Nick Benson, JetTip.net

One of Kallita Charter II's 727s arriving at MSP, operating for DHL, on November 3.

Every December, holiday shopping in the US creates a huge surge in demand for express shipping, so much so that this time of year is called "peak" in the industry. Most airports that see mainline cargo flights from DHL, FedEx, or UPS will see changes in the operational pattern - aircraft that would usually linger the whole day might do a pair of flights instead; a route might be served by a larger aircraft; a route might get operated by a wet-lease partner (another airline operating a route on behalf of the usual carrier - which is listed on an airline-by-airline basis below).

The impact at each and every airport is too much to cover in a blog post, however, if you're interested in getting a heads up when unusual freighters are heading to your home airport(s), JetTip's smart flight alerts are designed for situations like this, and the cargo filter our arrival/departure boards will help give you a clear picture of operations at your field.

Just as JetTip tracked peak cargo in 2019 and 2018, we'll be doing the same again this year; if you've got a scoop (especially with respect to wet-lease operations), shoot an email to hello@jettip.net, or a DM on Instagram or Twitter, thank you! If you're interested in some good commentary and coverage from the enthusiast community, there's a great thread on Airliners.net.

Updated on January 12, 2021

21Air

Didn't respond to request for comment. Appears their two 767s are operating, as they have been for some time, on CargoJet routes CVG-MCO and CVG-YMX.

ABX

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment. Appears to be flying a pair of 767s for UPS.

Noteworthy: N742AX, which is in fresh Astral paint, appears as if it will be flying for ABX this peak. First flight Dec 4 CVG-MIA.

767s for UPS from November 30 / December 1

  • N740AX, the oldest flying 767, operating a variety of routes, often going to SDF and PHL; appears it may have stopped flying for UPS on December 11.
  • N317CM, SDF-MHR-CAE

AirBridge Cargo

Approved by DOT at the end of November to operate 14 flights through Cincinnati for DHL, routing is Shanghai or Hong Kong to Cincinnati to Brussels or Leipzig.

Amazon

Amazon's US air cargo network is dominated by 767s operated by Atlas and ATI, as well as 737s operated by Southern Air, Sun Country, Further analysis is needed to see if there are new routes or increased frequencies, however, based on alerts getting thrown for aircraft in Amazon's livery, they're not serving new cities as part of their peak operations.

Amerijet

Didn't respond to request for comment. A few flights operating on behalf of FedEx and UPS this year though:

  • N349CM, 767-300, started flying for UPS on October 27, ONT-PHL
  • N373CM, 767-300, started flying for UPS on November 10, SMF-PHL
  • N396CM, 767-300, started flying for FedEx on December 1, MEM-VCP

Asia Pacific Airlines

Updated December 14

Didn't respond to request for comment. Can confirm rumors that they're set to fly an ONT-PDX-BFI circuit for UPS December 15 - December 24. N888LT arrived at ONT from HNL on Dec 14.

Atlas

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment. Historically they lease a large number of 747-400s to UPS and FedEx in a couple of rounds starting in early December, adding a few more mid-month. Based on a review of activity from their fleet, it appears the following aircraft are in charter service now. Atlas flights for FedEx fly with FedEx flight numbers; Atlas flights for UPS flight with Atlas flight numbers.

767-300s for FedEx from December 1

  • N1619A (white tail), MEM-GEG

747-400s for FedEx from November 30 / December 1

  • N406KZ (white tail), MEM-LAX, MEM-SJU, MEM-HNL, etc.
  • N408MC, MEM-CGN
  • N409MC, MEM-HNL-ONT
  • N415MC, IND-CGN
  • N418MC, MEM-SJU, MEM-HNL

767-300s for UPS from December 1

  • N1511A (white tail), SDF-OMA

747-400s for UPS from November 17

  • N429MC, Nov 17; SDF-IAH; SDF-EWR
  • N471MC, Nov 17-24; N473MC Nov 24-present; SDF-EWR

747-400s for UPS from December 14

  • N404KZ (white tail), SDF-JFK
  • N499MC, SDF-DFW

747-400s for USPS from December 16

  • N472MC, MEM-SJU

ATI

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment.

