FedEx Puts Parked Jets Back in Service to Meet Asia Cargo Surge

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(Bloomberg) -- FedEx Corp. is redeploying aircraft it mothballed earlier this year and plans to add 150 flights over the next month to ferry masks, protective suits and other health-care supplies to the U.S. from Asia.

The activity adds to the usual seven to nine daily flights across the Pacific, said Richard Smith, chief of FedEx Express operations in the Americas and son of company founder Fred Smith.

At a time passenger travel has ground almost to a halt, the company also has increased U.S. domestic flights to meet higher package volume for the U.S. Postal Service as shut-in Americans buy more goods online, he said.

“It’s a tremendous uptick in flying,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “We were actually surprised we were able to crew all these flights.”

The federal government has turned to FedEx and United Parcel Service Inc. to transport supplies bound for front-line health-care workers in an operation called Airbridge. The logistics giants are also transporting virus test kits and results and helping set up temporary hospitals as the number of Covid-19 patients is poised to peak in many states.

Flights for States

FedEx also has flown cargo directly for states, including Illinois, Arkansas and Alaska, Smith said, and has even moved material at the behest of celebrities who’ve donated health-care supplies. Smith said the aircraft brought back into service is “a moving target,” and declined to give specific numbers.

Pilots have to undergo “rigorous testing” when they arrive to countries such as China. FedEx confirmed that one of its pilots died from the coronavirus, but Smith declined to discuss how many employees have contracted Covid-19. The company hasn’t had a large problem with absenteeism, he said.

While cargo volume has increased for the Express business, the shutdown of many U.S. businesses has hurt the company’s industrial freight unit. At FedEx’s ground unit, a decline of packages sent among businesses has been offset by the surge of consumer deliveries.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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