UPS 727 Passenger Flights

The UPS Asset Utilization Experiment

UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
UPS Passenger 727 in Indianapolis (spring, 2000). Photo courtesy

Readers often ask if it’s possible to fly on a UPS aircraft as a passenger. Ocean freighters sell cabins to adventurous travelers, so it’s a reasonable question. Due to limited space and FAA regulations, the answer is no. There’s an old joke: If you want to fly on UPS, you have to ship yourself in a box (illegal and potentially deadly – don’t try it).

There was a brief time when UPS Airlines actually carried passengers – in style. The story begins with a brain-storming session in the mid 1990’s…

The “Asset Utilization Experiment”

UPS Ticket Jacket - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
UPS ticket jacket. Courtesy UPS Airlines

In 1996, management personnel at UPS (then known as United Parcel Service) were brainstorming ideas to better utilize company aircraft. Although some UPS aircraft operated 7 days a week, most of the company’s 727 fleet sat idle on the weekends. UPS wanted to generate revenue with the aircraft when they weren’t needed for express package service. The company devised an “asset utilization experiment” to use the idle freighters for passengers on weekends.

Tour companies and cruise lines charter aircraft to fly vacationers to sunny destinations like Cancun on Saturdays and return them home on Sunday or Monday. The timing was perfect; UPS had plenty of 727 aircraft available from Friday until Monday afternoon. But the airplanes were freighters. No seats, overhead bins, galleys, or lavatories.

The challenge: turn a freighter into a comfortable passenger jet in under four hours on Friday morning, then back into a freighter by Monday night.

The Five UPS Passenger Jets

In their former life, UPS Boeing 727-100 aircraft were passenger jets. The fleet had recently gone through a major upgrade, replacing noisy Pratt & Whitney engines with quiet, efficient Rolls-Royce Tay turbofans making them Stage III compliant (really quiet). The re-engined aircraft was designated 727-100QF (Quiet Freighter).

Boeing 727 Spotter Tip

When looking at old photos, it’s easy to spot a 727 with the Rolls-Royce Tay engine conversion. Look for the funny bulge in the center engine “S-Duct.” The bulge is necessary for airflow requirements of the Tay turbofans. A 727 with a straight inlet has the original Pratt & Whitney engines.

UPS 727 S-Duct Comparison - UPS Passenger Aircraft - AeroSavvy
Photos:  Rolls-Royce Tay 727 © Pedro Aragão   –   Pratt & Whitney 727 © Felix Goetting

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Being former passenger planes, UPS 727-100QFs still had windows. They also had some of the required plumbing and wiring necessary for passenger service, making them a good choice for conversion.

UPS decided to convert five aircraft for the experiment. The airline would use four aircraft for scheduled weekend charters. The fifth aircraft was a spare for ad-hoc charters or maintenance contingencies.

UPS 727 in Pittsburgh - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
UPS Airlines 727 in Pittsburgh. Photo by Capt Joel Freeman

UPS awarded PEMCO World Air Services the contract to convert the five 727 freighters into 727-100QC (Quick Change) airliners. The aircraft chosen for the experiment were N946UP, N947UP, N949UP, N950UP, and N951UP.

The work was significant. Each aircraft had two permanent passenger lavatories installed. Cabin interior sidewall liners and overhead trim were added. Flight attendant seats were installed to the bulkheads. Modifications were made to the electrical and pneumatic systems to accommodate passenger requirements.

TCAS Display - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Cockpit TCAS Display

TCAS Required on Passenger Aircraft

When UPS started flying passengers in the 1990’s, TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) equipment was not required on cargo aircraft.

In order to fly passengers, the FAA required UPS to install TCAS in the Quick Change aircraft. The five passenger planes were the first UPS aircraft to receive this critical safety enhancement.

The FAA now requires all passenger and cargo airliners to have TCAS. Read more about this important equipment: TCAS: Preventing Mid-Air Collisions

The Quick Change 727 concept was not unique to UPS. Boeing offered a 727 QC variant direct from the factory and delivered 111 of them. Several carriers, including Eastern and United Airlines, operated the QC. The Rolls-Royce Tay-powered 727-100QF freighters converted to QC were unique to UPS.

The Quick Change

On Thursdays or Fridays, Quick Change aircraft would be transformed from freighter to passenger jet. Maintenance crews carried overhead storage bins aboard through the main cargo door, then secured them to the ceiling and side walls.

