The United Parcel Service (UPS) is moving forward with plans to position five of its 727s into part-time passenger service on weekends - serving both tour operators and cruise lines in need of additional air lift. According to Ken Shapiro, UPS Public Relations Manager, "Our first converted aircraft should be doing proving runs for the FAA in December, and we should have our first commercial flight sometime in the first quarter of 1997."

Shapiro noted, "We're working very closely with the cruise lines and should be in a position to make announcements within the next few weeks. We're very close."

Already, UPS has signed deals with three tour operators: Pittsburgh-based Royal Travel, for a Pittsburgh-Orlando route; Boston-based TNT Travel, for a Pittsburgh-Aruba route; and Atlanta­ based Vacation Express, flying a Louisville­ Cincinnati-Cancun itinerary.

UPS will use special 113-seat "quick-change" modules to regularly convert the five initial planes from weekday parcel delivery service to weekend passenger service. Shapiro explained that the "proof of concept" phase using the initial five planes will last until late 1997, at which time UPS brass will evaluate the company's business dealings with tour operators and cruise companies "and decide whether it's a good match or not. " If the answer is yes, additional planes could be brought into the program.