FedEx Express, formerly Federal Express, is a cargo airline based in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. It is the world’s largest airline in terms of freight tons flown and the world’s fourth largest in terms of fleet size. It is a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation, delivering packages and freight to more than 375 destinations in nearly every country each day.
Its headquarters are in Memphis with its global “SuperHub” located at Memphis International Airport. In the United States, FedEx Express has a national hub at Indianapolis International Airport. Regional hubs are located at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Piedmont Triad International Airport, and Miami International Airport. International regional hubs are located at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Kansai International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Cologne Bonn Airport. There are a total of 12 air hubs in the company’s worldwide network.
The concept for what became Federal Express came to Fred Smith in the mid-1960s, while he was studying as an undergraduate student at Yale University. For a class there, he submitted a paper which argued that in modern technological society time meant money more than ever before and with the advent of miniaturized electronic circuitry, very small components had become extremely valuable. He argued that the consumer society was becoming increasingly hungry for mass-produced electronic items, but the decentralizing effect induced by these very devices gave manufacturers tremendous logistic problems in delivering the items. Smith felt that the necessary delivery speed could only be achieved by using air transport. But he believed that the U.S. air cargo system was so inflexible and bound by regulations at that time that it was completely incapable of making sufficiently fast deliveries. Plus, the U.S. air cargo industry was highly unsuited to the role. Its system depended on cooperation between companies, as interlining was often necessary to get a consignment from point A to point B, and the industry relied heavily on cargo forwarders to fill hold space and perform doorstep deliveries.
In his paper, Smith proposed a new concept—have one carrier be responsible for a piece of cargo from local pick-up right through to ultimate delivery, operating its own aircraft, depots, posting stations, and delivery vans. To ensure accurate sorting and dispatching of every item of freight, the carrier would fly it from all of its pickup stations to a central clearinghouse, from where the entire operation would be controlled. For years it has been misreported that the professor teaching the course gave the paper the grade of “C”, but Fred clarified in a 2004 interview that the grade is not known and the reports of a “C” grade were due to his response to a reporter who asked him what grade he received and his reply was, “I don’t know, probably made my usual C.” Despite the professor’s opinion, Smith held on to the idea.
Smith founded the Federal Express Corporation in 1971. It was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1971, as Smith was operating Little Rock Airmotive there. After a lack of support from the Little Rock National Airport, Smith moved the company to Memphis, Tennessee and the Memphis International Airport in 1973.
The company started overnight operations on April 17, 1973, with fourteen Dassault Falcon 20s that connected twenty-five cities in the United States. Fred Smith’s childhood friend, John Fry of Ardent Studios, sent Ardent partner Terry Manning to the Federal Express home office on Democrat Road near the Memphis Airport with the first package to be put into the system. That night, 186 packages were carried. Services included both overnight and two-day package and envelope delivery services, as well as Courier Pak. Federal Express began to market itself as “the freight service company with 550-mile-per-hour delivery trucks”. However, the company began to experience financial difficulties, losing up to a million USD a month. While waiting for a flight home to Memphis from Chicago after being turned down for capital by General Dynamics, Smith impulsively hopped a flight to Las Vegas, where he won $27,000 playing blackjack. The winnings enabled the cash-strapped company to meet payroll the following Monday. “The $27,000 wasn’t decisive, but it was an omen that things would get better,” Smith says. In the end, he raised somewhere between $50 and $70 million, from twenty of the USA’s leading risk venture speculators, including such companies as the First National City Bank of New York and the Bank of America in California. At the time, Federal Express was the most highly financed new company in U.S. history, in terms of venture capital.
Federal Express installed its first drop box in 1975 which allowed customers to drop off packages without going to a company local branch. In 1976, the company became profitable with an average volume of 19,000 parcels per day.
Memphis, TN – World Super Hub
Indianapolis, IN – National Hub
Anchorage, AK/Ted Stevens
Oakland, CA – West Coast Hub
Ft Worth, TX/Alliance
Miami, FL – Latin America Hub
Greensboro, NC/Piedmont Triad – MidAtlantic Hub –
Paris, France/Charles de Gaulle – European Hub
Toronto, Ontario, Canada/Pearson – Canadian Hub
Shanghai, China/Pudong – Opening 2017
Osaka, Japan – North Pacific Regional Hub
London, UK/Stansted – UK Hub
Dubai, UAE – Middle East Hub
Singapore – South Pacific Hub
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