A wide-body plane emblazoned with the Amazon Prime logo lands at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 20, 2016. Photo taken December 20, 2016. According to Insight AMAZON.COM-SHIPPING/ REUTERS/Mark Makela
Sarah Rhodes, who was in charge of Amazonburgeoning air freight is changing roles to oversee the e-retailer’s workplace health and safety department.
John Felton, Amazon’s head of global operations, announced the move in a memo to employees Thursday, according to a copy of the memo seen by CNBC. Rhoades will also be responsible for Amazon’s global operations training and development division, which handles things like career development and upskilling for the company’s operational workforce.
“Safety is paramount in all aspects of the aerospace and other industries, turning to aviation for safety best practices,” Felton wrote in the memo. “Sarah’s background as an award-winning military pilot and her success at the helm of Amazon Global Air position her as the ideal leader to fill this important role.”
Raoul Sreenivasan, who joined Amazon in 2016 and currently oversees planning, performance and cargo operations for Amazon Global Air, will take over most of Rhoads’ responsibilities at Amazon Air, Felton said. Before joining Amazon, Sreenivasan worked for DHL and TNT Express, a European courier company acquired by FedEx.
Rhoades, a former US Navy F-18 pilot, was one of the top executives in Amazon’s sprawling logistics business. Over the past few years, Amazon has steadily moved more of its fulfillment and logistics operations in-house, building a transportation network that the company says rivals KBS by size.
As part of an effort to process and deliver more of its own packages, Amazon has launched air freight. Rhodes joined Amazon Air in its early days and has led much of the division’s growth, including the opening of a $1.5 billion air hub in Kentucky.
Amazon has contracted more passenger airlines to fly packages in addition to other carriers such as Atlas Air and ATSG. Sun Country, a leisure-focused carrier, began flying converted Boeing 737 freighters for Amazon in 2020 after travel was halted due to the Covid pandemic. In October, Amazon announced that it had reached an agreement with Hawaiian Airlines to fly leased converted Airbus A330 freighters, which will be the largest aircraft in Amazon’s fleet and the first Airbus aircraft. The planes will help replace older planes in the company’s fleet, Amazon said.
Air cargo rates have fallen from record highs reached at the end of 2021, when port congestion and a shortage of international flights reduced capacity and raised prices. The recovery in air travel has added capacity to the market, while inflation has caused shifts in consumer spending. Last year, FedEx said it would park some planes and cut some flights as part of its cost-cutting plan.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy is at the center of a sweeping review of the company’s spending as the company braces for an economic downturn and slower growth in its core retail business. Amazon has rapidly expanded its fulfillment and shipping network in recent years in response to a surge in demand caused by the pandemic. After closing, canceling or delaying several warehouses in the US
The company also faced increasing pressure to address workplace safety issues. Workers have criticized Amazon’s response to the coronavirus, saying it is not doing enough to protect them on the job, and the company has faced widespread scrutiny over injury rates at its warehouses.
In September, Amazon appointed Becky Gansert to oversee workplace health and safety after Heather McDougall resigned from the company, CNBC previously reported.
Amazon has disputed reports of unsafe working conditions. During McDougall’s tenure, the company has set ambitious injury reduction goals, including a plan to cut the rate of recordable incidents, OSHA’s measure of injury and illness, in half by 2025.
Last year, Amazon pledged to be the “Best Employer on Earth,” adding it to its list of corporate values, even as labor unrest intensified. The executive tasked with overseeing the effort, Pam Greer, left Amazon last April, according to Bloomberg.
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