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Des Vertannes, the charming, diplomatic, even-keeled, much-liked and well-respected head of IATA Cargo, has announced his resignation from the industry. He leaves the association in June.

He joined IATA – then renowned for its lack of interest in cargo, an unhappy staff and unpopular director general – exactly four years prior to his leaving date.

Defended and ring-fenced initially from the worst of the association by the Cargo Committee, led by former Emirates SkyCargo chief Ram Menen, he set about changing the role IATA played in cargo – certainly a thankless task.

At the time, Mr Vertannes said he would do the job until he had made a difference.

With e-freight now on its way, a modernisation of IATA’s approach to ‘agents’, the creation of GACAG, a healthier relationship with FIATA, a proper environmental agenda for cargo, a voice for ground handlers, a sustainable agenda and other improvements too numerous to mention, the industry can safely say that yes, he has made a difference.

Previously cargo chief for Etihad and Gulf Air, he has also striven to boost the air freight business in general; to give it a wider focus to help companies grow the industry rather than steal a shrinking amount of business from each other.

Mr Vertannes, a true gentleman, who has worked in air freight since 1970, is known not only for his diplomatic nature, but also for wearing his heart on his sleeve: no other industry leader could trigger an outbreak of moist eyes among grown men like he could.

He has made no secret of his jealousy of close friend Ram Menen’s recent retirement. While Mr Menen now travels the world seeing friends and places, Mr Vertannes (or ‘poor Des’ as he has become known, owing to his relentlessly difficult job) has been stuck travelling the world, soothing forwarders, carriers and Customs, making speeches and boosting business.

As the news of his departure emerged, tributes began to pour in.

Stan Wraight, executive director of SASI, said: “With everything that is happening today in our air cargo world, the pressures for change are enormous if we are to remain relevant. We have all been struggling for years to impress on the industry the need to recruit and train young leaders, as the current guard will leave. And now we lose Des to retirement, one of the true leaders out there.

“He is able to get people motivated just through his passion, intelligence and eloquence, and that comes about when you couple years of experience and know-how with charm and intellect. IATA and the industry needs more Des Vertannes, not less.

“He will be missed, but I hope that he will enjoy retirement along with his wife Gloria and their many kids and grandchildren. Of all people, he has done his share and deserves the time off. IATA and the industry’s loss is his family’s gain.”

Mr Menen said: “Des is a hard act to follow. He is one of the most knowledgeable, passionate and hard-working people I have met. He is true visionary and icon. He is also one of the best salesmen I have come across – he can sell ‘ice to Eskimos’ with the greatest of ease.

“Des is what IATA needed when the industry was at a crossroads and had no definitive direction. He is well-respected by every element of the industry and has had the challenging task to start the modernisation process.

“His list of achievements over the years, when documented, will need many pages to record. I could go on and on – but I am glad he can now spend time with his family.

“Like me, I am sure he is going to enjoy the next phase of his life. I wish him the best and am delighted to welcome him to the retired senior citizens club!”

The Loadstar wishes him all the very best for his more than well-deserved retirement. The industry – and all the people in it, who count him as a dear friend – will miss him sorely.

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  • Andy Robins

    March 30, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Des has too much charm to leave the underbelly world of cargo, hope to see him pop up somewhere in the future.

  • Michael Morey

    March 31, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve known Des for many years and always admired how he was one who dared to dream out loud. Often stating what many of us in the industry felt but didn’t dare speak. He inspired us to pursue those dreams and press for the many changes and initiatives we see materializing today.
    We’ll never replace Des but hopefully he’s spawned a whole new generation of dreamers who will continue to follow the vision.

  • Steve Fitzgerald

    March 31, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Those who know him, will miss him.
    Those who knew of him, will never really believe the stories told about him.
    In an age of commercial necessity, Des was a Gentleman.
    In every sense of the word.
    His like are now too few in our industry and unlike the dinosaurs, he was ahead of his time.
    Enjoy the peace……you’ve earned it!

  • Harinath Vobblisetty

    April 05, 2014 at 5:12 am

    I met Mr. Des Vertannes only few times and charmed by him from distance. He gives sense of belongingness together and more importantly he seemed to have time for everyone. He is fearless to accept the wrong, has heart to listen to ideas and patientce to dispell myths / wrong notions.

    It is sad and shocking to hear he would be leaving. I wish him and his family very best.

  • Peter Walter

    April 05, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Congratulations Des and thank you for all your hard work and devotion. I wish you a happy and healthy retirement.
    Best Wishes
    Peter Walter

  • Robin Jarvis

    April 08, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Thank you Des! A true leader and visionary. It has been a pleasure to work with you. May I wish you and your familiy best wishes for the future and we hope that you can come dip your toes in the sand again as a guest on holiday!

    Big shoes to fill IATA!

  • David Ambridge

    April 11, 2014 at 4:52 am

    Des is a man for our industry and he will be tough to replace. Having worked for him and with him and known him for over 40 years he is also a good friend. The work he has done at IATA has been ground-breaking and badly needed. He embraced the Shippers, and the GHAs had never been heard of before Des arrived at IATA. Let’s hope his successor has similar visions and courage to continue the work started by Des. As a member of COAG I promise him we will continue to do what he has asked us to do and, as always, we will deliver.