Interesting Facts On The History of the Air Freight Industry

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The air freight industry took a long uphill climb before it became established as a type of aviation industry. Although there was a single instance of air freight delivery that took place in 1910 involving a bale of silk, it was not really after World War II that the air freight industry took form as an alternative way of moving goods to reach far off destinations.          

There were some companies who tried to start all freight airlines during the 1920s but they found little support from investors because there was not much money that can be expected out of air freight industry ventures. Others were not yet comfortable with the idea of using air carriers to ship heavy loads; hence, most of the shipments involved were only mails and parcels. During the 1940s, four big operators of passenger air carriers namely the American, TWA, United and Eastern airlines formed an air freight organization that will undertake all cargo services in America’s air freight industry. They called their alliance Air Cargo, Inc. but their operations were disrupted due to the advent of World War II.

After the war, the prime movers as well as new airline operators tried to pick up from where the air freight industry left off. However, the established passenger airlines barred the attempt of the new all freight airlines to fully establish their participation in the air freight industry because the newer ones presented a competitive stance of offering lower rates and irregular services. By late 1940s, the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was able to establish the proper rates for freight transport that in 1949, four of the newer and smaller airlines were allowed to operate as all-cargo airlines in order to give the air freight industry a boost.    

However, two of these new entrants, the U.S. Airlines and Airnews did not last long in the air freight industry because they were beset with a series of accidents that led to their eventual bankruptcy. The other two, Slick Airways and the Flying Tigers temporarily enjoyed moderate reputations for being successful, but found it difficult to meet the stiff competition set by bigger airlines that were combining passenger and air freight services.

The bigger airlines actually presented more affordable and reliable options of shipping their cargo as opposed to the occurrences of accidents among smaller air freight carriers. Slick Airways finally folded up when it failed to merge with Flying Tigers and was meted with suspension charges by the US Civil Aeronautics Board for its air freight activities.   

The Flying Tiger Line on the other hand was able to stay on the good side of the US Civil Aeronautics Board and continued with their coast to coast flights by servicing diverse groups of customers. This start-up air freight company stayed on to survive until more development in the history of aviation came. The company went into air freight industry history as the only one of the four small airlines that was able to thrive in the early beginnings of the air freight industry.       

The air freight industry was not a lucrative business investment for so many years during its early beginnings. A lot of small air freight airlines attempted to penetrate the air freight industry but with very little success because most customers still relied on the major passenger airlines for their air freight shipments. Their difficulties became even more pronounced when United Airlines introduced the first non-stop transcontinental all freight services in 1964. Thus, the air freight industry remained under the monopoly of major air freight carriers.     

It took the ingenuity of a young businessman by the name of Fred Smith, to come up with the solution for what seems to be ailing the air freight industry and why it could not get the boost that it needed. The manner of transporting air cargo was not being carried out efficiently because air freight carriers were sharing air traffic with passenger flights. Fred Smith maintained that cargo delivery was important and if airfreight carriers will be given a different route, cargo shipment will reach their destinations faster.

In 1980, Fred Smith was able to achieve his goal of securing different air traffic routes; hence, his Federal Express company which he founded in 1973 started to realize profits. The company was able to offer next-day delivery which came with a guarantee. This finally changed the outlook on small air freight carriers in the whole air freight industry. Businesses were able to enjoy faster shipment of documents and goods through the use of smaller all freight carriers. They could send and receive posts, parcels and cargo without having to rely on the commercial airlines that were taking longer air traffic routes due to their passengers.

International trade was also taking a different facet as goods can be traded faster; the exchange of foreign currencies in the international market became dynamic. The advent of computerized facilities and the new face of the air freight industry were giving an upbeat tempo in matters of trade and commerce.   

By 1983, Federal Express owned a fleet of different air freight carriers. The company had reported profits of more than 1$ billion after only 10 years of being in the air freight industry. Federal Express became even larger when they bought the Flying Tigers in 1989, making the former the world’s largest provider of air freight services in the whole air freight industry. In 1994, they gave their operations division the name FedEx.

The long awaited boost in the air freight industry finally happened as other full service air freight carriers joined the band wagon that FedEx created.

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