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Prior to the first aircraft carrying cargo on November 7, 1910, cargo was moved by means of balloons, and carrier pigeons. However, it wasn’t until 1914 that the United States officially used airfreight as regular services. Flash forward to today, in 2017, where global shipping relies heavily on a fast-paced, air freighting system. So just how far has the air freight industry come since 1910? 107 years later, here we are.

1925 – U.S. Postal Service turns to Airmail System

In 1925, a comprehensive air mailing system became available throughout the United States. Although it was introduced in 1914, it took 11 years to develop the service. Traveling over to Europe, Germany had introduced airmail in 1912. Although these developments were geared to domestic shipping, this is also when the world began turning to airmail for freighting.

The 1920s showed great efforts to progress air cargo, and the air cargo industry significantly grew, the demand wasn’t heavy enough to launch a fully dependent system.


World War II Launches Air Cargo

In 1931, only a mere 0.2% of airmail was freight until World War II rapidly changed those numbers for good. Due to a global demand of goods and products during the war, aviation saw an expanse on a large scale in order to support war efforts in multiple nations.

There were a few logistics companies that made their way into the air cargo industry. In 1945, Slick Airways became one of the leading companies, although they faced many trials and later ran into labor issues. Treading fastly passed Slick, Flying Tiger International became a largely known airfreight company with better luck and strategy, marketing to both military and civilian markets during the war.


The 1980s Change Air Freight

By the 1980s, air freight was unfortunately not a large enough industry for many companies to survive after emerging into logistics. However, when Flying Tigers International was taken over by an entrepreneurial company with great drive, that all changed.

Federal Express merged with Flying Tigers International in 1989. Before the end of the year, FedEx became the world’s largest air cargo airline. In the early years of operations, multiple companies launched competition for FedEx, including United Postal Services (UPS).


Air Freight Today

Today, the world relies heavily on air cargo, as carriers ship parcels on a global scale with express options for impressive timeliness. The entire industry is a critical component of supply chain, and global trade. It’s advantages easily outweigh other industries such as ground freight and ocean freight. Air cargo has drastically expanded the way the world ships their products and goods. You can follow along with the air freight industry through the IATA’s monthly analysis, reporting numbers and stats on the entire industry itself.