FedEx bullish over air cargo's future

Published: Thursday, December 16, 2021

FedEx Express is expanding further its global presence through the UAE and KSA taking advantage of their ideal geographic location connecting continents easily. The world’s largest express transportation company moved nearly 110 kilotons of PPE and other healthcare supplies, including more than 2.5 billion masks, between January 2020 and September 2021.

FedEx is a global name synonymous to speed delivery across the world. With a fleet of more than 680 planes, 350 of which are jet aircraft dedicated to cargo, FedEx is the world’s largest all-cargo airline.

In the face of the pandemic, the company and the 560,000 people behind its operations worldwide committed themselves to ensuring that lifesaving medical and healthcare supplies, as well as other basic essentials, are safely transported even to the farthest shores on the planet to help fight humanity’s biggest health crisis.

Jack Muhs, Regional President of FedEx Express Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, told Air Cargo Update that FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and the world’s largest express transportation company, moved nearly 110 kilotons of PPE and other healthcare supplies, including more than 2.5 billion masks, between January 2020 and September 2021.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, FedEx immediately mobilized Project Airbridge, a public-private partnership managed by the US federal government to ensure the expedited shipping of personal protective equipment and other supplies critical to COVID-19 relief efforts across America to protect people against the virus. Across the 50 states in America, FedEx employs more than 375,000, representing a 9.4 percent increase in employment in 2020 while many sectors cut jobs.

And in the Middle East, FedEx is also busy keeping essential medical supplies and other goods moving from one point to another, regionally and internationally.

When India was struggling to fight its worst bout with the COVID-19 pandemic early this year, FedEx supported the transportation of more than 25,000 oxygen concentrators and converters through an initiative with the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum and other multinational companies, apart from hundreds of tons of medical supplies and aid.

The airline even donated a FedEx Boeing 777F charter flight to move more than 3,400 oxygen concentrators, converters and nearly 265,000 KN95 masks for Direct Relief from Newark, New Jersey to Mumbai, India.

In great appreciation of FedEx’s essential employees’ resolve to work despite the threat of the pandemic, Muhs shared the company gave them a bonus in January 2021.

“Every one of our workers that helped deliver packages, when everything’s on lockdown, still go to work. So, in appreciation of their efforts each one of them got a bonus. As they say, not all heroes wear a cape,” said Muhs on the sidelines of Dubai Airshow 2021.

Positive Market Outlook

FedEx Express has its hub in the Middle East in Dubai, established since 1989. Last month, the company signed an agreement with Dubai South to build its new regional hub for the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa (MEISA) region at the Logistics District to meet a growing surge on air cargo services demand.

Located in proximity to Dubai World Central Airport (DWC), the new FedEx Express regional hub at Dubai South will incorporate state-of-the-art technologies to support the company’s regional and global networks and increase operational efficiencies to meet growing trade demands within the MEISA region.

“Dubai is like the air silk of the world that connects Asia and Europe and Europe to Asia. We have flights from Europe. We have flights out of North America. We have nonstop flights from Memphis, Tennessee. We have flights from Asia. And now we have flights from Africa. And so, the need for a larger hub to support that growing network is obviously very important for us,” said Muhs noting that Dubai is a strategic location in converging FedEx flights from all over the world. “Dubai continues to be the heart of our regional operations.”

From Dubai, FedEx Express also serves India, a huge emerging global market for air cargo and logistics, as well as Africa, a continent where many countries have the world’s youngest population.

FedEx Express’ new regional hub in Dubai will be developed with sustainable operations and energy use in mind and will enhance the overall customer experience with an automated and advanced sorting system, hi-speed security screening equipment, cold-chain services, and capabilities to manage dangerous goods. It will also provide businesses and customers quick access to more countries around the world.

Expansion to KSA

FedEx Express is also expanding its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to meet the country’s growing international shopping demands and its goal to diversify its oil-based economy.

