Based in Basel, Panalpina has roots in the Swiss Alps that stretch back to 1834. The company used to call itself “Alpina” because it connected Northern and Southern Europe across the mountains. Today, as a worldwide forwarder with 80 offices and 16,000 employees, Panalpina has a reputation of doing things a bit differently than the rest of the forwarding industry.
For starters, unlike most forwarders that rely on other companies to supply aircraft, it maintains what it calls a “Controlled Network,” consisting of 747-8 and 747-400 freighters, ACMI-leased through Atlas Air and based out of Panalpina’s hub in Huntsville, U.S. “In Huntsville we can be on the ramp in 10 minutes, and be offloading immediately, getting goods on the trucks,” said Sara Vermeulen-Anastasi, corporate head of marketing and communications with Panalpina.
Last year was a good one for the company, with growth driven mostly by the healthcare and automotive industries, especially in the trans-Atlantic corridor, Vermeulen-Anastasi said. In 2014, Panalpina, ranked No. 6 on the Power 25 chart, handled 858,000 tonnes of freight, a 4 percent increase over 2013. The company uses a three-tier logistics point of view, which includes ground handling, customs brokerage and value-added services, such as bagging and tagging when dealing with fashion, or a cool, temperature-controlled environment for healthcare. Shipments can be split for final destination, and Panalpina offers electronic air waybills.
Later this year, Panalpina will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Luxembourg to Huntsville route, called “Dixie.” All of its frequencies have names that pay homage to the route’s destination. For example, Huntsville to Viracopos (VCP) in Brazil is called “Brazil Wings.”
“It gives a bit of color to our routes,” Vermeulen-Anastasi said. Other routes include the recently added Luxembourg to Shanghai via Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, operated by a Silk Way West 747-8 freighter.