Delivering the goods the FedEx way

FedEx Vice President of Global Airfreight Jeff Euler on his career, the business, Hong Kong and the relationship with Cathay Cargo

Tell us about your role at FedEx

I am Vice President of Global Air Freight. I’m responsible for the procurement of airfreight across the enterprise; what we call commercial line haul. And then, on the logistics side, I’m also responsible for the air-cargo product, and product development. So when we deploy new airfreight products and services, my team develops them with the support of others in the company. I oversee day-to-day operations and look at strategic plans for our long-term growth.

I also address any customer challenges. At FedEx, we have specific customers that we’re responsible for, so I do a fair bit of customer interaction, which requires a lot of travel. When you’re in the field or in front of people, that’s where the energy is. I’ve been with FedEx for 14 years now, and in this role for seven. My direct reports are a small agile team of around 10. From 500,000 people, I have around 0.001 per cent! We’re kind of a force multiplier.

Can you try and convey a sense of the scale of FedEx?

FedEx delivers nearly 15 million packages and shipments a day across 220 countries and territories. This is made possible by our 700 aircraft. We operate out of nearly 5,000 facilities and have 210,000 motorised vehicles. And here’s one that I’m proud of: we have more than 500,000 team members. Our world headquarters is in Memphis, TN, which is also the location of our largest hub at Memphis International Airport. . We are second only to Hong Kong as the world’s busiest cargo airport.

What are your main markets?

Asia Pacific to the US is the largest trade lane, but we build our network to be as balanced as possible. We do our best to see where we can adjust our network or routes to maintain this balanced approach. Obviously, when airplanes go somewhere, they’ve got to come back, and we want them coming back with as much volume as possible. We do this the quickest, most efficient, and cost-efficient way with the support of carriers like Cathay, which are a big part of what we do.

Cathay Pacific is a combination carrier. Is that the kind of partner airline that you look for?

Combination carriers offer a lot of opportunity because you have the freighters going into large destinations – the Amsterdams and the Frankfurts – but they also serve smaller destinations with passenger services, enabling us to use that belly capacity. When we have availability on our airplanes we’ll use it, but most freight on the logistics side flies with partner airlines. Cathay brings us fleet, technology and experience.

How important is the ability to pick up a phone and speak to someone and will automation change that?

It’s incredibly important to speak to someone when you need to. I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and our relationship with Cathay Cargo  has been built over decades. As an old freight guy, I really wouldn’t want it any other way. When everything’s working, being able to use booking channels and automation is great. But when there are challenges, that relationship is critical.

What are the challenges and opportunities this year?

The challenges will continue to be from global instability, and no-one knows where that’s going to end up. The opportunities, particularly in e-commerce, pharma and, in my view, aerospace are going to continue. When you look at the passenger market, planes are full and there are a lot of new smaller entrants to the business, so the need for parts and engines will continue to drive growth in that sector. Cathay Cargo and its solutions —Cathay Dangerous Goods and Cathay Expert – help us support that.

Is next day delivery a realistic vision for e-commerce, or is it more about reliability?

What I can say is that we get a mix of both – and I think the market will stay strong. A lot of the time it depends on the value of the goods. In the US, we have a de minimis of US$800. That means you can bring a lot of product in and get very quick clearance through US Customs. But really speed is going to be driven by the value of the shipment.

What do you like best about the job?

I apologise for the cliché, but it really is different every day. One day, we could be moving vaccines and the next day, it could be pandas. One of the highlights for me was how the airfreight industry responded during the COVID-19 pandemic in getting vaccines and PPE to people quickly. At FedEx, we transported more than 9,000 COVID-19-related humanitarian aid shipments around the world in 2020, and worked with healthcare companies and the governments to deliver vaccines to more than 60 countries since they became available in December 2020. FedEx delivered approximately 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses throughout the US in the first year of distribution. That’s the power of a network and the power of airfreight. When I retire, I’ll look back and be proud I was part of that.

Do you ever get to switch off?

FedEx does a really nice job looking after its people, so the chance to decompress is there. One of my passions is aviation. I’ve been flying since I was 19 and I’m studying for some upcoming tests as a private pilot. The other big one for me is wine. A couple years ago, I told my wife I wanted to learn something new. I actually wanted to learn how to weld, but she couldn’t find a class, so she signed me up at the University of Arkansas for a course with the Court of Master Sommeliers. It’s something I enjoy and it’s so different to my day to day. But I stress, I’m not a sommelier!

Tell me about your family connections to Hong Kong

I’m married and I have two kids. My youngest son was born at Matilda International Hospital in Hong Kong, so I’ve got strong ties to the city. We used to live in Discovery Bay and every Saturday my friends and I would cross the water to Peng Chau, which has a fabulous indoor basketball court. There was this melting pot of people from all over the world getting together just to play. And I remember coming back on the little junk and looking at the mountains and saying, ‘Man, this is something special’.