Special Delivery—the Holiday Shipping Season

From the last week of November to the end of December FedEx and UPS see a surge in shipping as holiday gifts make their way from manufacturers to retailers to consumers. For 2016, FedEx anticipates it will double its average package volume to 25 million shipments on each Monday during the season. UPS has said it expects 13 of the 21 delivery days before Christmas to exceed 30 million packages.

Last Monday, we followed the FedEx and UPS fleets over the United States during one of the busiest shipping days of the year. The video above shows the overnight rush of flights from 18:00 CST – 06:00 CST  (00:00-12:00 UTC). In the evening flights find their way to major hubs, where aircraft are unloaded and reloaded before departing again.

During that 12 hour period, the two airlines operated 1,202 flights using 545 different aircraft. Over half of those flights passed through the UPS Worldport in Louisville and the FedEx Superhub in Memphis. For both airlines, the greatest number of flights were operated by Boeing 757s, with the A300 operating the second-most. While FedEx does not currently own any 747s, note that six 747 flights were operated for FedEx by other carriers. Both airlines contract extra capacity during the holiday season from airlines like Atlas Air, Kalitta, and LATAM Cargo.

UPS and FedEx flights by aircraft type

UPS and FedEx flights by aircraft type (click to enlarge)

The peak hour for landings at both carriers’ hubs was 05:00-06:00 UTC, when 66 FedEx flights landed in Memphis and 43 UPS flights landed in Louisville.

Peak arrival period for Memphis and Louisville during the 0500 UTC hour.

Peak arrival period for Memphis and Louisville during the 0500 UTC hour.

Peak departures occurred between 10:00—11:00 UTC, when 50 flights launched from Louisville and 80 departed Memphis.

Flights in the air during the peak departure hour of 11:00 UTC

Flights in the air during the peak departure hour of 11:00 UTC

Tracking FedEx and UPS flights

Follow FedEx flights using callsign filter ‘FDX’ and UPS flights using callsign filter ‘UPS’.

 

Images of Memphis and Louisville.