727 Quick Change - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Passenger seats were pre-installed on carpeted pallets. Maintenance crews used cargo loading equipment to lift the pallets onto the aircraft.

At the heart of the conversion were flat pallets holding 2 rows of 6 seats, complete with a carpeted aisle. Crews brought the seat pallets and galley aboard through the cargo door and rolled them into position. The installation team connected wiring harnesses to power lavatories, galley, emergency lighting, flight attendant call buttons, reading lights, and safety signs.

In under four hours, a 727-100QC was ready to carry 113 passengers someplace sunny and warm.

The following video from UPS Airlines provides a quick overview of the Quick Change process. The transformation is amazing.

I owe a special thank you to the folks in UPS Airlines Public Relations. Not only did they provide me photos, they found this 1997 promo video in their archives and polished it up for YouTube.

Brown on the outside. Blue on the inside.

UPS passenger program managers wanted to exceed customer expectations. Passengers were often surprised at what they found inside the brown and white UPS aircraft: comfortable seats and a vibrant blue color scheme.

Interior of a UPS 727-100QC in cargo configuration – Courtesy UPS Airlines
727 Cabin - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
UPS 727-100QC Interior – Photo by Capt Joe Trocki

Seat pitch (spacing between rows) in airline coach sections is typically 29 to 32 inches. UPS seats had a pitch of 33 inches, giving passengers more leg room than most other airlines.

UPS passenger charter ad - UPS Passenger Flights - Aerosavvy
UPS passenger service marketing brochure – Courtesy UPS Airlines

The Pilots

UPS Captain Terry Donner and daughter. UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
“Take your daughter to work” day: UPS 727 Captain Terri Donner flew her daughter (and 112 other passengers) to Cancún. Photo by Capt Terri Donner

Can a cargo pilot legally fly a passenger airliner? The answer is, without a doubt, yes. With a few minor differences, passenger and cargo airline pilots receive the same training and are held to the same high standards.

How did UPS decide which pilots flew passengers?

Every two months, UPS publishes a list of schedules. Pilots prioritize and bid the schedules they want. Crew schedulers then award the schedules by seniority.

Any UPS 727 flight crew member could bid a passenger, cargo, or combination schedule. Crew members who received a schedule that included passenger flights attended a short ground school. Training included long range navigation (for over-water flights), procedures, and regulations unique to passenger operations.

Many of the UPS pilots enjoyed flying passengers and regularly bid the flights. Flying passengers was a nice change from flying freight.

UPS Passenger Communications Profile - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Laminated passenger communication profile. From the collection of Capt Joel Freeman

The Cabin Crews

Gail in the galley - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Gail and crew member in the galley. Photo by Gail Menefee

Arguably the most important members of the program were the flight attendants. They represented UPS and worked hard to give passengers a positive experience.

Instead of hiring and training cabin crews, UPS used a staffing agency that specialized in providing experienced cabin crews to small airlines.

The agency hired cabin crews specifically for the UPS passenger operation.

Flight attendants attended three weeks of training. Hands-on training in the 727 took place at the UPS facility in Louisville, Kentucky. Water emergency training took place at a local YMCA swimming pool.

When it was time to fly, the flight attendants arrived for work wearing, not brown, but blue uniforms with a cheerful sunshine necktie. These were, perhaps, the first non-brown uniforms in UPS history.

Every pilot I spoke with gave the cabin crews high marks. The flight attendants worked well with both passengers and pilots to keep the operation running smoothly. It must have been a challenge to babysit 113 vacationers and three cargo pilots!

Gail on the escape slide - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Cabin crew evacuation training in Louisville. Photo by Gail Menefee

Gail Menefee was a cabin crew member with UPS from July, 1998 until the end of the passenger program. I asked Gail if she could share some memories:

The UPS passenger operation was first class. We provided hot meals, snacks, and of course beverages and alcohol.

Outbound flights in the morning received a hot breakfast and beverage (the whole can was offered). Later in the flight, a wide assortment of snacks and beverages was served. Before landing, warm cloths were handed out to each passenger. Return flights were the same except we served a lunch/dinner meal instead of breakfast.

