Top Five Air Cargo Carriers

The top five air cargo carriers by weight, according to the IATA, are:

  1. Fedex
  2. UPS Airlines
  3. Emirates
  4. Cathay Pacific Airways
  5. Korean Air Lines

Carrier Descriptions


Founded in 1947 and headquartered in Ohio, Fedex (FDX) has an extensive line of services, including on-board courier and temperature control services.  As the biggest air cargo carrier by weight, Fedex had a revenue of $44.3 billion in 2013. To support its air cargo business, Fedex has 634 aircraft and services 375 airports.  One thing Fedex is known for is having transported two pandas as part of a global conservation program (Fedex).

UPS airlines

With its first investment in aircraft in 1981, UPS (UPS) is now one of the world’s largest airlines. It currently has 243 jets, but leases additional aircraft during peak shipping season (UPS Press Release). Its main hub is in Kentucky and it services more than 727 airports (UPS Air Operations Facts). UPS has 235 jets and charters 293 aircraft. 2012 revenue was $45 billion (UPS Fact Sheet).


Emirates Skycargo, with Dubai as their hub, is another strong player in the market. This is a strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. With a fleet of 206 aircraft, the company moved 2.1 million tons of cargo in the 2012-2013 financial year, earning $2.8 billion in revenue, which made up 15% of the airline’s revenue. Emirates Skycargo flies to 136 destinations (Emirates).

Cathay Pacific Airways

Established in 1946 as a small regional freight operator, Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293) is now one of the world’s leading international air cargo carriers. Its main hub is in Hong Kong, which has helped build Hong Kong into one of the busiest airport hubs. Cargo makes up 30% of Cathay Pacific’s revenues. Cathay Pacific flies to 43 destinations worldwide. It is committed to expanding its e-business capabilities and in 2011 switched to 100% electronic air waybills in the Hong Kong market (Cathay Pacific).

Korean Air Lines

In business for over 40 years, Korean Air Lines (KRX: 003490) currently serves 106 cities in 39 countries. It plans to pursue a strategy of expanding its network to emerging markets and introducing fuel-saving freighters to pursue sustainable growth (Korean Air). In 2012, its air transportation business sector revenue (including passenger revenue) was 116,327 hundred million won, and 1.54 million tons of cargo were shipped (Korean Air).