Delivering hope and healing
in a time of need

November 19, 2018

After Hurricane Michael made landfall and brought destruction to surrounding communities in and around Florida early last month, many American Airlines Cargo employees took it on themselves to find ways they could help their local communities. Most recently, the Miami (MIA) team partnered with the American Red Cross to compile packages for those who lost everything in this year’s storms.

The group put together more than 5,000 boxes of hygiene kits for families in the area. Because of this collaborative effort, the American Red Cross was able to fill its trucks and send along help to people still staying at local shelters.

In the last few years alone, the United States has suffered devastation at the hands of major storms and hurricanes. While the storms this year caused widespread damage and need for quick, extensive relief, previous hurricanes like Maria and Harvey, have crippled communities, brought destruction to countless homes, and shattered local economies in a matter of days.

And although damage totals are still being determined for this year’s storms, it’s important to take a step back and look at the valuable lessons learned in years past to fully appreciate the time, dedication and effort put forth in times of dire need.

Partnerships bring us together

According to officials, 2017 saw more than 3,000 people lose their lives and over $282 billion (USD) worth of damage, including in Puerto Rico. The island territory was doomed from the start, with access being cut off from receiving the help and supplies needed.

This is where American Airlines Cargo answered the call, stepping in to provide much-needed relief. With major ports being blocked or inaccessible, Puerto Rican citizens were essentially stranded without help. The only option was to send help by air, something American Airlines Cargo took as an opportunity to offer.

But, as President Rick Elieson describes it in a post on the company’s website, doing what needed to be done could only exist through a collaborative effort with freight forwarders.

"Providing a first source of assistance after a natural disaster can be both challenging and dangerous," notes Elieson. "The 2017 season reinforced just how valuable our partnerships with freight forwarders are."

Following Maria, American called on its employees to also take part in relief efforts. The internal program, called Operation Puerto Rico Strong, implored all employees to send relief packages to Puerto Rico at no cost. The results were nothing short of inspiring.

"Frankly, we were unprepared for the level of generosity,” noted Elieson. “Within a week more than 4,500 shipments weighing 830,000 pounds had poured in and this combined with the massive amounts of relief we were carrying on our extra widebody flights meant we moved more than 3,000,000 pounds of relief over a very short period and our first flights landed within 48 hours of the hurricane making landfall.”

The all-around collaborative effort highlights how American employees took things to heart and stepped up when their fellow Americans desperately needed a helping hand.

Taking prioritization seriously

Millions of pounds of supplies had to find a way to the island as well as sizeable storage locations, and the clock was ticking. Not only that, there still needed to be a diligent effort made in planning and prioritizing what should be sent. Thankfully, American partnered with the forwarding community and relief agencies such as the Red Cross and Team Rubicon.

These partnerships helped keep things moving while keeping supplies fresh and current. When it came down to it, having a surplus of donations was a good problem to have, and the ability to prioritize the order of shipments displayed the cumulative effort made by all.

Finally, as hurricane seasons continue to batter the southeastern region of the United States and its territories moving forward, it’s comforting to know that American Airlines Cargo has strong relationships with charitable partners who can help to drive effective and successful relief missions to affected areas. The lessons learned about teamwork and prioritization have provided valuable insights to better ensure that American, and the rest of the cargo industry, are better prepared to serve those in need, when the time comes.

Lessons learned from a devastating hurricane season

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

One year following the devastating hurricanes of 2017, we look back to understand our role.

What we learned »