UPS Airlines

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UPS Airlines
United Parcel Service logo 2014.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1988
United States
Fleet size 244
Destinations 727 (381 domestic, 346 international)
Company slogan "Synchronizing the world of commerce"
Parent company United Parcel Service Inc
Headquarters Louisville, Kentucky
Key people Brendan Canavan (President)[1]
Website Airlines-UPS Pressroom

UPS Airlines is an American cargo airline based in Louisville, Kentucky.[5] It is the third-largest cargo airline in the world (in terms of freight volume flown) and serves the most destinations of any airline in the world (cargo or passenger). A wholly owned subsidiary of UPS (United Parcel Service), UPS Airlines flies to 720 destinations worldwide. In 2018, the airline marked 30 years of operation.

In line with passenger airlines, UPS Airlines operates under the hub-and-spoke model. Headquartered at Worldport at Louisville International Airport, the airline has several secondary hubs across the United States and international hubs in Germany, China, and Hong Kong.

The pilots of UPS Airlines are represented by the Independent Pilots Association.


Early years

The origin of transporting packages by air for UPS (then United Parcel Service) dates to 1929; much like the US Postal Service, UPS packages were transported as baggage on commercial airline flights.[6] Many packages were shipped by the Ford Trimotors of United Airlines. After Black Tuesday and the beginning of the Great Depression, the air service would be discontinued by the end of 1931. However, the air service would lead to the expansion beyond the West Coast; in 1930, the company moved operations from Oakland to New York City and established operations in other regions across the country as well.

After World War II, UPS (in the process of acquiring common carrier rights for every address in the United States) revisited the idea of shipping packages by air. Starting in 1953, 2-day delivery was offered on coast-to-coast packages; the service was called Blue Label Air. As before, volume was transported via commercial flights. Initially unprofitable, Blue Label Air became popular as its speed created enough demand to maintain a profit.


A UPS Boeing 727-100 in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1988–2003 livery
A UPS DC-8-71F in Miami, Florida

In 1975, UPS started its first international operations as it moved into Canada. The following year it started a service into Germany.[7] As UPS had become a truly international company, the need for its own fleet of aircraft was becoming more clearly apparent, rather than relying on commercial flights. Additionally, competitor Federal Express, with its own jet fleet, was making inroads on UPS and had become profitable for the first time in 1976. In 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act gave UPS a significant opportunity: the company could now establish its own airline and flying from city to city would require far fewer legislative hurdles as the federal government now encouraged competition between airlines. In 1980, UPS opened its first major hub, located in Louisville, Kentucky. The location was chosen largely because it is no more than three hours flying distance (by jet) from the majority of the contiguous United States. In addition, Louisville has relatively mild weather and is at the westernmost point of the Eastern time zone. Also in the early 1980s, the company began acquiring a fleet of jet aircraft recently retired from commercial aircraft duty comprising Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 727-100s and Boeing 747-100s. UPS added a distribution facility in Anchorage in 1985, chosen for its strategic geographical position, 9.5 hours flying distance away from 90% of the industrialized world.[8][9]


A Boeing 767-300F in Japan
A Airbus A300-600 painted in the 2014 updated livery at Louisville International Airport
A UPS 767-300F fitted with fuel saving winglets.

In 1988, UPS Airlines was founded; at the time of its founding, UPS had a route network serving 41 countries connecting the United States to Asia and Europe. Coinciding with the launch of its airline, UPS expanded and modernized its jet fleet with a major aircraft purchase. In place of converted passenger aircraft, UPS purchased dedicated freighter variants of the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767, becoming the launch customer of both types. Starting in 1987, 75 757-200s were added to the fleet while 32 767-300s were added to the fleet starting in 1995.

In the 1990s, the airline began to expand its network beyond the Louisville hub with facilities in Rockford, Illinois (Chicago); Philadelphia; Dallas/Fort Worth; Columbia, South Carolina; and Ontario, California (Los Angeles).

