Visiting the UPS hub facilities at Cologne/Bonn Airport, Germany

Yesterday evening I was able to take part in a night tour of the UPS facilities at Köln(Cologne)/Bonn Airport. At Europe’s only UPS hub, up to 190,000 packages per hour are unloaded, sorted and distributed to an average of over 70 flights flying around the world every weekday night. After Louisville, Cologne/Bonn is the second largest UPS hub in the world.

At about 10 p.m. we met in front of the employee security check and drove to one of the large parcel sorting facilities within the security area of ​​the airport. There we were first introduced to the company’s history through a presentation and given facts and figures about this hub.

The core time for parcel sorting begins at 11 p.m., during which we were shown through the various areas of the huge facility. The buildings are connected by bridges in which conveyor belts carry packages to the other buildings.

Parcel sorting is usually fully automated here; workers are only required for unloading and loading. Since sensitive data is of course visible everywhere in the building, photos were only allowed at one point.

After the impressive tour of the facility, we did a tour of the apron. Star Air is chartered by UPS for predominantly European flights.

UPS’s own aircraft (“brown tails”) mostly fly to North America and Asia.

We were able to take a closer look at one of the Boeing 747-8s.

This 747 arrived in Cologne the day before from Louisville via Honolulu, Sydney and Seoul.

Of course I had to do the famous picture.

The tour was over at 1 a.m. and we drove home with great memories and photos. Such tours are regularly organized by the UPS Welcome Center and are free of charge. I can definitely recommend them to anyone who has the opportunity to come to Cologne!

Finally, here is photo from an office at the airport where I worked this year (hopefully again in the summer). May the sun always rise for UPS in Cologne!

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Beautiful pictures! Looks so fun.

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That must’ve been a beautiful experience! Glad you enjoyed it!

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Great shots! Being so close to such massive aircraft is definitely an experience. Must also be cool to see the technical side of things. Nice work!

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Thanks everyone! Yes, standing next to or even under a 747 is really impressive! The dimensions of such aircraft are gigantic. Even after many airport tours and countless flights, being so close to airplanes never gets boring!

What was a new experience for me, however, was the tour of the UPS parcel sorting facility. I’ve been to the FedEx facility at Cologne/Bonn Airport a few times for work reasons (I don’t work for FedEx, though), but UPS is definitely on a different level. The parcel conveyor belts set up in the huge buildings look like a system of several roller coasters. The packages race from one point to another, are sent here and there in other directions and end up where they belong. Even though we walked through the facility for almost an hour, I still didn’t see and experience everything, so I definitely want to take this tour again! I really wish we could take more pictures of the inside of the facility, but I understand why it’s not allowed.