ATI notably has a pair of recently converted former American Airlines 767s with remnants of the old liveries on their rudders, both of which are in peak service this year:

  • N255CM, started flying for UPS on December 17, SDF-PHL, SDF-BHM, SDF-PHL
  • N376AN, flying RFD-DFW, perhaps for UPS, since December 8
  • N381AN, started flying for Aloha Air Cargo on November 21, SEA-LAX-HNL
  • N392AN, started flying for UPS on December 1 between SDF, MCO, and PHL
  • N752CX, one of ATI's four 757-200 combis, has picked up the DHL route CVG-DTW on Dec 12, relieving N605DL, which appears to be flying UPS DFW-TPA.

CargoJet

Didn't respond to request for comment. Their 757s and 767s have been throwing more alerts than usual lately in Canada at YOW, YQM, YYT, and YWG.

Note: a previous version of this post mentioned CargoJet flights between SDF and MCO/PHL, which was a result of N392AN being miss-labeled as CargoJet instead of ATI in JetTip's internal fleet database; it has since been corrected.

China Cargo

China Cargo 777-200Fs started throwing smart flight alerts at SEA on December 1. Looks like a new stop on the PVG-SEA-ORD circuit.

DHL

DHL relies on a variety of carriers to fly for them throughout the year, so picking up new routes / equipment upgrades is difficult compared to others; that said, Kalitta Charters II and AirBridge Cargo are providing some additional lift to them this peak.

Etihad Air Cargo

A6-DDA, a 777-200F, started operating for FedEx on December 1, has been flying MEM-STN.

FedEx

Didn't respond to request for comment. So far this year they're wet-leasing aircraft from Amerijet, Etihad Cargo, and Western Global.

iAero

Their sole non-Amazon 737 freighter, N811TJ, started flying a GSO-ONT circuit on December 1.

IFL

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment.

  • N215WE, 727-200, starting December 1, has been flying a MEM-SDF-LIT circuit; would speculate this is for UPS or USPS, since not flying with a FedEx flight number.
  • N216WE, 727-200, started flying for UPS December 15, SDF-RIV, SDF-SBD

Kalitta

Updated December 14

Didn't respond to request for comment. Last year they had aircraft flying for FedEx, USPS, and UPS. Based on analysis of their fleet this year; looks like seven at UPS, and four or five USPS.

747-400s for USPS starting Nov 27-Dec 1 unless noted

  • N701CK, ANC-LAX-HNL-LAX-MEM-etc (Dec 6 - 8)
  • N706CK, MEM-LAX (Dec 9 - 10)
  • N707CK, MEM-SFO (Dec 8 - 14)
  • N709CK, MEM-LAX (Nov 29 - Dec 4)
  • N713CK (White Tail), MEM-SFO (through Dec 6)
  • N716CK, MEM-LAX (starting Dec 11)
  • N741CK, MEM-LAX, MEM-SJU, MEM-HNL-LAX
  • N743CK, Nov 27-30, MEM-HNL-LAX, MEM-SJU (though Dec 13; then sent to UPS)
  • N744CK, MEM-HNL-LAX, MEM-SJU, MEM-ANC

747-400s for UPS ferried to SDF or ONT Dec 13-14

  • N403KZ
  • N701CK; first flight ONT-HNL
  • N707CK; first flight SDF-ONT; moved from USPS service Dec 14
  • N710CK; first flight SDF-PHX
  • N715CK; first flight ONT-SDF
  • N743CK; first flight SDF-PHX; moved to UPS from USPS Dec 13
  • N782CK; first flight SDF-PHX

Kalitta Charters II

727-200s picking up regular gigs since November

  • N724CK (727-200) has been operating for DHL out of CVG since November 3. Main route has been CVG-YHM, though has strayed a few times to other cities.
  • N726CK (727-200) has been operating regularly out of MIA since November 25 to SJU, SDQ, POS, SKB, SXM, BZE, etc; joining N729CK, which has been flying out of MIA since late July, both for Amerijet.

