US EXECUTIVE SAYS ATTITUDE PROBLEM PLAGUES LATIN AIR CARGO NETWORK

US EXECUTIVE SAYS ATTITUDE PROBLEM PLAGUES LATIN AIR CARGO NETWORK

Latin American airport authorities are sometimes their own worst enemy, according to the chief executive of a major cargo airline serving the region.

"Airport inefficiency and lack of adequate facilities may be the greatest obstacles confronting the continued and sustained development of an efficient and reliable air cargo network," said Bill Spohrer, president of Challenge Air Cargo of Miami.Mr. Spohrer told the Air Cargo Americas Conference here last Friday that the problem is primarily one of attitude, rather than technology or capital.

Carriers such as Challenge are more than willing to invest in infrastructure in Latin America, he said, but some governments have yet to recognize that streamlining efficiency creates a win-win situation. The country benefits from the development of new export markets, exporters enjoy lower transportation costs, while carriers can become more efficient, he said.

Instead, some governments continue to resist efforts to improve efficiency in order to protect government-owned monopoly handling companies or their own national carriers, he charged.

In two countries, the government-owned handling company is so inefficient that Challenge pays it not to handle its cargo, Mr. Spohrer said.

Bureaucratic delays in another country have prevented Challenge from occupying a new cargo warehouse that was completed six months ago and in which the carrier invested thousands of dollars, he said.

Still another country refused to allow Challenge to import its own loading devices and aircraft handling equipment without paying onerous import duties, Mr. Spohrer said.

In another horror story, airport officials in one country told Challenge it could build a warehouse on a particular site because of zoning rules.

"Three months later the national airline built a similar building on the same site," he added.

"Such practices are shortsighted and counterproductive," Mr. Spohrer charged. The absence of reliable air cargo service could cause fledgling businesses to wither and die, while "promising new export markets may evaporate and urgently needed foreign investment may go elsewhere."

The Challenge executive likened the construction of new and improved airport facilities to the film "Field of Dreams" in which the James Earl Jones character tells Kevin Costner, "If you build it, they will come."

The analogy for airports is this: "If you streamline the flow of cargo and eliminate the barriers air cargo operators now face, improved air service and increased trade inevitably will come."