyalist Murray Kidd, who took a leave of absence to run a Ugandan orphanage after his wife’s death, emphasised his kindness.
“Des has been a wonderful friend of mine for 49 years now and he always has quality time to spend with me whenever we bump into each on our global travels – the past year in Miami, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok,” adds Stapleton.
“He is one of a kind and the ultimate professional. He is a true friend in every sense of the word.”