Air Charter Service (ACS) has had a busy last few weeks arranging humanitarian relief charters to hurricane-ravaged islands in the Caribbean.
ACS president for the Americas, Richard Thompson (pictured below) says the charter broker has been involved with relief flights for Hurricane Irma charters.
He explains: “We have been arranging lots of relief charter flights to San Juan in Puerto Rico. Florida was hit so hubs up the northeast coast of the US were used.
“We have also received enquiries to run charters with bottled water and medical equipment to Dominica after Hurricane Maria as well.”
The challenge he says for ACS has been flying into locations where hurricanes have hit airport operations and it has had to look into whether they are functioning, is there fuel or a curfew, which has all proven challenging.
ACS now operates four US offices in Houston, Miami, Los Angeles and New York and has a fifth in North America in Toronto. Its Miami office was opened in 2015 and was affected during Hurricane Irma, as was much of the aviation community in the Florida area.
Away from the relief flights, Thompson says ACS’ cargo business has picked up domestically in the US: “There was a little bit of a dip in the last few years, more so with the international charters as the O&G market has suffered, which had a knock-on effect, like the Houston to Africa route that died overnight.
“What we have seen it is strong domestic market and is especially strong for charter providers. And we have slowly seen some of the international stuff picking up and are hoping the O&G now starts to come back.”
As for each office’s performance, he explains: “Miami for cargo is doing really well with lots of domestic business and lots of charters into South America and Central America. Much of the shipments are machinery and perishables.
“It has taken a few years to establish, but is doing nicely and we are adding a third person to the office this year.”
Los Angeles cargo charters have been mainly to Asia, while its Houston office has been affected by the O&G slowdown, but despite that downturn Thompson says the Texas office has managed to get ahead of the prior year in the cargo department, driven by automotive and pharmaceutical cargo charters.
“We are hoping O&G picks up and we are keeping close to our customers to let then know are ready once it does,” he says.
Overall, he explains that cargo charter performance is up on last year and the US offices are well on track to keep on growing.
I guess the question is, due to the good growth across its offices, is ACS looking to expand its footprint in the future?
“The US is on an upward trend and the economy is going up and I do not see that going down and we are always looking at more offices,” Thompson says.
He adds: “It has been discussed about having more offices here and having a presence in other US areas. It is always better having a local office. There are plans to look into it in the future in the US, especially while it is a booming economy.
“But we are well covered for now, but for a full office an area to look at might be the mid-west (Kansas etc) which is growing. We are always looking at any possible opportunities.”
Thompson says ACS is positioning itself in the US as a consultancy company and customer service is so important, especially in the US.
He explains: “You may be more expensive, but if the customer gets a good level of service they will go with you. We are always focused on providing high quality customer service.”
Thompson says while it is a competitive air charter cargo marketplace in the US there are extensive opportunities in the years ahead.
“If you take out the one-man bands I think we are top of the list of brokers offering both international and domestic business,” he says.
He adds: “Over the next five years we are trying to increase our presence domestically in the US. We have increased that significantly over the last five years, but there is much we can achieve. here.”
And Thompson says no day is ever the same in the cargo charter world and every week is different and away from the important relief charters from the US, ACS has been arranging charter flights for all kinds of products.
Earlier this year ACS was even commissioned to run a charter for two Incredible Hulk arms to Universal Studios in Orlando. That is certainly a new one for us at ACW.
The future is certainly looking rosy in the US and ACS is gearing itself for further market expansion.