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Old 06-03-2014, 01:25 AM   #1  
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Default Why a Pilot Should Want to Work at UPS

Hello All,

First time poster. We’ve all been reading with anticipation UPS hiring. I’ve been reading through the posts and find them to be very informative. I thought I would hazard to take your time with my own perceptions with the intention of helping. The viewpoints expressed are based on my own experiences in the airline industry both knowing the gut check of leaving the military and having flown at 4 airlines to date. I’m with UPS 19 years and a junior captain.

UPS does bear close scrutiny as a company, an airline, and above all their unique employee culture. The best way, right out of the gate, is to try to address where UPS comes from in the employee culture they have created. I will contrast this culture with our equals in the cargo world FedEx.

UPS was born in 1907 as a trucking company. UPS today is a trucking company at heart. UPS has been dealing with the largest labor union in the world (Teamsters) for 60 years +. UPS prefers dealing with unions. This gives UPS a singular target/entity to deal with. They are supreme experts, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced at any other airline (I was previous ALPA at one carrier), in dealing with their labor. Make no mistake about it, UPS is powerful, smart, and PHD level capable of handling their unions. It in my view is all business. They will not give; you must collectively fight for everything you have at UPS. Similar to buying a car, the dealerships goal is to save every penny.Your goal as the consumer is to save every penny. UPS is no different with how they deal with their unions. It's all business.

The best way to describe this mindset of both a trucking company mindset and a cost saving 900 pound gorilla is (one of many), the legendary story of the guys who started the airline in ’88 who wanted a coffee pot on the DC-8 for oceanic crossings, etc. UPS response was why? Our truck drivers do not have coffee pots. The ridiculousness of this mindset and statement is obvious.

And that’s UPS in a nutshell. Today, all of the airplanes have coffee makers. Big deal right?It is.Everything all of us see on the property now in the way of amenities……everything…..came with a fight.

Contrast that with FedEx. FedEx is an amazing company. They revolutionized the world with overnight express, and the hub and spoke system most all airlines use today. Their genesis started from a completely different mentality set forth by ex marine pilot Fred Smith. To his initial cadre pilots flying Falcons in ’73, he said, stick with me…….don’t leave me…….and I’ll make you a millionaire. The ones that stayed bled Fred and Fred was good to his word to them. Fred was very good to his pilots through the decades since. Beautiful facilities everywhere. Huge sort facility sleep rooms!These were all but dreams to us at UPS. We finally won sort facility sleep rooms maybe 5 years ago. Got them in the last contract and they took awhile to build. FedEx has had all these amenities for decades. Fred gave them what they have. Fred liked his pilots and took care of them. But times change.

Overall, FedEx hands down has better facilities and amenities. No question.

But everything comes with a cost. There is a cost to Fred Smith taking care of his pilots so famously well for decades. Today, FedEx is at a crossroads. They have had infighting amongst the purple tails, the silver tails, original loyal Fred followers (probably all retired now), the second generation devoted Fred followers, and as each generation steps back from the good ol’ days, they become part of their own tribe within the tribe. FedEx is at a crossroads because they didn’t have to fight for anything. It was given to them. And now they need to pull together to hold the line. I wish them well as we, like it or not, are separate in our contract negotiations as companies, but what each company results in will make a difference for the ones that sign their contract second.

All this FedEx talk is to better describe the UPS culture and what is unique about this company. In the case of UPS, we had zero given to us. We fought for everything. And the cost in the end, was more to the company. If you come to UPS, no matter what I or anyone else says here, on the phone, etc…..if you come to UPS, your education will start when you get hired. You will see IMHO the best, brightest, most altruistic union executive board in our independent union, the IPA. You will see them in action daily. They care solely about the safety, QOL, etc…..of an extremely unified pilot group. And that is the cost to UPS.There is not a union on the planet that is more cohesive. And not a union on the planet with better Executive Board management. And to all IPA volunteers, my hat is truly and permanently dipped in Thanks. Thousands of hours are sacrificed yearly for their tireless efforts fighting everyday the 900 pound gorilla.

So the UPS culture from a line pilot is pretty much an us vs them scenario.Which is no different from any other airline.All pilots at all airlines complain.Whether they are effective in their complaints could be debated for years.I firmly feel that to the maximum extent we can at the IPA, we are effective against a very rich, arrogant, powerful company.UPS doesn’t do anything they don’t want to do.Period dot.

How powerful is UPS?UPS has in its system every day, 6% of the GDP of the USA.Nobody in the world moves packages like UPS when taken on their system as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, FedEx is a great company.Truly a great company.

