Bob Lekites, President of UPS Airlines, Retiring After 36 Years of Service
UPS today announced that Robert L. "Bob" Lekites, president of UPS Airlines, is retiring after 36 years of service at the global logistics company. Mitch Nichols, vice president of UPS Air Group operations, has been named to replace Lekites.
As president of UPS Airlines, Lekites had responsibility for all aspects of the company's airline operations as well as Worldport, UPS's cutting-edge package processing facility and all-points international air hub in Louisville.
A native of Lowell, Mass., Lekites started with UPS in 1974 as a delivery driver. In 1979, he was promoted into management as an industrial engineer. Over the next two decades, Lekites worked in a variety of leadership positions in UPS's package and hub operations in Los Angeles, Columbia, S.C. and Philadelphia before he became director of UPS Flight Operations in Louisville in 1996. In 1997, Lekites was given responsibility for UPS's airline and international operations.
Under Lekites' direction, UPS's global air network expanded considerably with the introduction of several new aircraft types, numerous new flights and the opening or expansion of multiple gateways and air hubs around the world. Other significant milestones during Lekites' oversight of UPS's airline include:
- In January 1997, UPS became the first air carrier in North America with 100 percent of its jet fleet meeting the U.S. government's Stage 3 noise reduction requirements, three years before the deadline.
- UPS acquired Challenge Air Cargo, making UPS the largest air cargo and express carrier in Latin America.
- UPS launched its inaugural flight to China, the first step in UPS becoming the first foreign delivery company to establish wholly-owned operations in the world's most populous nation.
- UPS completed a $1 billion expansion of its all-points air hub in Louisville, Worldport, which doubled the size of the highly automated complex to 4 million square feet and increased package processing capacity to 304,000 packages per hour.
- UPS acquired Menlo Worldwide Forwarding, expanding UPS's capabilities by adding guaranteed heavy air freight services.
- UPS completed a $135 million expansion of its European air hub in Cologne, Germany, nearly doubling the facility's package sorting capabilities and enhancing connectivity between Europe, Asia and the Americas.
"Bob's leadership was instrumental as UPS Airlines made the transition from being primarily a domestic carrier to a global logistics leader with the most comprehensive integrated transportation network on the planet," said David Abney, UPS Chief Operating Officer. "Over the course of his distinguished career, Bob made innumerable contributions that helped UPS expand its reach to nearly every corner of the world."
Mitch Nichols, a Castro Valley, Calif., native, will succeed Lekites. Nichols began his career with UPS in 1987 when he was hired by II Morrow, Inc., a Salem, Ore.-based communications and navigation company that UPS acquired in 1986. During the next few years, Nichols ascended to positions of greater responsibility within the organization, including general manager, until 2000, when Nichols was reassigned to Louisville to oversee UPS's aircraft maintenance and engineering function.
In 2007, Nichols was promoted to vice president of UPS Air Group operations where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of UPS's airline including safety, security, aircraft maintenance, flight operations, labor relations, and other core functions. During this time Nichols had responsibility and oversight for several significant projects, including:
- UPS Airlines instituted continuous performance measures that were recognized in 2009 when UPS Airlines was named "Cargo Airline of the Year" by Air Transport World.
- UPS opened its new Asia-Pacific air hub in Shanghai, improving access to China and speeding the movement of express packages and heavy freight around the world.
- UPS opened a new international air hub in Calgary, Canada, which provides enhanced direct access to the U.S. and international markets.
- In April 2010, UPS announced the opening of its new $180 million intra-Asia air hub in Shenzhen, China, significantly improving time-in-transit for regional package and freight shipments, as well as the successful completion of a second $1 billion expansion of Worldport, further increasing the facility's sorting capacity by 37 percent to 416,000 packages per hour.
- UPS Airlines established an aggressive goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 42 percent by the year 2020. Currently the company is nearly halfway toward meeting its commitment.
In addition, Nichols has chaired many industry committees including the Air Transport Association's Engineering, Maintenance and Material Council and the ATA's Joint Management Team, which is composed of senior industry leaders who meet to review rulemaking and policy issues. Nichols also chaired the editorial advisory board for Aviation Week & Space Technology's MRO USA, an annual conference and exhibition for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul professionals.
"With his background in technology, strategy, quality and operations, Mitch brings a depth of insight and experience that will be invaluable in his new position," added Abney. "Throughout his 23-year career, Mitch has held a wide range of positions that make him very well qualified to lead UPS Airlines and take our company to even greater heights."
UPS operates one of the largest airlines in the world, with more than 500 owned and chartered aircraft flying nearly 1,700 daily flight segments serving 766 airports across the globe.