With most of its aircraft flying primarily on weeknights, the airline was eager to find other ways to produce income from its fleet. In the 1990s, eight 727 freighters were converted (at a cost of $2.5 million each) into 727-100QC (QC=Quick Change) freighters with the ability to be re-converted into passenger aircraft for the purpose of chartered flights. After disappointing results, in 2001, UPS ended charter service with quick-change freighters, with the aircraft returned to cargo service.


During the 2000s, UPS Airlines began an extensive revision of its airline fleet. In 2000, the airline introduced its first Airbus aircraft, with the first of an order of 90 A300F freighters entering service. In an effort to expand service in Latin America, UPS acquired Challenge Air Cargo.[10] In a new concept, UPS began to phase in "around the world" flights; centered around Louisville/Worldport, the flights make several stops around Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.[10]

In April 2001, UPS Airlines launched its first direct flights to China, providing service six days a week.[10] The same year, the airline began a purchase of McDonnell Douglas MD-11F freighters; similar to its 727 and DC-8 freighters, the MD-11s were conversions of retired passenger aircraft.

In September 2002, UPS completed its five-year expansion of its international all-points air hub called Worldport in Louisville. In 2006 and 2010, UPS completed further expansions of Worldport, bringing the largest fully automated package handling facility in the world to 5.2 million square feet, with a perimeter of 7.2 miles.

As part of the company rebranding from United Parcel Service to UPS in early 2003, the airline redesigned its aircraft livery, featuring the redesigned company "shield" logo on the vertical stabilizer.

In January 2005, UPS Airlines placed an order for 10 Airbus A380 (with an option for 10 more). Under the terms of the purchase, the airline reduced its existing purchase of 90 A300 freighters to 53 aircraft.[11] In August 2005, 8 Boeing 747-400F freighters were ordered. In March 2007, UPS cancelled its Airbus A380 purchase, as Airbus had delayed the delivery beyond 2012.[12] Alongside a similar cancellation of FedEx Express, the sole American purchases of the A380 had ended.

During the mid-2000s, UPS Airlines began a modernization and expansion of its airline fleet. In spite of the failed effort to purchase the Airbus A380, by 2007, UPS had placed its 747-400Fs into service. In February 2007, the airline placed an order for 27 767-300Fs; by the time the delivery was completed in 2013, the 767 fleet was nearly doubled in size.[13] At the same time, the airline began to retire its fleet of Boeing 727 freighters (its oldest and lowest-capacity aircraft).

In 2008 and 2009, the 747-100 and 747-200 aircraft (the former, built in the 1970s) were retired, replaced by the 747-400 freighters. In 2009, UPS Airlines retired its fleet of 44 DC-8 aircraft; at the time, the airline operated nearly half of the active DC-8 fleet worldwide.


On February 8, 2010, UPS announced the plans to furlough at least 300 pilots in 2010 and 2011, cancelling a 2009 agreement between the company and the Independent Pilots Association.[14] The remaining pilots not furloughed demonstrated unprecedented unity by not flying overtime while colleagues were laid off. UPS decided to reduce the furlough to 109 pilots. The final pilot furloughed was in August 2010. UPS decided to recall pilots back to work in December 2011. The furlough officially ended in May, 2014 when the first pilot furloughed returned to work.[15]

On September 1, 2016, UPS and the IPA agreed to a new 5-year contract. Key components of the agreement were: immediate increases of 14.65% and a signing bonus in place of retroactive pay; 3% annual wage increases through the span of the contract; enhanced pension benefits; crew rest enhancements, including reduced duty period limits for overnight and international flights; additional sleep facilities at major gateways; and sleep modules in UPS Boeing 767 aircraft.[16]

After statements from Boeing of its cancellation[17], UPS Airlines became one of the potential largest operators of the Boeing 747. In an October 2016 agreement worth $5.2 billion, UPS announced a purchase of 14 Boeing 747-8F freighter aircraft with an option to purchase 14 additional aircraft.[18][17]

Citing growth in worldwide air cargo demand, UPS Airlines is intending to expand its overall fleet size and capacity by the end of 2020.[17] In 2017, UPS purchased 3 B767-300ERs from Japan Airlines, converting them to cargo configuration; these will be the first converted 767s for UPS. In February 2018, the airline exercised its option to purchase 14 additional Boeing 747-8F freighters, along with 4 additional new Boeing 767 freighter aircraft[19]; these aircraft are intended to enter service by 2022.


