UPS to Hire 300 Pilots to Support Postal Service Contract

UPS has about 292 freighters in its mainline fleet, which is 43 percent smaller than FedEx’s.

A UPS MD-11 freighter parked at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. UPS was awarded a large contract by the U.S. Postal Service and now needs more cockpit crews. [Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves]

UPS is looking to hire more than 300 pilots to support an anticipated increase in air cargo demand driven by a new multi-year contract from the U.S. Postal Service, according to the union representing the company’s air crews.

“The Independent Pilots Association Executive Board was informed that UPS HR is resuming their pilot hiring process to account for the additional volume surge that will occur as the year progresses,” the union said in a statement shared with FreightWaves. “The initial projected estimate for hiring is expected to be 300+ additional crew members, which is subject to adjustment once the network plan for the additional USPS volume is finalized.”

The Independent Pilots Association is the bargaining representative for about 3,200 pilots at UPS (NYSE: UPS). 

UPS beat out FedEx Express last week for the five-and-a-half-year postal service contract, which FedEx (NYSE: FDX) had held for more than 20 years. The call for pilots runs counter to initial assessments from analysts that UPS would need to add few, if any, aircraft to support the postal service because of its ability to lean on its high-performing linehaul truck network to move a portion of the volume. FedEx has acknowledged recent difficulties turning a decent profit on its postal business and UPS was expected to address that by running a leaner air network.

UPS also gave buyout packages last year to 193 of the most senior pilots to reduce costs amid a downturn in the parcel market. 

Spokeswoman Michelle Polk confirmed UPS is recruiting 170 pilots, as currently posted on its external job boards.

The hiring number provided by the union covers the number of pilots UPS is likely to hire over the next year or so. A source familiar with pilot scheduling and staffing said UPS has to phase in new pilots because there isn’t enough capacity to train a full cohort at once.

Postal flights are primarily operated during the daytime, opposite the express overnight network. 

The postal service has prioritized moving mail by ground as much as possible over the past three years, resulting in a $500 million reduction in revenues for FedEx during that time. FedEx realized $1.6 million in revenue during fiscal year 2023 from its air contract with the mail agency, according to research by David Hendel, a transportation attorney at Culhane Meadows.

UPS has about 292 freighters in its mainline fleet, which is 43 percent smaller than FedEx’s. FedEx also has about 2,400 more pilots than UPS.

There is no indication that UPS will slow the phase out of its aging MD-11 fleet. The company last year retired six of the aircraft and plans to remove more than that amount this year. The MD-11s are being replaced by 767 freighters. UPS has 21 more 767s on order from Boeing. 

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on FreightWaves.

Eric is the Air Cargo Market Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at

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