With or without help from Santa, many of the presents that end up under Lower 48 Christmas trees will pass through Alaska.
The sub-Arctic beehive of gift activity is centered at the Anchorage airport, where some of the world's biggest air cargo carriers touch down to refuel.
One of those carriers -- FedEx -- said that Monday was the largest shipping day in company history, due in part to increased Internet purchases and the recovering U.S. economy. On Monday alone, FedEx predicted it would ship 16 million packages.
Year-round, hundreds of FedEx Express workers in Anchorage sort by hand the huge volume of goods that FedEx ships to the Lower 48 from Asia -- cardboard boxes filled with anything from laptops to children's toys.
Several of the international air cargo carriers, which mainly stop in Anchorage to get fuel before getting back in the air, also have package sorting centers at the airport. One of them, FedEx competitor UPS, has more than 1,000 Alaska employees and trains many of its pilots in Anchorage.
On a normal day, about 60,000 packages pass through the FedEx sorting center, a giant warehouse on the north side of the international airport. FedEx jets arriving from China, South Korea and Japan unload shipping containers that are trucked into the sorting center. The boxes inside the containers are pulled out, put on conveyor belts, sorted and reloaded into containers that leave Anchorage on FedEx jets departing for Memphis, Indianapolis, Newark, Fort Worth and Oakland.
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