UPS Worldport

Each day, UPS Airlines flies to over 220 countries and territories worldwide, serving 388 US airports with 936 flight segments and 378 international airports with 755 flight segments[1] Using the traditional hub-and-spoke model, UPS Airlines operates through its central facility, Worldport, in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, the company operates several facilities on a regional level across the United States.

  • Louisville International Airport (Standiford Field) in Louisville, Kentucky, the primary hub of UPS Airlines, and home to Worldport and the corporate headquarters of UPS Airlines. With approximately 251 inbound and outbound flights daily, the service area for Worldport is over 200 countries worldwide.[20] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 416,000 individual packages.[20] Along with the 5.2 million square foot Worldport facility, UPS also operates a 654,000 square foot freight facility at the airport.
  • Chicago Rockford International Airport in Rockford, Illinois, the second-largest hub of UPS Airlines in terms of average daily package volume. 85 miles northwest of Chicago, the Rockford Regional Air Hub directly serves Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Washington DC, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, California, Arizona, and Washington State.[20] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 121,000 individual packages.[20] Along with the 586,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 65,000 square-foot freight facility; the 50-acre UPS ramp has parking for 40 aircraft, the most outside of Worldport.[20]
  • Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second-busiest UPS facility in North America, in terms of daily flights.[20] The East Coast Region Air Hub directly serves Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, and California.[20] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 95,000 individual packages.[20] Along with the 681,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 66,000 square-foot freight facility.[20]
  • Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California. 35 miles east of Los Angeles, the West Coast Region Air Hub directly serves California, Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska along with Alaska and Hawaii. Approximately each hour, the facility handles 67,000 individual packages.[20] Along with the 779,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 49,000 square-foot freight facility.[20]
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport The Southwest Region Air Hub directly serves Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Approximately each hour, the facility handles 46,000 individual packages.[20] Along with the 323,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 49,000 square-foot freight facility.[20]

International hubs

UPS Airlines operates several international hubs worldwide outside of Worldport. Two are in North America with one in Europe; three are located in China, and one at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.


  • Cologne Bonn Airport in Cologne, Germany. Similar to Worldport, the Cologne Hub has a service area of over 200 countries; to do so, many flights chartered by the company originate from here. Second only to Worldport, the Cologne Hub handles 190,000 packages an hour in the 323,000 square foot (30,000 square metres) facility; with 76 average flights per day, it is the second-busiest UPS hub worldwide, in terms of daily flights.[20]


Hong Kong


A UPS Boeing 747-400 in Dubai; the same one as that involved in the fatal crash of Flight 6 in 2010.

As of January 2018, UPS Airlines has an active fleet of 245 aircraft. Operating an all-jet fleet, the airline does not own any turboprop, short-haul aircraft; as it needs such aircraft, they are chartered from companies such as Air Cargo Carriers and Ameriflight.[citation needed]

UPS Airlines will become the world's largest operator of the Boeing 747-8F (following its 2018 purchase); it is the second-largest operator of the Boeing 757, 767, and MD-11F and Airbus A300. The airline was also the largest operator of the Douglas DC-8 for a number of years, as it operated nearly half the active examples of the type worldwide at the time of its 2009 retirement.

UPS Airlines Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Notes
Airbus A300-600RF 52 Second largest operator of the Airbus A300
Boeing 747-400BCF 2
Boeing 747-400F 11 Entered service 2008–2010, replacing 747-100 and 747-200 freighter conversions
Boeing 747-8F 6 22 Entering service between 2017 and 2022.[18][19]
Largest future operator of the Boeing 747-8
Boeing 757-200PF 75 Launch customer of type.
Second-largest operator of the Boeing 757-200PF
Boeing 767-300ERF 62 4 All 59 initial purchased aircraft retrofitted with winglets.
3 planes are used Japan Airlines passenger jets and will be converted.
4 orders purchased new from Boeing.
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 37 Converted from former passenger aircraft
Second-largest operator of the MD-11F
Total 245 26
A Boeing 757-200PF painted in the updated UPS livery at Louisville International Airport


From its 1988 formation to 2003, UPS Airlines used a bi-color brown and white livery on its aircraft. Most of the fuselage was painted white with the vertical stabilizer painted the same Pullman Brown as its delivery vehicles. On the centerline of the fuselage, a brown cheatline was applied; as its 727, DC-8, MD-11, and 747 fleet were converted passenger aircraft, this was done to further cover up the passenger windows. On the forward third of the fuselage above the cheatline was painted: "United Parcel Service".