Most of our flights were pleasure trips, people going on vacation. So the atmosphere was fun and pleasant. We rarely had problems and when we did they were handled very professionally and quickly. We had great crews and always had fun, but first and foremost, safety was our number one priority.

It was a pleasure working for UPS Passenger Service and was a highlight in my life. I made life long friends flying for UPS and I have nothing but fond memories.

Gail - Last Pax Flight - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Gail at the final UPS passenger flight. Photo by Gail Menefee
Donise in Galley - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Donise preparing breakfast in the galley. Photo by Gail Menefee

The Passenger Flights

The first passenger flight took place on Friday, March 7, 1997. The aircraft and crew flew 115 passengers from Pittsburgh to Orlando.

Happy Passengers - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Indianapolis to Cancun – Spring, 2000. Photo courtesy

UPS Airlines didn’t sell tickets. The airline had contracts with all-inclusive tour companies and cruise lines. Tourists that booked an air-included vacation in a city served by UPS would be ticketed on them.

During the program, The UPS vacation flights departed primarily from Louisville, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Destinations included Miami, Bermuda, Cancun, Aruba, Punta Cana, Las Vegas, Santo Domingo, Barbados, and more.

UPS also flew charters for college and pro sports teams, politicians, press corps, auto racing teams, and famous musicians.

A very special charter took place in June of 1999. UPS donated an aircraft to transport athletes to Raleigh, North Carolina for the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. An all-volunteer flight and cabin crew staffed the aircraft.

The Jokes

Passengers and UPS Employees couldn’t resist cracking jokes about flying in a freighter. The one-liners practically wrote themselves…

  • Do we have to hold parcels?
  • Oh, it’s a UPS jet! I wonder what we get to sit on?
  • Will we have to wear a bar code?
  • UPS has begun transporting “self-loading cargo!”

If you remember an old UPS Passenger joke, put it in the comments and I’ll add it!

Retired UPS Captain Lyle Kooima enjoyed flying passengers. Captain Kooima shared some insight about his UPS passenger flight schedule:

Most of the passenger flights were on contract with a travel company. We transported tourists to/from all-inclusive vacations.

We would usually begin on Friday afternoon in Louisville and ferry the aircraft to Pittsburgh. Saturday, we flew to Cancun and back. On Monday, we would fly to Punta Cana and back. On Tuesday we would ferry the aircraft back to Louisville.

Those of us that flew the passenger flights thought it was a good deal and enjoyed it. Daytime flying, flight attendants, good in-flight meals (we ate what the passengers ate), and nice layovers.

UPS Air Currency - good for one free drink - 1996 - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Free drink coupon from 1996. Courtesy UPS Airlines

The Challenges

Every airline encounters operational challenges and the UPS asset utilization experiment was no exception. Here are a few challenges the airline successfully overcame:

Aircraft Range

Fuel gauge showing low fuel - UPS Passenger Flights - AerosavvyThe 727-100QF with the new Rolls-Royce Tay engines had improved range. A few destinations, however, still required a fuel stop.

A typical flight from Boston to Aruba landed in Orlando for a fill-up. Refueling took place on the apron while passengers waited on board. After a 30-40 minute pit stop, the flight was back in the air to Aruba. Although refueling stops are occasionally required at major airlines, UPS passengers were sometimes surprised it was necessary.

Emergency Arrival to Pittsburgh

Flight crews are occasionally presented with special challenges. Captain Lyle Kooima told me about one exciting flight that gave him the opportunity to assist two passengers with a family emergency.

Warning Symbol - UPS Passenger Flights - AerosavvyWe were operating a flight from Cancun, Mexico to Pittsburgh. Over the Gulf of Mexico, we received a message from UPS dispatch. The daughter of parents on my flight had been taken to the hospital in Pittsburgh for an emergency appendectomy.

I called Air Traffic Control and explained the situation. ATC gave us this clearance: “Cleared direct PIT, any altitude, any airspeed.” I contacted UPS flight control and requested a flight plan for direct Pittsburgh at the most expeditious altitude and fastest speed.

Also, I asked our dispatcher to request Customs and Immigration to meet us at the gate in Pittsburgh for immediate clearing of the two parents.

I instructed the lead flight attendant to inform the parents of the situation and re-seat them in row one.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh, air traffic control treated us as an emergency aircraft and provided expedited taxi clearance to the gate. The lead flight attendant asked all the passengers to remain seated until the parents deplaned. Customs and Immigration were waiting at the door, the parents were immediately cleared, and escorted out of the airport.

