Alminko Kojić is the Co-owner and Vice President of ASAK Solutions, a veteran and minority-owned Ground Handling company headquartered at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Alminko has worked at JFK since 2010 before establishing ASAK in 2017. He graduated from Midwood High School in Brooklyn, NY, where he has resided since coming to the U.S. in 1997. He has served in the Air National Guard for eight years, earning the rank of NCO and many commendations before being honorably discharged to focus on ASAK and starting a family.
1 Tell us about your journey from military to civilian life and how your military background helps at the airport.
Alminko Kojić: I’ve been fascinated by planes since I was a child and planned to join the Air Force right out of high school, but life has other paths for us, as with most things. I joined the Air National Guard later in life and served for eight years, earning the rank of Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) before exiting the military to focus on starting a family.
The Air Force instills the core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do.” I’ve held on to these values and relied on them personally and professionally as we launched ASAK Solutions. Our airline partners know that ASAK will always be there to provide them with the highest level of service, and I feel they genuinely trust us with their operation. After all, our slogan is “One Objective. Yours”
My business partner Arnold Sue and I began our airport careers as ramp agents and moved up the ranks to where we are now. We have a firsthand understanding of the way of life and resources the employee receives in this industry.
Our military and industry experiences have helped us secure a large and very experienced core staff of employees who have been with our company since the beginning. We often hear the veteran staff telling new employees that working at ASAK is different than any other company in the airport.
2 Do you see ASAK moving beyond the New York market and possibly growing nationally?
Alminko Kojić: It is the natural progression for any business to grow, so yes, our entry into other markets across the country is the goal. We hold operating permits for JFK and MIA but have taken our time on expansion. Arnold and I firmly believe in controlled growth; we want to keep our service level uniform across any station we start. As our partners have requested us to enter other markets, we have begun planning growth with them. We want the ASAK brand to be synonymous with a higher level of service, efficiency, and safety.
3 How has ASAK Solutions positioned itself to support and even compete with the bigger companies that operate at JFK Airport?
Alminko Kojić: We are very active within the John F. Kennedy International Airport community and do our best to support the entire New York airport community in any way we can. We can compete with the larger companies based on merit and personal attention to detail and will continue to do so. Since our start in 2019, we have increased our ground-handling capabilities and services. We’ve grown from just cargo flights to starting a PAX operation in Terminal 7 in December of 2022.
It felt surreal to see our company go from an idea Arnold and I had one weekend while in the military back in 2017 to having over 300 employees able to support multiple operations across JFK airport, which has been the culmination of everything we’ve worked for.
As a company, we try our hardest to help the airport community as much as possible, financially or by other means; Arnold and I are here to help. My father taught me always to help others; you never know when you might need a helping hand and do it without expecting anything in return. It’s not always about money; sometimes, people simply just need someone to speak to. I was fortunate enough to have created a comfortable life for my family, and I continue to give back to my local Mosque, which has helped many people in my community.
4 What interested you about starting your own ground handling business, and what are you most proud of?
Alminko Kojić: I’ve always wanted to say, “I created this,” to show the possibilities for others like me. My family immigrated to the U.S. in 1997, making this country our home. I am a first-generation immigrant, as are my parents. We fled Bosnia as war refugees and arrived here with nothing to call our own.
I was fortunate enough to have learned about the aviation industry alongside my brother and business partner, Arnold Sue Chuen Ken.
As we began reevaluating our futures, it became clear that we could correct the deficiencies we experienced on the job by creating our own company and opportunities. We chose to pool our finances, knowledge, and experiences into creating an opportunity to give our employees a better work environment and provide our partners with a higher level of service.
I am most proud of being able to say that Arnold and I created ASAK Solutions and can call it ours.
5 How did the Covid pandemic change or even shape your company?
Alminko Kojić: The pandemic was a dark time for JFK Airport and the entire aviation industry. However, we took advantage of that time and grew ASAK almost overnight. We took on a large sea-based mail contract that allowed us to onboard many of the employees we had previously worked with who were being laid off by their employers due to the pandemic. As JFK Airport was slowly shutting down, ASAK was starting up and experienced growth almost instantly. We were handling 1.5 million pounds of mail a week at our peak during the pandemic while starting our ground-handling operation. At the time, the ground-handling operation was only one flight a night at building 78, our animal transfer contract with the ARK. Presently, ASAK Solutions handles more than 100 flights a week across all of our operations with 13 airlines.
We were one of the handful of companies that took on the Cargo-in-Cabin projects. During the pandemic, many passenger flights were temporarily granted permits to convert their aircraft into makeshift cargo aircraft by the FAA and EASA. ASAK handled 40 Cargo-in-Cabin flights a week across eight airlines. We stood out because of efficiency; others were handling the flight in 6 hours, and our team could do it in less than 2 hours.
The standout moment was handling a loose-loaded Antanov 12 containing over 56 tons of mail from Ukraine. Our team accepted the handling, planned the operation, and greeted the aircraft within three days, with a total offload time of 36 hours from on-blocks to the last package scanned in the JFK ISC.