Longtail

A newcomer to the charter freight market, just in time for 2020's peak season, this Bermuda-based carrier has a pair of 747-400s that recently entered service. One of them, VQ-BWT, started flying SDF-HKG-ICN-ANC on November 22.

National

Didn't respond to request for comment. Looking at their 747-400 activity lately, looks like they've been operating a single aircraft for UPS out of SDF. N756CA (Nov 12-21, Nov 29-present) and N919CA (Nov 22-28), mostly SDF-CGN

Skybus Jet Cargo

Perhaps the most interesting avgeek cargo aircraft operating in the US now is DC-8 OB-2059-P, operated by Peru's Skybus Jet Cargo out of MIA, possibly on behalf of Amerijet. It isn't getting picked up reliably through the commercial flight trackers (JetTip included), but you can keep tabs on it via ADS-B Exchange.

SkyLease Cargo

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment.

N903AR, 747-400

Started flying SDF-PDX for UPS on December 14.

N904AR, 747-400

  • Added DFW stop to usual circuit flying WUH-ANC-DFW-LAX Nov 28-30
  • Bounced around a bit beginning of December, doing the WUH flight sans DFF, some South American Flying out of MIA, and an apparent military charter
  • Ferried to SDF on December 14; first flight SDF-MIA; appears to be operating for UPS

UPS

A UPS spokesperson confirmed there would be more lease aircraft flying in December, and to be on the lookout for N262UP (MD-11), N373UP (767-300), and N623UP (747-8), which were all delivered in October.

Analysis of fleets from traditional wet-lease partners, as well as smart flight alerts triggered at SDF, reveal new routes being operated by ABX, Atlas, Amerijet, IFL, and CargoJet.

USPS

A spokesperson for the Postal Service didn't anticipate any visible impacts to customers due to COVID-19, and couldn't share the number of aircraft they'd be leasing, but did reveal air capacity would be increased 10-16% year over year depending on the week in December.

In 2019, it appeared that USPS wet-leased a combined five or six 747-400s from Kalitta and Altas, which operated out of MEM to ANC, HNL, LAX, SFO, and SJU.

Western Global

Updated December 17

Didn't respond to request for comment. Analysis of fleet activity doesn't show anything unusual yet for the 747s, though seven MD-11s are operating for UPS, and two-four have been working for FedEx - two of them since October!

MD-11s for UPS from late November

  • N411SN (white tail), November 29, SDF-ONT, SDF-EWR, DFW-PHL, etc.
  • N412SN, November 24, SDF-ORD, mostly
  • N415JN, November 23, bouncing around UPS (DTW, PHL, RFD, PHL, SDF etc.)
  • N512JN, November 23, bouncing around UPS (SDF, ONT, PHL, IAH, PDX, EWR, etc.)
  • N513SN, December 1, ONT-EWR, ONT-PHL
  • N542KD, November 24, SDF-CLE, etc.
  • N543JN, November 23, bouncing around UPS (SDF, PDX, DTW, ONT, PHL)

MD-11s for UPS from mid-December

  • N545JN, December 11, SDF, DFW, RFD

MD-11s for FedEx

  • N513SN, November 13-30, MEM-HNL-ONT
  • N542KD, November 19-21, operated MEM-ONT
  • N581JN, October 4 - November 3; November 8 - present, MEM-ONT
  • N799JN, October 4 - present, MEM-ONT, MEM-LAX, MEM-HNL, MEM-SLC, etc.

747-400 for UPS

  • N356KD, starting December 14, ONT-PHL-CAE


Nick Benson

Nick lives in Burnsville, MN with his wife and three children. He grooves on railroad and aviation photography, geography, weather, and LEGO. A freelance web developer, he started JetTip's smart flight alert service in 2017. He can frequently be found atop a step ladder at MSP's Aircraft Viewing Area.