Although I never heard anything about the daughter’s condition, it was satisfying to have all departments cooperate to the greatest extent possible.

Punta Cana - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Waiting for passengers in Punta Cana. Image by Capt Joel Freeman
Punta Cana Preflight - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
Preflight in Punta Cana. Image by Capt Joel Freeman

Quick Change Dilemma

Performing the quick change every week caused unanticipated wear on the equipment. As careful as ground crews were during conversion, nicks and scuffs on the liners and overhead bins were inevitable. Pins and connectors in the 2-row seat modules were not as sturdy as expected. The connections sometimes needed repair after modules were removed from the aircraft.

An unexpected problem arose with the passenger interiors: they were difficult to fit into some of the aircraft. Boeing built the 727 in the late 1960’s. Manufacturing tolerances were not as accurate as they are today. Although close, the exact dimensions of each aircraft were unique. To compound the issue, the planes had thousands of pressurization cycles on them. Repeated pressure changes on a fuselage change the length and width of an aircraft ever so slightly.

Because each aircraft’s exact dimensions were unique, some interior components needed modification to fit. This resulted in interiors that were not interchangeable with different aircraft as originally planned. Each interior had to be assigned to its own aircraft. Empty ferry flights were sometimes necessary to position an aircraft in the same city as its interior.

Due to the irregularities with the aircraft and interiors, program managers decided it was more convenient to keep the five aircraft in full-time passenger configuration. Although no longer able to fly freight, UPS utilized the aircraft on weekdays for ad-hoc charter opportunities.

UPS Passenger Briefing card - UPS Passenger Flights - AeroSavvy
UPS Airlines 727 Passenger Briefing Card. From the collection of Capt Keith Kurland.

End of the Program

On September 3, 2001, UPS Airlines flew its final passenger flight. The airline returned the five Quick Change aircraft to freighter configuration after completing existing contracts. UPS 727 Flight Operations Supervisor Dave Parker explained why UPS ended the program:

Although profitable, the passenger program proved to be less profitable than flying packages. Since the passenger aircraft could not be converted back to cargo configuration during the week, the decision was made to suspend the utilization experiment.

Company aircraft would be better utilized in our core business of delivering packages.

Post Flight

UPS had a fleet of 51 727-100QF (including the 5 Quick Change jets) and 8 727-200 aircraft. UPS retired its last UPS 727 in August, 2007. Most of these classic airliners have been scrapped.

UPS Employees and Passengers:

Positive stories and additional information about the UPS passenger program are welcome in the comment section. All comments are moderated and there are a few ground rules:

  • Please refrain from using passenger and customer names (tour companies, cruise lines, charter customers).
  • Every airline experiences delays, cancellations, and embarrassing moments. News feeds and blogs are filled with the bad stuff. I’d like to read about your positive experiences with the UPS passenger program.


  1. Fascinating look into yet another part of the aviation world I’d never know about if not for you!

    Incidentally, the Tay engine powers the Gulfstream IVSP that I fly. Not only is it Stage 3 compliant, but it’s Stage 4 as well. It’s an amazing powerplant.

    • Thanks, Ron! I’m glad you liked it. The Tay’s really stretched the useful life of our 727s. The lower noise impact made it possible for the fleet to anchor our early European network.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. It was pretty exciting to be part of this operation. I had just come to UPS from a passenger airline that had B727-100’s and -200’s and got to be involved with the dispatch operation of our passenger flights. I did chuckle one time at the charter terminal at Las Vegas I was riding back home on my previous airline sitting in the gate area and a UPS 727 pulled into the gate and I overheard some folks next to me say “UPS huh, I wonder what we get to sit on?”

  3. Great read and insight! I have heard many stories from fellow UPSers on how this was done but never as much detail and explaination as this. I would have loved to fly on one, Im sure it was as great as experience as described.

    • Hi Kasey,

      Thanks for reading! I hear so many stories from passengers and crews about how cool it was. Certainly an interesting chapter in UPS Airlines history.


