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UPS Makes First Express Flights to European Continent Around Volcanic Ash

United Parcel Service Inc. made three flights to Madrid and one to Istanbul overnight to get its first express shipments by plane into continental Europe since volcanic ash disrupted air travel.

The Madrid flights carried goods from the U.S. while the Dubai-to-Istanbul flight brought items from Asia, with trucks going the rest of the way from the airports, said Norman Black, a spokesman. The world’s largest package-delivery company hasn’t been able to use its air hub in Cologne, Germany, since the ash from an Iceland volcano eruption closed airspace on April 16.

UPS truck drivers and sorters added extra shifts and worked overtime through the weekend to keep packages moving through for the Atlanta-based company’s ground network within Europe, Black said. Most of those packages are only about one day behind schedule, while the majority of air shipments from the U.S. and Asia are being held until skies reopen, he said.

“We’re trying Madrid as a point of entry into the continent, but that’s not a short drive,” Black said. Madrid is about 1,090 miles (1,760 kilometers) from Cologne, which Google Maps estimates would take 17 hours to drive. That’s roughly the same distance as New York to Miami.

Istanbul is about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) by car to Cologne, and would take 27 hours to drive, according to Google Maps. That’s about the same distance from the northern tip of Maine to Miami.

Black declined to provide the number of flights or packages affected by the shutdown of European airspace. The company normally handles about 2 million international shipments daily.

FedEx Clearing Packages

FedEx Corp. has three flights bound for airports in southern Europe today, said Sally Davenport, a spokeswoman. She declined to comment on specific destinations in case planes are rerouted during flights. Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx used Paris as its regional air hub.

More than 100 flights have been canceled since the volcano erupted, she said.

FedEx is also using its ground network to move packages within Europe, and the company is assigning a “first in, first out” priority to clear parcels that have been in its system the longest.

FedEx fell $1.32, or 1.4 percent, to $92.55 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, while UPS rose 8 cents to $68.29. FedEx has climbed 11 percent since Jan. 1, and UPS has gained 19 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at

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