In 2003, to commemorate the official name change of United Parcel Service to UPS, the company logo was given a redesign along with a redesign of the UPS Airlines livery. With nearly the entire fuselage painted white, the brown portion of the tail was changed to sweep above the rear fuselage, coming to a point near the front of the wing; the white and brown portions of the fuselage were separated by a gold stripe. In place of the "United Parcel Service" was painted in two lines: "Worldwide Services: Synchronizing the world of commerce". The only aircraft in the UPS Airlines fleet that did not adopt the "Worldwide Services" livery were the Boeing 747-100, Boeing 747-200, along with the majority of the Boeing 727 fleet, as these aircraft were in the process of being phased out in the mid-2000s.[21]

In 2014, in line with UPS delivery vehicles, UPS Airlines phased in a revised version of its "Worldwide Services" livery, removing the "Synchronizing the world of commerce" phrase from the fuselage. The UPS emblem and gold body stripe painted brighter, with the gradient shading removed from the emblem. Along with aircraft entering service, the livery was phased into the airline fleet as aircraft underwent repainting for maintenance, with Dean Baldwin Painting in Peru, Indiana (a 40-minute flight from Worldport) updating the exteriors.[22]

Hot-spare program

As a safeguard against failure of service resulting from weather, mechanical failure, or any unexpected reasons, for most of its existence, UPS Airlines operates a "hot-spare" contingency program.[23] By design, the program is intended to scramble an empty UPS jet freighter, requiring it to leave for takeoff within 30 minutes of a request for service.[23] With the exception of Boeing 747 freighters, each type of UPS Airlines aircraft is used for hot-spare service. To equalize flight distance, 14 different aircraft are designated at 7 UPS Airlines hubs.

To ensure that an aircraft can be flight-ready within 30 minutes, hot-spare aircraft are preflighted and fueled ahead of time.[23] In 2014, UPS launched 275 hot spares in total, allowing 1.5 million packages to make service on time, making almost $32 million in revenue.[23]

Use of Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) to save fuel

UPS Airlines is experimenting with a Global Positioning System-based landing procedure, called Continuous-Descent Approach at the Worldport, replacing the traditional holding pattern and step-wise descent. CDA is used to reduce the time and fuel needed to approach a runway and land by eliminating the need to alternatively reduce and increase throttle to descend and level off. UPS Airlines estimates that this procedure saves an average of 250 to 465 lbs (110–210 kilograms) of fuel per flight. CDA is part of the Federal Aviation Administration's long-term "Next-Gen" air traffic control plan.[24]