  4. Back when this was happening I lived in Virginia and had to fly quite often. My typical “connecting” airport was Pittsburgh on USAir. This post reminded me that one time in PIT I saw a UPS 727 at a passenger gate. It kind of blew my mind and the only explanation I could come up with in my mind was that they must have had a medical emergency and pulling up to a gate was a faster way to get help to the person. Once I jetted off to wherever I was going I forgot all about it until now. Who knew this is what was going on? This is definitely a unique piece of aviation history. Thanks for telling us about it.

  5. is this the reason UPS was certified as a PAX airline, and not as a cargo airline? it had a major effect on UPS capabilities to carry dangerous goods.

    • The UPS Airline decision to carry “passenger quantities” of dangerous goods is unrelated to the UPS passenger operation.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. I remember TWA had a handful of 727-31QC’s but if I recall right they never converted them back and forth. I remember riding on them a few times. Externally the only way to tell was the cargo door outline and internally I remember the seats seemed to sit a little higher as you had to kinda lean over the look out the window when sitting in a window seat.I missed the opportunity to fly on our pax birds but did walk thru one right after I hired on in SDF. I remember the plane looked great inside like brand new, very nice cabin!

      • Eastern Airlines (EAL) had a bunch of these, and I flew them wehen I was hired back in the 70s. Same operation as described only EAL would switch them in the afternoon and morning and had it down to where it was done in less than the 4hrs mentioned.

        • They sure did! United was another QC operator. Boeing delivered 111 727 QC aircraft from the factory. I believe that the Tay-engined 727-100QF converted to QC were unique to UPS.

          The 4 hours mentioned in the article was the maximum time UPS allotted in their original specs for the program. Actual conversion times varied and were usually under the 4 hours stated.

          Thanks for reading!

  7. I flew on a UPS charter with the University of Louisville Marching Band to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, ID – two years before I started working here. 🙂

  8. Hi Ken
    Like Jen and Ron said I never knew UPS carried passengers. I did really enjoy the video of the quick change from cargo to passenger configuration. A really great post

  9. Really interesting read, thanks for publishing this. Quite the coincidence that UPS stopped this service at the beginning of September 2001 given what would happen on the 11th of that month.

    • Hi Chris,

      I did some checking on that coincidence when I was researching the article. All the charter contracts were completed as of the last flight on September 3, 2001. It was shear luck.

      Thanks for reading!

  10. I’ve worked at UPS for 28 years… I signed up for O/T one weekend back in I believe 2002 … Upon arriving at work I was directed to take a forklift and move the pax units from their storage trailers & put them into awaiting dumpsters… I questioned the validity of this request… Was shown an email about it … So I complied…. No telling how much $$ went into those dumpsters…

  11. Great Article. I was part of the conversion team at PHL. You brought back a lot of great memories with this article. I remember one time I think it was one of the New York Sports teams chartered it one weekend and basically trashed the whole plane. It was very cool being part of that little known side of UPS.

    • Hi Allen,

      Sounds like you had a great experience with the program. It’s always disappointing when a few people feel they can mistreat property because they paid for a ride. Thanks for sharing your story!


      • I flew as a flight engineer on many of these flights. At the time, my wife and I had small kids and we were both working, so she worked during the week while I could fly these in the weekends. It worked out great and I got to spend my layovers in some great vacation destinations. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for posting this article, it brought back a lot of good memories!

        Malcolm B Sluder
        UPS 757/767 Captain

  12. United had the QC 727 back in the late 60’s,nothing new here folks. It flew daily flights with passengers then the seats were pulled and the plane was a freighter.

    • Several airlines operated the factory variant 727 QC, including Eastern and United. Boeing delivered 111 727 QC aircraft. The Rolls-Royce Tay powered 727-100QF converted to QC were unique to UPS.

      To many AeroSavvy readers, the information provided in this article is, indeed, new.

      Thanks for reading,

      • Not only is it new to many AeroSavvy readers, it’s unique in the fact that UPS is well known for cargo operations but not at all for passenger transport. Also, that it was an experiment they tried and decided (wisely, I would say as things have turned out) not to continue. In addition, we are treated to an insider, behind the scenes look at yet another attempt to make aviation more profitable. Great story Ken.

  13. When UPS added a passenger flight to Washington-Dulles they also added a mechanic to that gateway, that’s when I hired on. 8 months later I bid to Louisville and a little while later was on the passenger conversion crew. The plane would come in with freight around 5am, we would convert it, test everything, and taxi it to the passenger terminal and hang out until it left. I don’t recall them ever leaving any of the jets in passenger config. In fact, even when we had spare aircraft, they insisted on flying freight so we would have to convert it at the last minute which insured there would be some sort of malfunction, usually the emergency lights.

