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Air Freight

FedEx Air Freight - A History

Frederick Wallace Smith - The Father Of FedEx Air Freight

Frederick Smith studied Economics at Yale University. For an assignment he imagined a parcel delivery service that offered overnight delivery by using information technologies. This was the beginning of FedEx air freight. He imagined a carrier that owned the entire process: from airplanes to cargo warehouses, and all the delivery vans and store/offices in between. A parcel would be in the same company’s hands throughout its journey.

Another piece of the FedEx air freight puzzle came together during Smith’s service in the Marine Corps. As a pilot, he observed the army’s logistics and noticed many items were delivered to the wrong place. It became clear that the main reason for ineffective delivery was lack of coordination between air and ground services and absence of a consolidated center of operations. By the end of his service, Smith knew how FedEx air freight would operate.

Before FedEx Air Freight

Before FedEx air freight, parcel delivery by air was ineffective. Carriers used passenger flights, which are scheduled during daytime hours, to deliver letters and parcels. Passenger flights were convenient for people, but less so for packages. Cargo that reached a destination point at night needed warehouses for storage until it could be delivered. These carriers did not have dedicated couriers so prompt delivery was not guaranteed.

With FedEx air freight, Smith decided to create an end-to-end service provider could deliver parcels by the next morning. Using dedicated cargo planes was a big innovation at that time. Smith called his company Federal Express (subsequently FedEx) because the word federal evoked the idea of a nationwide service as well as the Federal Reserve, which is a central coordinator for all the commercial banks.


FedEx Air Freight Is An Industry Leader

FedEx air freight became a pioneer and a leader in many aspects of international air cargo and parcel delivery. It was the first company to use large airplanes for non-military cargo, which was once illegal. FedEx air freight, along with the other mail delivery companies, lobbied to remove this restriction.

In 1979 FedEx implemented computer technologies for parcel management by deploying Customer Operations and Services Master Online System (or COSMOS). In 1994 Fed Ex air freight introduced “fedex.com” – the first site with online tracking functionality. By 2016, FedEx air freight has shipped more than 15 billion ton-kilometers (According to IATA).

FedEx Air Freight Interesting Facts

The corporate FedEx logo incorporates a silhouette of an arrow which, according to designer Lindon Leader, symbolizes the speedy delivery of FedEx air freight.

Almost everyone loved 2000’s award-winning Cast Away. Everyone except FedEx, who at first opposed being part of a story where a FedEx air freight plane crashes and leaves America’s favorite actor Tom Hanks stranded alone for years.  Eventually FedEx realized the positive message of the story, and provided the head office in Memphis for shooting and fact checked all props and procedures related to FedEx air freight. The company did not pay for product placement, and after the release, FedEx air freight benefitted from a huge increase in brand awareness throughout Europe and Asia.

Today FedEx continues to be the leading company in Air Cargo and Parcel Delivery Service. FedEx air freight’s annual revenue is about $60 billion. The company owns more than 650 aircrafts, and is an internationally recognized brand name, associated with speed and quality in more than 200 countries.

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