ATLANTA – Severe weather across the U.S. has caused a delivery backlog at FedEx Corp., prompting the shipping company to take the extraordinary step of keeping all of its domestic sorting stations open for four hours on Christmas Day to allow customers to pick up packages.
Bigger rival UPS Inc. plans to maintain its tradition of giving all U.S. employees the holiday off, spokesman Norman Black said. The U.S. Postal Service normally makes Express, or overnight, deliveries on Christmas. It will have tens of thousands of people working Thursday because of the backlog due to the weather, spokeswoman Sue Brennan said.
“We’re going to try to get as many packages home as we can,” Brennan said. “We will have employees working from coast to coast.”
Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx said it will keep all 665 of its Express service stations open from 8 a.m. to noon on Thursday to allow customers to pick up packages.
There will be limited FedEx deliveries in the U.S. by vehicle on Christmas and the company won’t be operating any aircraft for deliveries between points in the U.S., so customers are being encouraged to pick up their packages at their local stations if they want to make sure they have them on the holiday, spokeswoman Carla Boyd said.
FedEx’s Express stations are where air shipments are sorted and delivered by vehicle to their final destination, so if a person is waiting for an air package and it hadn’t been put on a plane by Wednesday, they will probably have to wait until after the holiday to get it, Boyd said.
“What’s exceptional about what we’re doing is opening up all the stations in the U.S. because of the extraordinarily broad nature of the bad weather,” Boyd said.
Customers wanting to pick up packages are being encouraged to first call their local sorting station or track their package on FedEx’s Web site to make sure their item is there, Boyd said.
She said the company has had some Express stations open in certain parts of the country on the holiday before, but never all of them. Boyd said she couldn’t quantify FedEx’s backlog of air packages or the number of employees who will be working on the holiday.
At UPS, meanwhile, Black said the Atlanta-based company believes strongly in giving its U.S. employees the Christmas holiday off.
He also noted that in reviewing the company’s network, the only places where UPS encountered delivery difficulties on Wednesday were in Oregon and Washington state.
“In those two states, there are some pretty serious ice and snow conditions that are keeping some of our delivery trucks off their routes,” Black said.
He said a relatively small number of packages in the UPS system were being affected.
Black said UPS, also known as United Parcel Service, is asking affected customers to be patient and to “know and trust we will try to deliver anything stranded today on Friday.”
Ahead of the holiday, the weather was especially bad in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Airports were recovering from a barrage of snow and ice storms.
Conditions improved Wednesday but highways were still dangerously slippery in some areas.
More snow fell in the Midwest, where the National Weather Service said up to 4 inches was possible in Chicago. The Northwest faced more snow and sleet, with up to 20 inches possible in the Cascade range in Washington, and icy, wet weather spread over the Northeast.
At least 18 highway deaths had been blamed on the weather.
FedEx shares rose 34 cents to close at $61.20 Wednesday, while UPS shares rose 23 cents to $52.89.
Check fedex.com for location and contact information.