A well done retrospective on both UPS and FedEx is titled UPS/FedEx Inside the Shipping Wars on CNBC.Here’s a youtube link to it.The piece is not talking about one company being better than the other.It is solely a retrospective of each company and very worth the watch.

The airline division at UPS isn’t even a pimple on the butt of what UPS is as a worldwide corporation and what they are trying to accomplish.We might not see their brilliance at a line pilot level.And in fact shake our head at recent failures TNT, postal, DHL.But make no mistake, as a global logistics behemoth, UPS is PHD level brilliant.They hire the best and the brightest and are a global powerhouse.And very cash rich.

As per the CNBC piece, hopefully it gives a glimpse just how advanced UPS and FedEx are in the global marketplace.

So what is the uniqueness of being a UPS employee that sets it apart from anything I’ve seen?What is the downside?The downside is their supreme arrogance.This results in their perceived (and actual) right to be just short of psychotic in their need to control.Everything.Their collective management mindset is that all their employees will try to steal from them.They therefore must be controlled and monitored at all times.

It’s their company.They can run it as they see fit.Unfortunately, that is the culture that has existed here long before I got here.

Pilots often forget a Golden Rule in the airline industry:A company doesn’t exist for their benefit.UPS will do what they want, when they want.And enjoy the fight with the IPA and all their labor unions on the property every day as a result.Make no mistake, they enjoy it.Every day at UPS…….every single day, is another day of contract negotiations.The day a contract is ratified and signed into law, ok, maybe that is a .5 day off.The next morning?It starts all over again.UPS compiles data on everything and everyone and have warehouses full of hard drive data.Every day is another day in contract negotiations.

Which brings me to a truly unpleasant manifestation of their need to control;the much talked about FQS / NURP system.This system, created, monied and carried today by UPS is an abomination to unions and the employees.Truly unique in the world.A frontal assault on unions as a, “double breasting”, operation.Born by UPS as a means to micromanage its line pilots and ultimately be a one week stop-gap strike breaker.They will all time out in a week running a skeleton operation in a strike.And that’s exactly what UPS wants them to do….fly until they can’t legally fly anymore.

This is millions of dollars…..millions……that UPS spends to get their control freak on.How long the system will be financed into the future, nobody knows.

Which brings me to my next point relating to their need to control; secrecy.UPS holds their cards VERY close to their chest.They trust nobody, including NURPs.This is why as line pilots we have zero intel as to how they are going to conduct interviews.We collectively know nothing about expansion, contraction, bases, plane orders, and on and on.We were as surprised as the rest of the industry when they announced hiring 40.You have to know how UPS operates to know that the line pilots know nothing.

Sooooooooooo…….if you have read this blather this far, what’s the point?What am I getting at?Do you come to UPS or not?

The answer is an unqualified yes.Absolutely positively yes.UPS is a great company.

Let me say another Golden Rule in aviation.A grizzled airline captain told me 23 years ago, “Son, there’s only one thing you need to look at when considering going to a company that you want to retire from; their bottom line.”.How much money does the company you are going to have vs what do they owe.UPS is a close as you will ever get to working for the US Government.To those UPS furloughed reading this, our collective hearts were with you the whole time and we are glad you are back.Don’t plan on buying any beer on layovers for a few years.Your furlough completely surprised everyone and yes yet again against a very tough company also unified us. UPS did not succeed in their quest to alienate the old vs young and we remain united today.

Having mentioned the furloughs, I stand by my statement that working for UPS is as close to working for the US Government as you will get.

And as we all know, we all won’t know if we made the right decision until we retire.But in the thought matrix of today of should I stay or should I go now…….UPS should be at the top of your list based on the bottom line alone as a company you can retire from with relative ease of minds that they will still exist when you retire.You are interviewing at a global powerhouse.A very smart, tough and rich company.They haven’t survived over 100 years because they are wilting flowers.Very much the opposite.

Remember, all pilots complain and b%^ch.Everywhere.All companies, even SWA that for years post de-regulation was a shining star and lesson to all airlines on how you could treat your employees well, pay them well, and make a decent profit, even SWA of today is complaining more and more.It’s both part of our business and apparently inherent to our pilot DNA to complain.You will be tired and probably unhappy as a junior guy no matter where you go.You might as well get paid the top in the industry along with our FedEx brethren.