Muhs said FedEx Express will invest more than SAR 1.5 billion (US $400 million) into the Saudi economy over the next 10 years through talent management and local operations and infrastructure. This investment will reaffirm the company’s commitment to the country’s non-oil economic growth, in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals, and the ‘National Industrial Development and Logistics Program’ which seeks to increase non-oil exports to more than SAR 1 trillion (approximately US $266 billion).

FedEx Express has been facilitating trade in Saudi Arabia since 1994, offering international solutions and connectivity through local service providers, most recently through SAB Express. Its recent announcement and the company’s direct presence in the country are seen to further help local businesses trade with ease and expand their reach into the more than 220 countries and territories that FedEx serves.

“In addition to our commitment to the Saudi economy, we see FedEx Express playing an important role in developing the small and medium enterprise environment in Saudi Arabia, which forms the backbone of the economy, and represents 99% of Saudi Arabia’s private sector,” said Muhs.

Great tasks ahead

While continuing to deliver vital lifesaving medical and healthcare supplies, the air cargo industry is also in high demand distributing COVID-19 vaccines and facilitating global trade as businesses and economies work doubly hard to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

And in today’s digital world where online purchases are becoming the new normal, air cargo’s fast and efficient delivery services have become a critical component of the global e-commerce industry.

“Let’s put the vaccines in perspective first. There’s no doubt that the movement of the vaccine ingredients, PPE and all those things, are some of the most important things that we have transported. I do not want to minimize that. We do a lot. We have 350 dedicated jet aircraft that do nothing but cargo and another 330 turboprop-engine aircraft that feeder into smaller cities. Those are obviously huge opportunities for us to continue to grow. We handle about 15.5 million packages per day, globally,” said Muhs.

The FedEx Express top executive said the pandemic essentially made us realize that air cargo is an essential partner in today’s more globalized world.

“I think what you saw during the pandemic is the importance of air cargo to keep economies going. Yes, we move a lot of vaccines, PPE (personal protective equipment), we were very excited about helping (the world) recover. We also do a lot of e-commerce. We also moved a lot of goods to help communities keep up. People started shopping from home. Businesses needed parts move. There are so many things going on,” said Muhs.

“Roughly 40-50 % of freight, pre-covid, moved in the bellies of passenger flights. And when those capacity were pulled down, it’s companies like FedEx that kept those stuff moving. So, I’m very bullish on air cargo. I think what the pandemic showed is the incredible value of  having a freight network in today’s economy to keep things moving,” he added.

Jack Muhs: From intern to Regional President of FedEx Express MEISA

James R. (Jack) Muhs is the regional president of the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa (MEISA) region for FedEx Express based in Dubai.

The affable but results-driven Muhs who leads more than 9,000 FedEx Express and TNT team members, and responsible for providing the strategic direction for the region, shared he began his career at the world’s largest all-cargo airline as an intern while getting his college degree from the University of North Dakota.

From being an intern, Muhs became an employee working full-time loading planes and driving vans. With FedEx’s strong hire from within policy, which means current employees are given the chance to be promoted to key management positions, Muhs climbed up the corporate ladder.

“I started as an intern,” Muhs recalled. “I worked full-time loading airplanes. Driving vans and that’s a really big advantage to me because I learned a lot from the ground up.”

Prior to his appointment in MEISA, Muhs served as President and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks, which specializes in air and ocean freight forwarding, customs brokerage and international trade facilitation solutions.

He also previously served as senior vice president of U.S. international, global planning, engineering, and trade services for FedEx Express, where he was responsible for the company’s U.S. export business, as well as the planning and engineering of the FedEx Express global network.

Since joining FedEx in 1984, Muhs has served as managing director of global operations control. Following that appointment, he became vice president of global network planning and operations control in 1998.

He is a four-time recipient of the FedEx Five Star Award, the company’s highest award for individual leadership and contribution.

Muhs holds a BBA from the University of North Dakota and an MBA from the University of Memphis. He currently serves as chairman of the North American Leaders Group of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and is on the Global Board of Directors of U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.