What We’re Made Of: Dr. Joe Leader, APEX/IFSA


Dr. Joe Leader, APEX/IFSA, working from home via Zoom

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Dr. Joe Leader
Location: Atlanta
Day 22 of working from home
Date of writing: April 7, 2020

Are you in lockdown right now?
Yes, but in the US state of Georgia we are allowed outside so long as we maintain distance.

Where are you writing from?
Treadmill desk for at least six miles a day for three hours and at my regular desk overlooking a lake from our home in suburban Atlanta the rest of day.

“Governmental responses have been remarkably inconsistent. Our hope was that actions would be taken to create a level playing field worldwide.”

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
Zoom primarily for meetings with phone and FaceTime as a secondary option.

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Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
Yes. My wife is an OB-GYN and surgeon. She delivered her first baby from a COVID-19 patient last week. One of my close CEO friends in the travel industry here in Atlanta just got out of the hospital from COVID-19.

How are you passing time?
I’m enjoying reading Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, watching a good family movie every two days with Jojo Rabbit being the latest. Sadly, I got sucked into Netflix’s Tiger King, given the Internet buzz around the show. It is like watching the worst, slow-moving train wreck ever.

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
APEX/IFSA exited 2019 with the best year in our history alongside FTE. Our mission in 2020 was to make it an even better year.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
We had to cancel APEX Content Market this April in Barcelona. While a refund was an option, nearly all of our exhibitors held their space for next year as the show sells out of exhibit space every year. We also postponed APEX’s FTE Global from Q3 to end of Q4 in Las Vegas while also moving exhibitors from APEX’s FTE EMEA/Ancillary to FTE APEX Asia Expo. The exhibitors and speakers have been remarkably understanding.

Can you describe any new working procedures that you have/will implement in light of new health and safety guidance?
Governmental responses have been remarkably inconsistent. Our hope is that actions would be taken to create a level playing field worldwide. Instead, we have some countries being incredibly proactive for aviation and its supply chain while others are lumping airlines and their suppliers into different buckets. For example, in the United States, companies that have less than 500 employees have a remarkable advantage in the US CARES Act that could effectively cover their payroll for two and a half months. The exclusions and unknowns, however, are tremendous.

Where do you see your company or the industry in six months from now? One year?
Six months from now, APEX/IFSA will be at EXPO, which we are so lucky is taking place at the end of October this year. Even IATA is moving its AGM to the end of Q3/beginning of Q4. We are on the safest ground possible with those dates. A year from now, our industry will be getting back on its feet to the new normal. Very few companies are designed to go through this type of change, but we will be more resilient in the wake of this pandemic.

What’s one thing that will never be the same again for commercial aviation?
Hygiene will never be the same again for commercial aviation. Until now, our philosophy focused on turn-times over cleanliness. Aircraft and airports will likely become some of the cleanest spots. Unfortunately, I also believe that single-use plastics may make a return for sanitation reasons, but that our airlines will lead in recycling more than ever.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.