  14. I was one of the Flight Service Director’s (flight attendant) on those flights. It truly was one of the best time’s of my life. It was so funny to see the UPS pilots faces when we would go up to the cockpit and ask them what they wanted to eat and how they wanted their coffee. They looked at us and had no idea what to say. They never had someone ask them that before when flying. We had to teach the pilots to say “bye and thank you for flying with us” after each flight. And WOW did we have fun on the layovers on some of the most beautiful islands. We would go to the beach all day and out to dinner and dancing all night because we did not have to fly back home for at least two days. The passengers were so much fun because they were all going or coming from their vacation. All of my other flight attendant friends were so jealous that I was hired to have this amazing job. I would do it again in a heart beat.
    Thanks for the memories,
    Kathleen Hammock

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! Everyone I talk to about the program really enjoyed it. Sounds like it was an awesome experience.

      (I really should have ditched the old DC-8 and bid over to the 727 in 2001 🙂 )

  15. I worked Maint on the passenger planes for the entire time, best group of people I have ever worked with. We always had the coffee brewing for the crew and flight attendants while taxiing to the gate.

  16. Thoroughly enjoyed my flights to and from Cancun on UPS in 2000 with a group of girlfriends! My niece was a flight attendant on the flight!

  17. I was a flight attendant for UPS during this time.. loved it. Never new the real story as to why it ended! This was an interesting read, brought back a lot of memories!

  18. Flew from Ontario,CA to Loisville on special assignment in the jump seat when Orion flew our planes. Did this for 3 months and learned a lot. These were cargo planes.

  19. I got to fly a UPS charter flight from Boston to Grand Bahama back in the late 90s for a family vacation through I believe TNT travel. As a budding aviation enthusiast, I was excited to fly on a 727, a UPS 727 no less! I remember it being a great flight with superb service, smooth, and fun. People didn’t believe us when we told them we were flying UPS Airlines…would we be sitting on the floor? Would we be in boxes? It was a good time. Never knew they were re-engined with Tays. Thanks for this!

  20. Dear Captain — what were your thoughts about the DC-8s? My very first flights around 1970 were on DC-8-63s, which I still think were the most beautiful aircraft. The only problem was if you were sitting overwing and needed to use the lav. That took some preplanning!

    • The DC-8 is my first true love, so I’m a little biased. I first flew on a DC-8-63 from Chicago to Munich in 1974 on a family vacation. Later in life, I flew the DC-8-71 and -73 freighter for nearly 20 years. It was extremely well built and was a challenge to fly. I really enjoyed the experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  21. I was a flight attendant on the UPS passenger project for almost 5 years. I was based in Pittsburgh but I got to fly with the Louisville base too. It truly was a fantastic experience!!! I miss it all the time.

    • Hi Patty.

      It must have been quite an experience! If you have any photos you’d like to share, I’d love to add them to the article. Let me know and I’ll send you an email address.

      Thanks for reading!

  22. I imagine you UPS cabin crew get a lot of funny questions when people see your CVs… “Cabin crew for WHO??!?”… Great article, by the way! Did the 727s fly different with the Tays (speed, procedures, not being the adorable ground huggers they always were)?

    • The cabin crews had a lot of fun working with UPS. They heard ALL the jokes. 🙂
      I’ve heard the Tays provided a nice performance improvement to the 727. I didn’t fly it so I’m not familiar with specifics.

      Thanks for reading!