I do not have a crystal ball for the future.I don’t know pax expansion, plane orders, etc.I do know that pax in general have a ton of retirements coming up.Where will you have more movement?IDK.I do know that UPS pays well, they don’t bother me on my days off, and have the hands down best bottom line in cold hard cash.They have a unique (read combative) way of managing.I won’t argue that at all.Now, have I ever had a problem with UPS management?No.I come in, do my job, go home.Play by their rules to the best of my abilities.I don’t pick fights with them as some like to do.I stand my ground but don’t poke them.You want to poke the 900 pound gorilla…..have at it.

A senior captain here told me a long time ago;you have to view yourself as a contract employee here at UPS.UPS wants one thing and one thing only from you; they want you to produce.Move boxes.They otherwise don’t care a wit about you.And I firmly believe that no other airline does as well.UPS has some quirks that do separate them from other airlines (FQS).Control issues.No question.But no company cares about you.Your union does at UPS.An INDEPENDENT union……not subject to national agendas.As much as UPS brings their quirks, the union brings on their own special blend of strengths.

But do I come to work filled with hate?Nope.Not at all.I come to work with a smile as much as any other pilot comes to work with a smile.As do my colleagues.It’s no different and you will not complain any more at UPS than you would at any other airline.No more or no less.You will have top notch guys to work with and a union behind you beyond what you’ve ever seen before.We are very cohesive for a reason…. that being UPS themselves.They do things out of the blue that continually bring us back together as a union.Remember, everything you see at UPS is there because the history of the IPA fought for it.And that came with a cost to the company in such a united union.And you know what?UPS likes it that way.

It’s business.All business.It is not personal.UPS loves the battle.It’s where they breath.And thankfully we have the union we do or they would eat us alive.And yes, other companies will do the same.UPS just brings their special brand of arrogance and control to the table.It’s all business and UPS does not exist for my benefit.They will do what they want when they want.They are rich and they are hiring.You won’t be more or less happier anywhere else you go, especially if you commute and junior.So you might as well get paid well for it.

In summary:

-the only thing that matters of a company you want to retire from is their bottom line
-there is no crystal ball
-a company does not exist for a pilots benefit
-UPS, while being tough, is a great job and we are all very lucky to be here
-UPS toughness is counterbalanced by a great union and great crews
-it is us, the line crews, that make the day to day of flying the line as pleasurable as it can be

For the poster with two years at SWA, you know and I know that seniority is everything. That is a very tough call. The only guarantee is that at least at this moment, you will make far more money at UPS. Retirements, expansion, resulting in moving up the list……..I can’t comment on which would be better. Consider what type of flying you want to do. I know for me personally….and again, it’s me personally because SWA is a great company, but for me personally 4,5,6,7 legs a day for me would get old real fast. UPS has a broad diversity of flying. Of airplanes. And routes.

My neighbor was a senior AA captain. We became friends. He had no idea about UPS. He learned over the years our contract. He was shocked beyond amazement. He had no idea. Zero. And in closing, as far as QOL, that very senior AA captain, up to the day he retired, was shooting for 1000 block hours by the end of November, so he could take December off. I have always flown a line. Always. My average block time per year is 470 again flying a full line every bid period. And I work 14-16 days a month.

Sorry for the long post. Hope everyone could hang in there and get something out of it. UPS, or any job, is what you make of it.

Last edited by flyphisher; 06-03-2014 at 01:38 AM. Reason: the copy and paste was difficult to read
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Old 06-03-2014, 02:04 AM   #2  
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Well said!
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Old 06-03-2014, 02:30 AM   #3  
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Old 06-03-2014, 03:24 AM   #4  
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Originally Posted by Luckydawg View Post
Well said!
Agree ...

Coming to UPS from nearly any other flying job should be a no-brainer.

The only group that I would caution is any FOs with a few years of seniority at a legacy or SWA. And on a purely monetary basis, UPS would still be a good choice ... fwiw
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Old 06-03-2014, 03:32 AM   #5  
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Great post. Thanks for taking the time.
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Old 06-03-2014, 05:59 AM   #6  
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Awesome post, thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-03-2014, 06:22 AM   #7  
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Perhaps the finest post ever written...

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Old 06-03-2014, 07:33 AM   #8  
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Fantastic insight, great approach when you read this...
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:44 AM   #9  
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Great insight on UPS since the window is now open for new hires...

Some good things to learn for some of us at other airlines trying to get to a more mature contract.

Thanks for taking the time.
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:46 AM   #10  
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Great post. I'm normally a lurker, but after 20 years with UPS, you are spot on. Can that be posted on the B & G? LOL
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