Nick Benson - JetTip.net

A Kalitta 747-400 freighter, operating on behalf of UPS, departs MSP, with a busy cargo terminal in the background. December 22, 2020

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 different aircraft type; a route might get operated by a wet-lease partner (another airline operating a route o n 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 new smart flight alert app is designed for situations like this, and the cargo filter on our arrival/departure boards will help give you a clear picture of operations at your field.

Just as we tracked peak cargo in 2021, 2020, 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!

We reached out to all of the companies below for comment; unless noted otherwise they haven't responded.

ABX

Updated Dec 13, 2022

A pair of ABX 767s are joined the UPS fleet on December 12 and will be flying out of DFW, DTW, MIA, PHL, and RFD.

  • N317CM, in the new ABX livery; to SDF on Dec 12; first UPS flight Dec 12, SDF-MIA
  • N767AX, in the older colors, to DTW on Dec 12; first UPS flightDec 12, DTW-RFD

ATI

Updated Dec 5, 2022

ATI has a pair of 767s flying for UPS; planned flights to BFI, DEN, DFW, MCO, MSP, ONT, PDX, PHL and SDF.

767

  • N395CM, Capital Cargo special livery; to SDF Nov 27; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-MCO
  • N255CM, 2022 ATI livery; to SDF Dec 5; first UPS flight Dec 5, SDF-DEN

Alaska

A spokesperson says, "Alaska's freighter fleet is operating in full support of the state of Alaska’s holiday shipping needs. We’re ramping up flights to serve many locations in Alaska like we have in years past for the busy season. We continue to assess consumer patterns that may shift and expand shipping needs, and we’re growing our freighter capacity in 2023 with additional aircraft to meet future demand."

Amazon

Nick Benson - JetTip.net

A Prime Air 737 and 767 in front of Amazon's regional hub at Fort Worth Alliance (AFW) in October 2022.

Amazon has handled peak over the last couple of years using their own fleet serving their own terminals, so generally not much going on of interest to aviation enthusiasts - in fact, Prime Air has only triggered a handful of smart flight alerts in the last month, most of them related to new stations getting added to their network: Manchester, NH (MHT) opened on November 17 with a daily 767; Mobile, AL (BFM) opened with new ATR service on November 3.

Amerijet

AJT888/889 swapped from a MEM-SJU circuit to MCO-SJU on November 22 (Kalitta started operating MEM-SJU with a 747-400 in its stead).

Asia Pacific

A participant in the UPS fleet for the last few years, they do not appear to be flying for them in peak 2022.

Atlas

Updated Dec 6, 2022

Atlas has four 747-400s and a 767-300 assigned to UPS. The first peak season 747 arrived on UPS property on November 14. The UPS 747 flights will be operating out of DFW, EWR, IAH, MSP, ONT, PHL, and SDF. The single Atlas 767 flying for UPS has started the season going to OMA; on December 10, it'll start bouncing around to some other destinations - BOS, BWI, RFD, SDF, and LAN.

A pair of 747s have been doing circuits between MEM and HNL/SJU for quite some time; they don't count as peak, but are included here for thoroughness.

747-400

  • N429MC, to SDF Nov 28
  • N471MC, to SDF Nov 19; first UPS flight Nov 20, SDF-IAH
  • N472MC, to SDF Nov 16; first UPS flight Nov 17, SDF-IAH
  • N475MC, to SDF Nov 28; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-IAH
  • N476MC, ongoing FedEx/USPS lift between MEM and HNL/SJU
  • N477MC, ongoing FedEx/USPS lift between MEM and HNL/SJU
  • N487MC, to PHL Nov 14; first UPS flight Nov 14, PHL-SDF; left UPS Nov 17

767-300

  • N1619A, white tail; to SDF Nov 27; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-OMA

DHL

Nick Benson - JetTip.net

A DHL A330 departing LAX, September 2022.

From an enthusiasts perspective, DHL's operations, using a variety of different partners operating on frequently shifting schedules, is interesting, but it makes it difficult to analyze and identify activity that's specifically related to peak season - DHL flights continue to trigger our smart flight alerts on a regular basis across the US, but that's normal year-round.

The most interesting aircraft in DHL service right now appears to be a single Kalitta Charters II 727 - N729CK had been on a steady CVG-RIC circuit, but began flying to a variety of destinations out of CVG on November 21.

FedEx

For the first time since we've been keeping tabs on peak season in 2018, FedEx doesn't appear to be adding any additional peak season capacity via wet lease.