  23. Fantastic article and a wonderful trip down memory lane, pre-911 when flying was still a fun experience. Gail and I have maintained our 20 year friendship since training together, and retired Captain Tom Bishop and I stay connected as well. I had a full time Art Director position and flew on the weekends which was perfect. ISI staff and UPS admin were great to work with and the passengers absolutely loved us and the service. I still have a file full of complimentary letters. We were so good that people actually wrote to UPS and sang our praises. The fellow flight attendants were like family and we had a Southwest vibe but were better dressed and catered ; ) One fun thing we did on my flights when I was a lead F?A was we would use the wax from the Babybel cheeses to have wax sculpting contests. We had some seriously long flights from Philly to Aruba and we had to be creative! The pax would write their seat number on the bottom of a napkin and then put their sculpture on top. We F/As would collect them all and put them in the galley. When the seat belt sign went off, we’d call all the pax up row by row and they would vote for their favorite by putting a hash mark on the napkin with a pen, The person with the most votes got the bottle of wine that was usually on board. I also remember flying a “rescue mission” with Patty Irr and Elaine Morse where we flew on a chartered four seat aircraft from Barbados to St Maarten to meet a UPS plane that Capt. Terri Donner brought there to take stranded pax from another airline home to the US. We flew Steven Spielberg’s movie crew, the NASCAR pit crews and many other fun groups as a charter. It was truly one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and people are still green with envy when I tell them that I used to have lunch and time on the beach in Bermuda every Friday. Try and top THAT! Thanks UPS for an incredible experience and for always getting us there safely!

  24. What an informative and entertaining article. These flights took place before I ever flew. I would definitely have flown using one of these airlines.

  25. I had a few of these here at LAX. Usually the regular charters. There was also one for a singer and his entourage and then another for an actor. Sorry to see it end.

  26. My Wife and I flew on a UPS passenger jet chartered through a local travel agency in Massachusetts. The purpose of the flight was our honey moon in 1998. We flew from Boston’s Logan airport on Sunday morning (8-9-98) following our Saturday afternoon wedding (8-8-98) to Aruba for a romantic one week honey moon extravaganza. Actually, we flew from Boston to San Juan Puerto Rico for refueling and then onward to Aruba, long flight! What an awesome experience, UPS did it better than right, better than any other airline we’ve ever flown on! The best commercial flight of our entire life and we’ve done a lot of flying. That goes the same for the return flight. From there on out, family and friends would NOT believe us that we flew UPS for our honey moon. And oh boy did we get the ribbing from people, like…So did someone have to “sign” for you at the final destination? or…Wow what a cheap skate you had your new wife “shipped” to your hotel in Aruba! or…Did they actually land the plane in Aruba or did they just stick you on a pallet with a parachute and drop you out of the cargo hold? or…Was there an “outhouse” on board or did you have to hold it the whole way? And the list goes on lol. In any case thank you UPS, pilots, flight attendants, flight crews, and ground crews…2 thumbs up! BTW, we’re still married…21 years!

    • Congratulations on 21 years! Glad to hear you had a great experience on UPS. We had a super group of folks running the program.

  27. Worked for KIWI International Air Lines, Inc. from 94-99. We did use UPS for some charter work. I remember getting snippy with some passengers that scoffed at seeing a UPS plane taxi to the gate. I asked them to look at the polsished intakes of the Tay engine cowlings, and see if they see any oil stains or leaks. Compared to AA, TWA and KIWI planes at adjacent gates, the UPS 727s looked fantastic. Great job UPS, our passengers always came back delighted! Too bad I never had a chance to J/S with you!

    PS I was the Engineer for KIWI and btw we both installed IIMorrow GPS units on the 72s.

  28. Yeah I loved it. when I was married, the wife & I took a trip to Cancun on UPS, Thought it was out of CVG which would be logical; may have been out of INDy. Either way it was GREAT! almost no lines (pre-9/11 of course), great service. There was no 1st class vs other class. EVERYONE felt like they were in first class. Drink ticket, hot/moist towels. It was excellent. Sometimes I still think of trying to book flights this way. Didn’t know it was so short-lived.

    Thank you for the experiment; wish it could have lasted. Glad to see it ended just before 9/11 I suppose.

  29. I chartered two of these planes from the beginning to the end for Vacation Express. We flew SDF/CVG/IND/ATL/BNA to CUN/PUJ. It was a fantastic operation that our passengers loved. It was a pleasure dealing with everyone at UPS that was associated with this program. Brad Eyster from UPS and I took the last Vacation Express flight from CUN to CVG. It was a sad day!

