UPS Airlines

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UPS Airlines
UPS Airlines Logo.jpeg
UPS emblem on the vertical stabilizer of a Boeing aircraft
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1988
Fleet size 237
Destinations 727 (381 domestic, 346 international)
Company slogan Worldwide Services
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 owned by United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSEUPS). The company is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky.[3] Its international all-points air hub, Worldport, is based at Louisville International Airport. The pilots are represented by the Independent Pilots Association.


Early years[edit]

The origin of transporting packages by air for UPS (then United Parcel Service) dates to 1929; much like the U.S Postal Service, UPS packages were transported as baggage on commercial airline flights.[4] 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 next year, it started service in Germany.[5] As UPS had become a truly international company, the need for its own fleet of aircraft was becoming imminent 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 three hours flying distance (by jet) from the majority of the continental 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; it was composed of Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 727-100s, and Boeing 747-100s.


Boeing 767-300F in Japan
Airbus A300-600 on approach to Des Moines, Iowa
A Airbus A300-600 painted in the 2014 updated livery at Louisville International Airport

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. During the 1990s, the airline expanded its jet fleet with all-new aircraft. The first of its 75 Boeing 757-200s was delivered starting in 1987, while 32 767-300s were delivered beginning in 1995. In the 1990s, the airline began to expand its network beyond the Louisville hub with facilities in Rockford, Illinois; Philadelphia; Dallas/Fort Worth; Columbia, South Carolina; and Ontario, California.

As the jet fleet flies primarily on weekdays, UPS was eager to find ways for its aircraft to produce income other ways. In the 1990s, eight 727s were converted (at a cost of $2.5 million each) into 727-100QC (QC=Quick Change) freighters that were able to be converted into passenger aircraft for the purpose of charters.


In 2000, the UPS airline fleet saw another major addition, as the first of 90 Airbus A300 freighters entered service; these marked the first non-Boeing/Douglas aircraft in the fleet. In 2001, the airline ended its passenger service, focusing exclusively on freight service. In April 2001, the airline made its first flights to China, six days a week.[6] In 2003, the aircraft saw a change in livery as United Parcel Service officially became UPS and the tail logo (a design seen since 1961) was redesigned.

During the 2000s (decade), the makeup of the UPS Airlines fleet changed considerably. In the mid-2000s, the oldest and lowest-capacity aircraft, the Boeing 727s, were retired. From 2008 to 2009, the airline phased out its 747-100, 747-200, and DC-8 fleet; at the time, nearly half of the world's active DC-8 fleet was operated by the company.

In September 2002, UPS opened an international all-points air hub called Worldport in Louisville. An expansion of Worldport was completed in April 2010, with the facility now measuring 5.2 million square feet, with a perimeter of 7.2 miles.

On February 8, 2010 UPS announced the plans to furlough at least 300 pilots in 2010 and 2011, cancelling the agreement reached in 2009 between UPS and the Independent Pilots Association.[7] 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.[8]


Each day, UPS Airlines flies to over 200 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 facilty, 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.[9] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 416,000 individual packages.[9] 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.[9] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 121,000 individual packages.[9] 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.[9]
  • Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second-busiest UPS facility in North America, in terms of daily flights.[9] The East Coast Region Air Hub directly serves Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Deleware, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, and California.[9] Approximately each hour, the facility handles 95,000 individual packages.[9] Along with the 681,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 66,000 square-foot freight facility.[9]
  • 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, Montana, Kansas and Nebraska along with Alaska and Hawaii. Approximately each hour, the facility handles 67,000 individual packages.[9] Along with the 779,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 49,000 square-foot freight facility.[9]
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Irving, Texas. 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.[9] Along with the 323,000 square-foot package-sorting facility, UPS also operates a 49,000 square-foot freight facility.[9]
  • Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina. The Southeast Region Air Hub directly serves South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Approximately each hour in the 281,000 square foot facility, the facility handles 41,000 individual packages, which makes it the smallest hub in the United States.[9]

International hubs[edit]

UPS Airlines operates several international hubs worldwide outside of Worldport. Two are in North America with one in Europe; three are located in China.


