Day in the life of an air cargo broker

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Chapman Freeborn's Anton Lomakin reveals how behind the scenes, an air cargo broker must be prepared with Plan B and a a cool head

Day in the life of an air cargo broker
Day in the life of an air cargo broker

August 5, 2013

Chapman Freeborn’s Anton Lomakin (pictured)
says an air cargo broker must always be prepared with Plan B and a cool head in the midst of a storm.

Currently the aircraft charter company's senior charter manager based in Singapore, Lomakin started his career in the industry back in 1999 at Volga Dnepr Airlines in Russia.

Having been with Chapman Freeborn for over eight years, Lomakin says "when the going gets tough, the air cargo charter broker gets going".

"Even in everyday life I am used to planning everything with a Plan B in mind," Lomakin says.

Lomakin says the air charter industry thrives on unexpected events where cargo needs to be transported to a location as quickly as possible and sea, rail or road freight just will not cut it.

"However, even in the most urgent of times, brokers are not spared from unfortunate situations such as weather, delays or technical malfunction," he says.

When asked how he responds to a charter crisis, Lomakin replies unequivocally:

"It is very important to relieve as much stress of your client as possible by providing information and advice, and options or alternatives to resolve the problem."

"However, it is essential to have a clear idea of the operation processes so you can prioritise and keep deadlines for all events so that any consequent delays can be avoided," he adds.

As time is of the essence in this field of business, speed in response time can determine whether you lose or win a business – Lomakin adds air charter companies must be available 24/7/365.

"Around the clock accessibility is vital for international operations and it also projects a second-to-none level of reliability for customers who may have cargo to move at the eleventh hour," he says.

Once during an operation from Johor Bahru, Malaysia
to Pointe Noir in the Republic of Congo, Lomakin’s technical expertise was utilised to design and manufacture a specialised transport sledge so an outsize piece could be loaded into a particular freighter.

"This saved time and more than US $500,000 for the client on alternative cargo charter options," Lomakin proudly says.

"It is important to think outside-the-box with a can-do attitude."

In addition, Lomakin says his work sometimes requires personal involvement with various authorities; at other times he acts as an essential medium between handling agents and Russian load crews, bridging language and communication barriers.

In one of his most memorable charter operations he has undertaken, Lomakin says an incident this year required special
attention when a client’s contractor mishandled cargo.

"The cargo, weighing nearly 10-tons and over 12-metre long joints, was delivered to the airport five hours before flight departure unsuitably packed for the flight," Lomakin recalls.

"The load-master completely rejected the cargo."

As postponement of charter was not an option, Lomakin immediately made arrangements for an alternative contractor to amend the packaging on the spot, personally negotiating the compromise on the repacking of every unit.

"Given the tight deadline, I was walking a fine line in managing the packer’s ability and the load-master’s requirements throughout the night," Lomakin says.

To the client’s relief, the charter departed with just a four-hour delay.

Another unforgettable charter occurred when a Boeing B747 freighter was grounded due to the captain’s broken seat buckle.

"Trying to explain the reason for delay to an upset client was unforgettable too," Lomakin quips.

He adds the strangest request he has ever received involved a request to land an Antonov AN-124 freighter ‘somewhere’ to use the aircraft as an extravagant sales-hall for a luxury goods fair.

Obviously that was not feasible.

There are occupations where people can do mundanely for a living, but as far as being a charter broker is concerned, Lomakin says it is either a love or hate relationship.

"The expectation on air cargo charter brokers is to deliver instant solutions – and to excel in this occupation an individual needs to be flexible and quick-thinking,"
he says.

"More than matching cargo and customer’s requirements to the right cargo aircraft, a charter broker has a myriad of considerations to cover before offering the best solutions, and the real challenges only begin upon securing a fixture."

After selecting the most suitable aircraft to fit both the cargo and customer’s budget, the broker needs to secure all necessary permits in time and thoroughly check that all documentations and arrangements are in place.

A missed deadline or an overlooked detail can result in a broker’s worst nightmare.

"Beyond contingency planning and troubleshooting, a good air cargo charter broker will always be asking themselves how they can operate this charter faster and more cost-efficiently than the competitors," Lomakin says.

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