  30. Great article
    I worked for Rolls-Royce in East Kilbride, Scotland at the time of Tay Development and entry into service and on I remember being very excited about the 727 re-engining project after the success of the Tay on the Fokker 70/100 and Gulfstream GIV

    If I remember correctly we promised a minimum of a 12% improvement on fuel burn over the Pratt engine but actually delivered 18%

    There was a story that in the early days of operation the re-engined aircraft were arriving heavy as the engines had used so much less fuel. Don’t know if this was true or not but if so I am sure the manual got updated pretty quickly

    Graham Carson, Scotland

  31. Great article and video, which I plan to share. I will be visiting your site often, much interesting articles.

    Charleen Haugen

  32. I’m sorry the parents of the appendectomy patient didn’t bother to say thank you. No good deed goes unpunished, I reckon.

    • I wouldn’t say that… It’s very possible the family later contacted the airline to express their appreciation. Sometimes with a large organization, messages don’t always make it to the right people.

  33. I am a 40 year plus veteran of UPS and a aviation enthusiast. I remember this program well. I read about it and kept track of it in the company magazine, The Big Idea. Recently a friend gave me a blue sign with the gold UPS shield that has UPS Airlines printed on it. It is about 14″ x 18″. My friend got it from a friend who got it from someone who worked at the airport in Detroit. Does anyone know how or where such a sign was used. I assume it was at the ticket counter or possibly at the gate. Just curious to no the story of how and where this sign would have been used.

  34. Hey Ken –

    Great job with the article! I flew some of these flights as an F/O and they were great! I had flown the Caribbean as a 727 F/E for AA for three years and had always seen that 727 F/O job as being the dream come true. It was exceptionally cool to come to UPS and do the same job. We also flew sports teams around. I remember taking the Atlanta Hawks from Atlanta to Toronto and back for a ball game. Dikembe Mutumbo sat near or in the very front row. That’s a very tall human being. The flight attendants were exceptional and the passengers were generally in a very good mood as we were either taking them to or from vacations. Good memories.

  35. Very cool article – My wife and I drove from NJ to Pittsburgh to drop the kids with the grand parents so we could fly and Apple Vacation All Inclusive trip to Punta Cana for our 5 year anniversary. We still tell people about that trip, the wonderful service, and the unique experience!!! Now I can tell them that we were part of the Asset Utilization Experiment!

    • Hi Bart! I receive so many positive comments about UPS’ passenger program. I’m glad you and your wife had a wonderful, memorable vacation!

  36. My wife and I few a UPS 727 from Detroit, MI to San Juan, PR in 1997 to catch a cruise ship for our honeymoon – and the return flight as well. I remember being a bit confused/amazed initially that it was a UPS aircraft with UPS pilots – brown uniforms and all. We had a great flight both ways and the cabin crew was wonderful. It made for a great honeymoon story and to this day people are amazed when I mention the experience.

    Ironically, my brother-in-law is a 20+ year UPS pilot – hired aboard after our experience.

  37. I had the great opportunity to be working for UPS at the time this passenger service was running. In fact, I am still there over 36 years later. As UPSers, if they didn’t fill the charter to capacity for some reason, we could fly for next to nothing as space available. My husband and and I went to Mexico and stayed at a great resort (flight included) for only $333 – for the two of us! It was truly amazing. The plane was beautiful and bright inside unlike any other. You can really see that from the pictures, but it was truly unique.

  38. I flew UPS Airlines back in 1997 on a trip to Cancun with a friend which she had booked at a travel agency. It was my first time on an airplane, at 42 years old, so I was quite nervous. I had the window seat and when the plane started down the runway I couldn’t believe how fast we were going and then it lifted off the ground and we were in the air. It was amazing! Once we landed, everyone starting clapping. To this day I don’t know why, Were they just happy that we really made it? I laugh about it to this day. The flight back was also a great experience because it was a beautiful day and I saw Cancun, the ocean and the coastline from so high above, It was a gorgeous sight that I will never forget.

  39. I’m so glad your first flight was so good and so memorable. I was a philadelphia-based flight attendant for UPS at that time and those were the Glory Days because we were always taking people on vacation and UPS gave us the tools to provide a really nice service for our passengers. Hard to believe it was 25 years ago and it’s still one of my best experiences of my life.

  40. I understand that the windows did not line up with the seats. The windows were built for the original floor, with the seats now on pallets on the floor, the windows were quite a bit lower than you’re used to.

  41. Hey there,
    Good job! I Flew the B727QF for UPS and I remember these passenger operations well, flew many of them…. so many funny memories for sure! Great article explaining the particulars of the gig! Fun while it lasted! Russell Hayman

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