I was looking at some of the cargo feeder flying on FlightAware earlier and it got me wondering about some of the details. On the surface, it seems pretty simple. Large aircraft get further filled with feeder flights that come in from all over the region where larger aircraft cannot be supported, but how to they decide what route gets flown on what days? Is it variable, or on a fixed schedule? Do they run the same aircraft every day for the same route? How do they handle excess load? A second aircraft? A larger aircraft? Ship via ground? I've seen feeder flights from ALB, BDL, BOS, PWM, and PVD to MHT, but don't they already have large capacity aircraft that fly to MEM and SDF? UPS and FedEx are known for their ability to flex operations and I suspect that their feeders can as well(?)
I know that UPS runs a MHT feeder operation. Does FedEx still run one there as well, and if not, do they run one in the region?
Wiggins Airways in based in Manchester and serves the cargo needs of smaller airports and communities across New England and other points in the Northeast. I can only speak with some knowledge as to their operation at PVD but their base in MHT is why you see flights arriving there from the airports you mentioned. Their fleet will transition there per their maintenance schedule.
At PVD, Wiggins bases two C208s to act as a FedEx feeder operation to ACK, EWR, and MVY. During the summer a third aircraft typically joins the rotation. A FX 757 arrives each morning from MEM and cargo going to the islands is loaded onto the Wiggins C208s. Vice versa at night with the departure back to MEM (or FWA, etc). During the summer and peak holiday traffic, Wiggins runs flights to the islands essentially all day. During slower times of the year the flights depart PVD for the islands in the morning and return in the evening. There is also a weekday Wiggins turn that operates PVD-EWR-PVD at 03:00 LCL that departs empty to EWR and returns to PVD with priority cargo. The same tail numbers will remain at PVD and conduct these flights until they transition back to MHT for maintenance, at which time they’ll backfill the PVD base with another aircraft.