Sarah Rhoads, who was responsible for Amazon’s air cargo business, has been shifted to oversee the e-retailer’s workplace health and safety division. John Felton, Amazon’s head of worldwide operations, announced this in a memo to staffers on Thursday. Rhoads will also oversee Amazon’s global operations learning and development unit.
Rhoads’ Background and Success
Felton wrote in the memo that “safety is paramount in every aspect of aerospace and other industries look to aviation for best practices in safety”. Rhoads’ background as a decorated military pilot and her success leading Amazon Global Air positions her as the ideal leader to assume this critical role. Rhoads joined Amazon in 2011 and has been one of the top executives in Amazon’s sprawling logistics business.
Responsibilities of Raoul Sreenivasan
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. Prior to joining Amazon, Sreenivasan worked at DHL and TNT Express, a European courier acquired by FedEx.
Air Cargo Business of Amazon
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 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 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.
Amazon’s Workplace Safety Record
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. 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, a federal government measurement covering injury and illness, by half by 2025.
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. The company has closed, canceled, or delayed several warehouses across the U.S. The company committed last year to become “Earth’s Best Employer” even as labor unrest intensified. The executive tasked with overseeing that effort, Pam Greer, departed Amazon last April.