Delegates at the World Cargo Symposium in Doha this week paid affectionate tribute to Ram Menen, a key figure at Emirates SkyCargo since the day the carrier flew its first airplane. Menen announced recently that he will step down in June.
Des Vertannes, IATA head of cargo, said Menen’s unstinting efforts to build Emirates into the world’s largest carrier of general cargo and his overall “dramatic contribution to our industry” will make him a difficult act to follow.
Vertannes confessed it was impossible to add to the list of accolades Menen had received during the years, but noted that he had always remained humble and acknowledged the team behind him who did the real work.
Fittingly, when Menen later in the evening stepped up on behalf of Emirates to collect Air Cargo World’s Air Cargo Excellence Award in the Air Carrier – 800,000 or more tonnes category, he invited two colleagues on stage with him to share the spotlight.
Vertannes said he has known Menen since 1980. They were colleagues in British Airways at a time when short-range Tristar aircraft hopped across the world on multi-stop routes. Ram had to generate traffic out of Kuwait, either en route to Dubai and Delhi or in the reverse direction back to London. “There was nothing from Kuwait in those days, but he had a target to fulfill – and he had to did it with zero space. We wondered how he was beating his targets, not by double digits but by triple digits, when Dubai and Delhi could not.”
The answer, demonstrating a creativity that Menen had shown ever since, was that on a visit to Heathrow, he gave the ramp personnel a small “thank you” in liquid form and told them that, when the planes’ bellies were full, he would fax them in advance with details of which overhead passenger lockers they should unload on arrival. Up there, above an empty seat, they used to find small items of cargo from Kuwait, wrapped in blankets.
Menen received a standing ovation at the closing plenary of the conference and, unusually almost lost for words, said, “It’s been a great journey. I had the best team, great partners, great customers and friends.”
The audience seemed pretty sure however that, despite all the end-of-an-era words, they had not seen the last of this iconic figure.