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Air Carriers Try to Get Back to Normal

Most carriers are working hard to get mail delivery back to normal following disruptions in air transport resulting from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

When the attacks occurred, all carriers complied with Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions. The ban on air traffic was lifted yesterday by the FAA. While skies were open to all commercial aviation — albeit with a variety of stepped-up security measures at airports — general and private aviation or planes carrying carry mail or packages were still not permitted to fly.

As a result, delivery companies, which have been using trucks to deliver air cargo, will continue to do so. All carriers said it is too early to gauge the impact of the disruptions on the business community in general and the direct marketing community in particular.

FedEx Corp., Memphis, said in a statement its FedEx Express shipments will be delayed at least two days while its fleet of 660 aircraft in North America is out of action. FedEx also said that it was still not making deliveries outside the United States and that it had suspended its money-back guarantee on same-day service until normal operations resume.

FedEx Express and FedEx Ground are making pickups and deliveries where access is not restricted. FedEx said it is unable to predict when services to and from Manhattan will be provided.

While FedEx said it is too early to predict when service will return to normal, its goal is to keep customers' shipments moving as quickly as possible. The shipper also has expanded its trucking network while it transitions its aircraft as part of its contingency plans for FedEx Express.

United Parcel Service of America Inc., Atlanta, also said it has expanded its transportation network to handle many of the express packages that typically would move by air. However, the company said some air express packages destined for longer distances were being held in anticipation of air restrictions being lifted.

In general, UPS said its ground network is operating normally and service has been restored to Washington, but deliveries continue to be limited in parts of Manhattan. Like FedEx, UPS has suspended money-back guarantees for delivery service until normal service resumes.

UPS also said its air operation will remain closed until the FAA reopens the skies to mail and packages.

“Our first concern is the safety of UPS employees and the safety of our nation,” UPS chairman/CEO Jim Kelly said yesterday. “If the federal government believes the air system should remain closed for now, then we will simply continue to use our ground network. And in fact, the majority of the air packages received by UPS Tuesday are moving toward their destinations today through the ground network under our contingency plans.”

The U.S. Postal Service said its normal collection, processing and delivery operations are continuing throughout the nation except for the most severely affected areas in New York City. Like the other carriers, air mail continues to move on an expanded ground transportation network with help from the 6,000 to 7,000 contracted trucking companies. The USPS said most customers mailing to New York City should continue to do so. Advertising mailers should first check with New York Metro Business Service Network representatives for mail destined for New York.

“The best thing we can do for America right now is to keep the mail moving,” postmaster general John E. Potter said.

While some insiders have expressed concern that stricter regulations at airports could put a drag on service levels — such as the speed of delivery — and cost structures, in general, no carrier is anticipating that the measures will have a major impact on its ability to process air parcels in the future.

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