Watch Now

FedEx dumps 40 flights, grounds aircraft as shipping demand wanes

CFO says trans-Pac capacity cuts won’t be reversed, aging MD-10s to exit fleet

FedEx is cutting at least 10% of its global officers and directors. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

FedEx is scaling back the number of flights it operates and putting aircraft in temporary storage to offset falling revenue from sinking e-commerce demand sinks following a pandemic boom.

The express delivery giant in October eliminated eight to nine daily international flight frequencies and about 23 domestic frequencies to help achieve $2.2 billion to $2.7 billion in accelerated savings after announcing a steep drop in quarterly earnings, CFO Mike Lenz said Tuesday at the Baird Global Industrial Conference. The bulk of the savings will come from the Express division.

The integrated express delivery provider plans to chop eight to nine more domestic frequencies this month and is temporarily parking aircraft because fewer are needed, he added. The plan is to structurally lower costs by $4 billion starting in fiscal year 2025, with the air network a strong candidate for more streamlining.

FedEx (NYSE: FDX) is also consolidating its Ground network. And on Saturday, FedEx confirmed it is enacting driver furloughs in its less-than-truckload arm, FedEx Freight.  

The planes being parked are mostly older aircraft with low ownership costs. Not flying them defers the next major maintenance event, saving money, Lenz said. “It’s an operationally and financially flexible way to manage capacity.”

The speed at which consumer spending shifted from goods to services caught the company by surprise. 

“Unquestionably, the commencement and the speed and depth of that shift was beyond what we had certainly anticipated,” Lenz explained. “That’s why we have been taking down trans-Pacific flights.”

FedEx expected demand for premium shipping service to revert from pandemic highs, when consumers fueled by government stimulus programs spent on home goods while social distancing, but not until the second half of 2024, said Lenz.

As COVID travel barriers in Asia come down, Lenz said FedEx will take advantage of increased belly capacity on trans-Pacific passenger service to move deferred shipments, which are the primary casualty of FedEx’s freighter pullback.

FedEx’s finance chief said the cuts in trans-Pacific capacity will be permanent.

“We were up to 16 flights across the Pacific, that was the plan. There’s no scenario where we envision coming back to that level of trans-Pacific flying, even if you were to see a shift. Every downturn begets an upturn, but even in that circumstance we wouldn’t go back to that level of flying,” Lenz said. 

FedEx will retire its oldest three-engine widebody aircraft, the MD-10s, at the end of the calendar year, months earlier than originally planned, and the MD-11s will be terminated next.

One network strategy

Lenz said the downturn in demand and explosion in e-commerce, which now represents nearly 100% of parcel market growth, illustrate the importance of the Network 2.0 initiative launched over the summer to improve productivity by harmonizing independent express, ground and truck networks.

But the change won’t happen overnight and has to be done carefully because the units have different systems and assets, and deploy people differently, the CFO said. An express parcel or a container from an Express airplane can’t simply be injected into a Ground station, and straight trucks can’t easily go into an Express facility.

“We will spend some cap ex there to get the facilities cross-utilized” within the broader plan of reducing annual expenditures by up to 1.5%. “We have to be thoughtful about sequencing it and be thoughtful that it’s a network and we just can’t singularly make one piece of it work while the rest of it operates another way,” he said.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mike Lenz’s name.)

Click here for more stories by Eric Kulisch.


Freighter frenzy could lead to oversupply of cargo jets


  1. Ryan

    The MD-10-30s losses have been planned for QUITE A LONG TIME. 40 flights out of the 1000+ flights daily is NOT a big deal. We still service those locations, just doing it less than multiple flights a day. Flying full airplanes makes more fiscal sense. No need to paint such a DOOM and GLOOM picture.

  2. DanS

    I am also very frustrated with FedEx ground. I live in North Idaho and FedEx ground is ALLWAYS LATE. Very seldom do they keep there scheduled delivery dates. 8 day delivery dates are sometimes stretched to 35 days, lost packages etc, customer service is non existent. Cannot call Corporate to let them know how I feel about the crappy service. Customer service is overseas and is out of touch with corporate. I always request UPS or USPS when ordering products. The problem lies with FedEx CEO. Ground is 100 % contractor based, this FedEx CEO has cut compensation to contractors, FedEx charges more for deliveries from customers and blames fuel prices, then does not reimburse contractors for the doubling of fuel costs. FedEx scoops the profits and screws the contractors and customers!! Horrible company!! Horrible customer service!!

  3. Mary Sink

    We live in a rural area. Fedex contract drivers are horrible. They “deliver” packages by dumping them in fields, on the side of the road and who knows where. The manager knows but doesn’t care. If I have to order something using them I have it shipped to my daughter at her work or Walgreens. It will get there because it’s a business and they don’t mess with them. UPS is much better and more reliable.

  4. John Bell

    I live in Australia and used to buy a fair bit of stuff from the US once but not any more. The freight charges these days are absolutely prohibitive. Actually the charges Fedex apply to deliveries from China stopped me using them some time ago as well.

Comments are closed.

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]