By: Category: Friends

Cargo Airlines Beef Up Operations For Peak Holiday Season

By: Jared Romanowicz



The Thanksgiving meal has finally digested and Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have all come and gone.  Now it’s Santa’s time to shine, although a much different looking Santa than your children, grandchildren, or nephews may believe.  The Santa we’re talking about comes in the form of a freight pilot.  His sleigh comes in many forms, none of them running on magic or getting pulled by reindeer unless, of course, you consider the smell of burning Jet A magic and four GE CF6-80C2 engines reindeer.  The sleigh ranges in size from a Boeing 747 all the way down to a Cessna Caravan.  This Santa has helpers too, only his “elves” are logistics managers, loading supervisors, ramp workers, and package truck drivers.  Between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day all these people put vacations on hold and work overtime, late nights, and early mornings trying to get all the presents under their respective trees.

Freight companies do their best to prepare themselves well in advance for peak season, and this year is no different.  The two major players in the United States domestic market, UPS and FedEx, are once again expecting to deliver a record number of packages this December.  UPS’ anticipated worldwide delivery volume for December is more than 585 million packages, while FedEx is predicting 290 million shipments.  These figures are an increase of 11 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively, over last years numbers.  FedEx’s peak delivery day is expected to be Monday, December 15, where they are anticipating their busiest day in company history with over 22.6 million shipments around the world.  Meanwhile, UPS is expecting their busiest day to be Monday, December 22, with an estimated 34 million packages delivered.  In comparison, UPS delivers an average of 17 million packages worldwide on an average day.

These companies can’t do this with their normal day to day staffing, which is why UPS expected to hire an extra 90,000 to 95,000 workers by the end of November, and FedEx expected to hire an additional 50,000 workers.  From a flight standpoint FedEx will utilize all of it’s 359 freighters, re-route flights, and add daytime flights into the mix in order to keep up with the increased holiday volume.  They have also slowly been modernizing their fleet and now have 25 Boeing 777F’s and have added four more Boeing 767F’s since last year, doubling that airframe total to eight.  UPS plans to do the same with their 237 airframes, as well as contract flying out to other cargo operators.  In the past, UPS has utilized aircraft from Evergreen, Atlas, National, and Kalitta in order to meet the demands of the record volume.

If you don’t live in a major city but are still served by next day air, your home airport is most likely served by these companies’ feeder aircraft.  Companies such as Ameriflight LLC, Empire Airlines, Wiggins Airways, and Mountain Air Cargo fly smaller piston and turboprop aircraft into smaller airports to provide “feed” for the big boys.  These flights are also effected during the holiday season such as aircraft types being upgraded and extra flights being added as demand dictates.

What it all comes down to, and what everyone’s main goal is, is getting you your package on time and in time for Christmas.  Safety always takes precedence however, and is usually the main reason packages miss service or show up late.  Bad weather at a destination airport may cause a flight delay or re-route, and a mechanical issue with an aircraft may cancel a flight altogether.  Everyone tries to work together for that common goal, but when your dealing with hundreds of millions of shipments, mother nature, and a 300 ton machine hurtling through the air at over 500mph, sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned.  Just remember that when you click that purchase button on your computer, these “Santa’s” are sometimes flying late nights, early mornings, and in less than ideal weather conditions in order to meet the goal of getting your gift to you in time.  The “elves” are usually working under the same conditions as well.  In the rare case that the package does not show up on time, take comfort in the fact that it will arrive eventually and that everyone involved in the shipment did their best to get it there as fast as they could, and have a very Merry Christmas!


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