'Supplies are absolutely needed': CargoJet CEO appeals for government help
The chief executive of Canada’s largest air cargo carrier is appealing to the federal government for financial support, regulatory breaks and protective supplies as the company faces surging demand for its services.
“At this stage we have not received any calls or inquiries or check-ins on our employees’ health status,” said Ajay Virmani, president and CEO of Cargojet Inc., in a phone call with BNN Bloomberg Thursday afternoon.
“If one of our pilots has an issue, we may have to quarantine 30 people,” he added. “That would have an impact on the movement of goods.”
Mississauga, Ont.-based Cargojet has a near-monopoly on Canada’s air cargo market, representing more than 90 per cent of the country’s overnight air cargo lift, according to a recent report by AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray.
And as demand for household goods, health care supplies and online deliveries grows, so too does demand for Cargojet’s services.
“Airlines are mostly ramping down operations,” he said. “We are ramping up and we need help that’s been non-existent at this point.”
Virmani’s said his top asks from the federal government include protective equipment for his staff, a temporary break from regulatory requirements such as pilot licence renewals, and financial support.
He noted he’s having to pay workers overtime, incentives and even daily allowances to ensure the carrier is fully staffed and at peak performance.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation said she encourages Cargojet to reach out to better understand its needs.
“Stakeholders that we never even knew existed have been reaching out to us,” Amy Butcher, director of communications for the transport minister, said in a phone call with BNN Bloomberg. “Let’s talk and let’s find out what it is they need.”
In an email, Butcher added the ministry recognizes Cargojet’s “important role” in maintaining Canada’s supply chain and stands ready to help.
Cargojet's Virmani, meantime, said he's focused on redeploying his company's fleet to meet Canada’s uneven demand.
While customers in every province are asking for additional cargo shipments, British Columbia and Alberta’s demand is roughly double the national average, he said.
Demand outside Canada is surging too.
“We are being offered crazy prices to do Europe and Asia stuff,” Virmani noted, referring to customer requests to transport goods into and out of those regions. “But we want to reduce our pilots’ exposure.”