A UPS 747-8F departs MSP on a cold evening in January, 2022.
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 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 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've done every year since 2018,
we'll be tracking peak cargo season again this season; if you've got a scoop
(especially with respect to wet-lease operations), shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
N255CM, which flew UPS peak routes last season, has once again been assigned to their fleet this year. Here they are departing MSP on December 8, 2022.
Just as they did last year, ATI appears to be wet-leasing a pair of 767s, N255CM and N395CM to UPS this season. So far they've been flying between SDF/RFD and AUS, BOS, BWI, DFW, PDX, and PHX.
- N255CM (B762), 2022 ATI livery; to SDF Dec 3; first UPS flight Dec 4, SDF-BOS
- N395CM (B763), Capital Cargo special livery; to SDF Nov 26; first UPS flight Nov 27, SDF-PHX
Our smart flight alerts have been getting triggered sporadically for a few different Amazon flights, but they seem to be one-offs with a 767 filling in occasionally for a 737.
We haven't seen any Amerijet flights throwing smart flight alerts related to peak season this year.
No sign of Asia Pacific doing any operations in CONUS this year; they last flew peak for UPS in 2021.
Updated: December 15, 2023
A trio of 747-400s flying for UPS this season, between SDF and EWR, IAH, and MSP.
- N429MC, flying SDF-MSP since arriving SDF Dec 11
- N472MC, flying SDF-EWR since arriving SDF Nov 15
- N473MC, flying SDF-IAH since arriving SDF Nov 18
- N476MC, flew SDF-EWR Nov 26-27, apparently substituting for N472MC
An unusual sight at MSP: three DHL 767s. The regular daily DHL flight had been upgauged to a 767, and issues with a pair of them resulted in three being on the ground at once.
As is usually the case, DHL's large number of operators regularly throw smart flight alerts across the US as different livery variations visit different airports during the course of their usual operations. Adding a bit of variability this year is an ongoing strike at CVG. There have been a few longer-term seasonal aircraft assignments that changed mid-November, but nothing too exciting from an avgeek perspective.
Last year was the first season we didn't see FedEx add wet-lease capacity, and that appears to be the case again this year.
The MD-10 fleet was promptly retired after Christmas last year, and they plan to have their MD-11s phased out entirely by September, 2025 - don't take their remaining three-holers for granted. Their MD-11s have been throwing alerts in IAH, LAS, PHX, SMF, and TPA this year.
IFL Group / Gulf Caribbean Cargo
Last year they provided a pair of 727s for peak service at UPS; no sign of them operating anything other than their usual ad-hoc charters this season.
A Kalitta 747-400 departs LAX, with the H Hotel in the background.
Updated: December 15, 2023
Operating their usual flights for USPS out of MEM to HNL, LAX, SFO, and SJU with four aircraft; four other aircraft coming online for UPS week of Dec 11, though only two have been seen so far, operating ONT-HNL and SDF-DFW.
- N705CK (classic livery), to MEM for USPS Nov 21; MEM-SJU Nov 22
- N707CK (2021 livery), to MEM for USPS Nov 28; MEM-LAX Nov 28
- N712CK (2021 livery), to MEM for USPS Nov 28, MEM-SJU on Nov 28
- N743CK (Kalitta/DHL colors), to MEM for USPS Nov 21; MEM-HNL Nov 21
- N740CK (Kalitta/DHL colors), to ONT for UPS Dec 10
- N744CK (2021 livery), to ONT for UPS Dec 11
- two more later this week, TBD
Nothing but the usual ad-hoc charters from National are throwing smart flight alerts so far this year.
No unusual activity for SkyLease Cargo this season.
See the notes above for ATI, Atlas, and Kalitta, which are the only carriers we've seen doing wet-lease operations for UPS so far this season. Their own 747s have been throwing alerts at DFW, JFK, MCO, MIA, MSP, and PHX this year. Their MD-11s have been upgauging to KOA, MCI, MHR, RIC, and SBD.
Western Global, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 4, had five MD-11s flying for UPS last year, starting at the end of November, but doesn't have anything flying for them so far this year.
Nick lives in Burnsville, Minnesota 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.