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Delta Air Lines names logistics veteran to lead cargo

Shawn Cole shifts to new global sales position

Robert Walpole, vice president - cargo. (Photo: Delta Air Lines)

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) is reshuffling the leadership of its cargo division and giving it a more prominent revenue-bearing role. 

In a move rumored for weeks, the Atlanta-based airline announced Monday that Robert Walpole will succeed Shawn Cole as vice president of cargo effective Tuesday and that the cargo business will now fall under the Commercial organization to ensure greater market integration. Cargo previously came under Operations.

Cole will become vice president-global sales, a newly created role focused on identifying overlapping strengths within Delta’s portfolio of global corporate and travel management companies. Cole will report to Bob Somers, senior vice president-global sales. 

Cole has been vice president of cargo for more than three years. In his previous nine years at Delta, and before that at Coca-Cola, he focused on finance, strategic planning and budgeting.

Delta’s cargo revenue was down 29% for the first three quarters of the year to $403 million when other international airlines, including rival United Airlines (NASDQ: UAL), are experiencing significant growth in cargo business with heavy emphasis on cargo-only flights. Delta has operated almost 1,700 passenger freighter flights this year compared to 8,000 at United.

The move comes in a tumultuous year in which Delta has operated more than 1,500 cargo-only flights in response to the downturn in passenger travel and demand for cargo transportation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Delta is also fine tuning its specialized pharmaceutical offerings in anticipation of flying COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Walpole joined Delta Cargo in August 2019 to lead its global operations and logistics organization after a long career in the third-party logistics sector. He previously spent less than a year as senior vice president of global logistics for container terminal operator DP World. Before that, Walpole spent eight years — the last two as CEO — at Schenker Inc., the Miami-based U.S. arm of global logistics giant DB Schenker. Walpole joined DB Schenker from BAX Global and helped with the integration of the two companies in 2006 as head of logistics in the Asia-Pacific.

“Through his prior leadership of global commercial organization and focus on operational excellence both internally and with our airline partners, Rob is well equipped to lead the Delta Cargo team on a path of continued growth and innovation,” said Steve Sear, executive vice president-global sales and president-international.

Earlier this year, American Airlines (NASDQ: AAL) implemented a similar rotation of executives at its cargo division, promoting Jessica Tyler to president of cargo and moving Rick Elieson to head the airline’s loyalty program.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]