Of note to aviation enthusiasts, peak 2022 will be your last chance to see the FedEx MD-10s flying. N306FE, N307FE, N311FE, N313FE, N316FE, N318FE, N319FE, N321FE are the eight remaining in service, and will be highlighted on JetTip's filterable arrival/departure boards. As reported by Eric Kulisch in Freight Waves, the MD-10s will be retired, and FedEx has reduced frequencies on some trans-Pacific routes.

IFL Group / Gulf Caribbean Cargo

A pair of 727s have joined the peak fleet so far, both from IFL Group for UPS. They're scheduled to service ATL, CLT, FAR, LIT, MEM, MSY, PHL, RDU and SDF.

  • N216WE, to MSY Nov 28; first UPS flight MSY-SDF Nov 28
  • N281FL, to MEM Nov 28; first UPS flight MEM-SDF Nov 28

Kalitta

Updated Dec 13, 2022

A quartet of their 747s are flying for USPS between MEM, HNL, LAX, SFO and SJU.

Five Kalitta 747s are expected to begin flying for UPS on December 12, serving BWI, HNL, MDT, ONT, PDX, PHL, PHX, and SDF.

747-400

  • N402KZ, in classic livery, to LAX Nov 29; first USPS flight LAX-MEM Nov 29
  • N403KZ, in the 2021 livery, to ONT Dec 11; first UPS flight ONT-HNL Dec 12
  • N705CK, in the classic livery, to SDF Dec 11; first UPS flight SDF-PHX Dec 12
  • N707CK, in the 2021 livery, to SDF Dec 11; first UPS flight SDF-OND Dec 12
  • N708CK, in the 2021 livery, to MEM Nov 22; first USPS flight MEM-HNL Nov 23
  • N709CK, in the classic livery, to SDF Dec 11; first UPS flight SDF-PDX Dec 12
  • N710CK, in the classic livery, to MEM Nov 22; first USPS flight MEM-SJU Nov 22
  • N713CK, a white tail, to SDF Dec 11; first UPS flight SDF-ONT Dec 12
  • N740CK, in Kalitta/DHL livery, to SFO Nov 27; first USPS flight SFO-MEM Nov 29

National

National, with a variety bold livery variants on its 747s, is always an avgeek favorite, and has provided lift for UPS in the past, however they don't appear to be doing any peak season flying this year.

SkyLease Cargo

Updated Dec 13, 2022

SkyLease Cargo started providing lift to UPS this season with a pair 747-400s (their entire fleet) on December 12. They're scheduled to be flying to EWR, MCO, MIA, and SDF.

  • N903AR, to SDF Dec 12, first UPS flight SDF-EWR Dec 12
  • N904AR, to SDF Dec 12, first UPS flight SDF-MIA Dec 12

UPS

Updated Dec 5, 2022

Nick Benson - JetTip.net

A UPS 747-8F on approach at MSP. March 2022.

UPS appears to be having solid peak season this year, with additional wet-lease capacity from ABX, ATI, Atlas, IFL, SkyLease Cargo, and Western Global flying, or planned to start soon - they'll end up flying approximately 1,400 flights with their contracted partners this year.

USPS

As mentioned above, USPS continues to use space in the Atlas aircraft flying out of MEM to SJU and HNL.

A USPS spokesperson confirmed expanded seasonal capacity for peak, but didn't offer any specifics about contracted equipment or carriers.

Western Global

Updated Dec 13, 2022

Four MD-11Fs to SDF on November 27/28 for UPS, another arriving December 2; first assignments to DFW and EWR on November 28. The first four WGA MD11s assigned to UPS were in the full livery, on December . Scheduled to BFI, DFW, EWR, ONT, ORD, PHL, PHX, RFD, SDF.

MD-11

  • N412SN, to SDF Nov 27; first UPS flight Nov 30, SDF-DFW
  • N415JN, to SDF Nov 28; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-DFW
  • N513SN, white tail, to SDF Dec 2; first UPS flight Dec 2, SDF-EWR
  • N542KD, to SDF Nov 27; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-EWR
  • N799JN, to SDF Nov 27; first UPS flight Nov 28, SDF-DFW

Nick Benson

Nick lives in Burnsville, MN with his wife and three children. He grooves on railroad and aviation photography, politics, geography, weather, and LEGO. He started JetTip's smart flight alert service in 2017, and is now a full-time avgeek. He can frequently be found atop a step ladder at MSP's Aircraft Viewing Area.