  • 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 and the Rockford hub, the Cologne Hub handles 110,000 packages an hour in the 323,000 square foot facility; with 72 average flights per day, it is the second-busiest UPS hub worldwide, in terms of daily flights.[9]


Hong Kong[edit]

  • Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong. With a service area containing transferring packages to Asia from Europe (and vice versa), the 45,000 square foot facility sorts approximately 4,500 packages an hour.[9]


A Boeing 747-200 in original UPS Airlines livery at Denver International Airport in 2003

As of September 2015, UPS Airlines has an active fleet of 237 Jet aircraft. In addition, the airline charters 301 aircraft,[10] some of which are painted in UPS livery.

UPS Airlines Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Notes
Airbus A300-600
Boeing 747-400BCF
Boeing 747-400F
Boeing 757-200PF
Boeing 767-300F
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F
Total 237

In January 2005, UPS Airlines placed an order for 10 freighter versions of the Airbus A380 with an option for 10 more; as part of the deal, the airline reduced an existing commitment for 90 Airbus A300 freighters to 53.[11] In March 2007, the order was cancelled, citing production delays that pushed the initial delivery date beyond 2012.[12] In August 2005, the airline ordered 8 Boeing 747-400's to increase capacity on its major trunk routes to Europe, Asia, and North America. Deliveries of these started in June 2007.[13] UPS Airlines placed a firm order for 27 additional Boeing 767–300 Freighters in February 2007 to be delivered 2009 to 2013.[14]

A UPS Boeing 747-400 in Dubai.
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.

In 2014, UPS Airlines began to modify its "Worldwide Services" livery throughout its fleet by removing the phrase "Synchronizing the world of commerce" from the fuselage and modifying the gold stripe and UPS emblem. Both are painted in a brighter shade, and the UPS emblem was modified by the removal of the gradient shading within the background. This paint work is done as part of regularly scheduled maintenance sessions by the airline. As of July 2015, more than half of the company's Boeing 757-200 had been repainted in the updated livery with a select few Airbus A300-600 and Boeing 767-300 painted as well.

Use of Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) to save fuel[edit]

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.[15]

Major incidents and accidents[edit]

Flight Number Date Registration Aircraft Type Survivors/Occupants Notes
774 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.[16]
6971 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.[17]
1307 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.[18]
6 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. Both crew members were killed, the first such casualties in UPS' history.[19][20][21]
1354 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.[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "UPS Air Operations Facts - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  2. ^ "UPS launches Shenzhen flights". February 8, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ "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.,"
  4. ^ "1918 - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  5. ^ "1975 - UPS Pressroom". 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  6. ^ "UPS Timeline". 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  7. ^ "UPS Starts Pilot Furlough Process". UPS Website. February 8, 2010. 
  8. ^ "UPS Airlines Information". Airline Pilot Central. April 11, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "UPS Air Operations Facts". UPS Pressroom. Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  10. ^ "UPS Air Operations Facts". Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  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. ^ UPS press release, August 17, 2005
  14. ^ "Press Release". UPS. February 5, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  15. ^ Getting Air Traffic Under Control, Time Magazine, October 19, 2009, p.Global 8
  16. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 767-34AF N316UP Houston-Ellington Field, TX (EFD)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas MD-11F N250UP Louisville-Standiford Field, KY (SDF)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F N748UP Philadelphia International Airport, PA (PHL)". Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Statement on Aircraft Incident." United Parcel Service. September 3, 2010. Retrieved on September 3, 2010.
  20. ^ "Plane crashes near Dubai airport – Middle East". Al Jazeera English. September 4, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  21. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-44AF (SCD) N571UP Dubai Airport (DXB)". Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  22. ^ "[1]." United Parcel Service. August 14, 2013. Retrieved on August 14, 2013.
  23. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A300F4-622R N155UP Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, AL (BHM)". Retrieved 2015-10-19. 

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