A wide body aircraft emblazoned with Amazon’s Prime logo lands at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 20, 2016. Picture taken December 20, 2016. To match Insight AMAZON.COM-SHIPPING/ REUTERS/Mark Makela
Sarah Rhoads, who was responsible for Amazon‘s burgeoning air cargo business, is shifting roles to oversee the e-retailer’s workplace health and safety division.
John Felton, Amazon’s head of worldwide operations, announced the move in a note to staffers on Thursday, according to a copy of the memo viewed by CNBC. Rhoads will also be in charge of Amazon’s global operations learning and development unit, which deals with things like career advancement and upskilling in the company’s frontline workforce.
“Safety is paramount in every aspect of aerospace and other industries look to aviation for best practices in safety,” Felton wrote in the memo. “Sarah’s background as a decorated military pilot and her success leading Amazon Global Air positions her as the ideal leader to assume this critical role.”
Raoul Sreenivasan, who joined Amazon in 2016 and currently oversees planning, performance and cargo for Amazon Global Air, will take over most of Rhoads’ Amazon Air responsibilities, Felton said. Prior to joining Amazon, Sreenivasan worked at DHL and TNT Express, a European courier acquired by FedEx.
Rhoads, a former U.S. Navy F-18 pilot, has been one of the top executives in Amazon’s sprawling logistics business. Over the past several years, Amazon has steadily moved more of its fulfillment and logistics operations in house, building a transportation network that the company says rivals UPS in size.
As part of an effort to handle and deliver more of its own packages, Amazon launched an air cargo business. Rhoads joined Amazon Air in its early days and has overseen much of the unit’s growth, including the opening of a $1.5 billion air hub in Kentucky.
Amazon has contracted more passenger airlines to fly packages in addition to other operators like Atlas Air and ATSG. Sun Country, a leisure-focused carrier, began flying converted Boeing 737 freighters for Amazon in 2020, after travel collapsed in the Covid pandemic. In October, Amazon announced that it reached an agreement with Hawaiian Airlines to fly leased Airbus A330 converted freighters, which would be the largest aircraft in Amazon’s fleet and its first Airbus jets. The planes will help replace older jets in the company’s fleet, Amazon said.
Air cargo rates have plunged from record highs hit during late 2021, when port snarls and a dearth of international flights pinched capacity and drove up prices. The rebound in air travel has added capacity to the market, while inflation has fueled shifts in consumer spending. FedEx last year said it would park some aircraft and reduce some of its flights as part of its plan to slash costs.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy is in the midst of a broad overview of the company’s expenses as the company reckons with an economic downturn and slowing growth in its core retail business. Amazon rapidly scaled up its fulfillment and transportation network in recent years in response to a pandemic-driven surge in demand. It’s since closed, canceled or delayed several warehouses across the U.S.
The company has also faced growing pressure to address its workplace safety record. Employees criticized Amazon’s coronavirus response, arguing it wasn’t doing enough to protect them on the job, and the company has faced widespread scrutiny over the injury rates in its warehouses.
In September, Amazon appointed Becky Gansert to oversee its workplace health and safety unit after Heather MacDougall resigned from the company, CNBC previously reported.
Amazon has disputed reports of unsafe working conditions. During MacDougall’s tenure, the company set ambitious goals to reduce injuries, including a plan to cut recordable incident rates, an OSHA measurement covering injury and illness, by half by 2025.
Last year Amazon committed to become “Earth’s Best Employer,” adding it to its list of corporate values, even as labor unrest intensified. The executive tasked with overseeing that effort, Pam Greer, departed Amazon last April, according to Bloomberg.