Accidents and incidents

Flight Number Date Registration Aircraft Type Survivors/Occupants Notes
UPS774 09-11-1998 N316UP Boeing 767–34AF 2/2 Suffered substantial damage after running off the runway at Ellington Field from Louisville International Airport. The airport was experiencing a major storm at the time of the landing, and the aircraft was unable to stop on a wet runway with a strong tailwind. After running off the runway, the aircraft's right landing gear broke off and the right engine separated from the wing. The aircraft was put back into service after major repairs.[25]
UPS6971 06-07-2005 N250UP McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 4/4 Suffered substantial damage after a landing gear collapse at Louisville International Airport from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The crew accidentally lowered the nose of the aircraft too quickly, buckling the front landing gear. The aircraft was put back into service after a $10 million repair.[26]
UPS1307 02-07-2006 N748UP Douglas DC-8-71F 3/3 Destroyed by fire at Philadelphia International Airport from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Just before landing the crew reported a smoke detector activated in the cargo hold. After landing, the cargo hold of the aircraft caught fire. The source of the fire was never found.[27]
UPS6 09-03-2010 N571UP Boeing 747-44AF 0/2 Crashed near the Dubai Silicon Oasis at approximately 7:45pm local time after declaring an emergency fifty minutes after takeoff due to fire in main cargo hold. Both crew members were killed, the first such casualties in airline history. NTSB reports the fire was started from the combustion of Lithium-Ion batteries on the main cargo deck, which quickly spread to all cargo despite depressurization of the aircraft.[28][29][30]
UPS1354 08-14-2013 N155UP Airbus A300F4-622R 0/2 Crashed in an open field on approach to Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama killing both the pilot and co-pilot. NTSB report cites pilot error as cause to the crash. Neither crew member had received adequate rest before the flight and missed a step in programing the FMC for the approach to the runway.[31][32]
UPS61 06-06-2016 N277UP McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 4/4 Suffered a runway excursion and nose gear collapse in a takeoff accident at Seoul-Incheon International Airport (ICN). Takeoff from runway 33L was aborted and the aircraft continued past the end of the runway. The nose gear collapsed and the no. 1 and 3 engines contacted the grass. The flight was bound for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Aircraft was written off.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "UPS Air Operations Facts - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  2. ^ "Welcome to UPS Malaysia". 
  3. ^ "UPS and Shanghai Announce First-Ever U.S. Air Hub in China". 
  4. ^ "UPS launches Shenzhen flights". February 8, 2010. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Special Delivery: UPS Moving Ancient Terra Cotta Army." United Parcel Service. May 5, 2008. Retrieved on June 19, 2010. "UPS air operations are headquartered in Louisville, Ky.,"
  6. ^ "1918 - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 2012-05-19. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  7. ^ "1975 - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  8. ^ "Cargo Crossroads of the World: Alaska - Inbound Logistics". 
  9. ^ "98.5 tons of holiday-rush packages stop in Alaska". 
  10. ^ a b c "UPS Timeline". 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 5 July 2009. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  11. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2006-12-09. Archived from the original on 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  12. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2007-12-18. Archived from the original on 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  13. ^ "Press Release". UPS. February 5, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  14. ^ "UPS Starts Pilot Furlough Process". UPS Website. February 8, 2010. 
  15. ^ "UPS Airlines Information". Airline Pilot Central. April 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ "UPS Pilots Ratify New Contract". 
  17. ^ a b c Scott, Alwyn. "UPS CEO says $5.3 bln order for Boeing 747 freighters reflects demand". 
  18. ^ a b "News Releases/Statements". MediaRoom. Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  19. ^ a b "UPS Orders 14 Additional 747-8 Freighters, Plus Four 767 Freighters". Boeing Commercial. Retrieved 2018-02-02. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "UPS Air Operations Facts". UPS Pressroom. Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  21. ^ "UPS places order for 14 new Boeing 747-8 air freighters". 
  22. ^ "UPS launches new ad campaign, slogan". 
  23. ^ a b c d "UPS Hot Spares Program - Gear Patrol". 22 April 2015. 
  24. ^ Getting Air Traffic Under Control, Time Magazine, October 19, 2009, p.Global 8
  25. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 767-34AF N316UP Houston-Ellington Field, TX (EFD)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  26. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas MD-11F N250UP Louisville-Standiford Field, KY (SDF)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  27. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F N748UP Philadelphia International Airport, PA (PHL)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Statement on Aircraft Incident." United Parcel Service. September 3, 2010. Retrieved on September 3, 2010.
  29. ^ "Plane crashes near Dubai airport – Middle East". Al Jazeera English. September 4, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  30. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-44AF (SCD) N571UP Dubai Airport (DXB)". Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  31. ^ "[1]." United Parcel Service. August 14, 2013. Retrieved on August 14, 2013.
  32. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A300F4-622R N155UP Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, AL (BHM)". Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  33. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas MD-11F N277UP Seoul-Incheon International Airport (ICN)". 

External links

  • Airlines-UPS Pressroom-UPS Website with UPS Airlines information
  • NTSB Aircraft Accident Report Flight 1307
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