Federal Express Corporation stunned the air travel and commercial shipping industries today when president and CEO Theodore Weise unveiled plans to begin shipping live humans as early as April 2001, offering frugal travelers the lowest airfares in U.S. history and sparking heated controversy among top industry professionals.

Bell Labs' engineering team poses with the revolutionary PeoplePak.
   The new service, Overnight PeoplePak, will rely on the same rock-solid infrastructure and delivery history that have turned FedEx Pak, FedEx Box, and FedEx Letter into household words, as well as breakthrough technology developed exclusively for the international shipping giant. Through an exclusive agreement with AT&T's Bell Laboratories, scientists and engineers developed the proprietary PeoplePak shipping envelope, which will protect human cargo from the rigors of overnight shipping while still permitting practical global air travel for as little as US$89 each way.

   The new envelopes measure 7'3'10" (empty) and are designed to accommodate a single adult male or female up to 230 lbs. Roughly comparable to an oversized sleeping bag, the revolutionary containers consist of multiple layers of synthetic polymer insulation wrapped around a rigid fiberglass skeleton designed to prevent serious injury from stacking or accidental dropping and a porous outer "skin" to improve airflow to occupants. Additionally, a flexible flame-retardant membrane just beneath the surface protects travelers from the hazards of flight in non-pressurized cargo aircraft.

   Bell Labs expects to have a child-size container available early next year, and plans are reportedly underway for scaled-down models that could accommodate mid- to large-sized domestic pets.

   While expensive to manufacture, costing nearly $17,000 apiece, the envelopes are designed to be reused up to 1,000 times, and Weise is betting thrifty travelers will prefer the moderate inconvenience of traveling in a dark pouch to being gouged by ever-rising airline fares.

   "I'm confident the Overnight PeoplePak service is something Americans have been wanting for a long time," said Weise, speaking at a press conference at FedEx headquarters. "Since 1973, FedEx has proven its delivery reliability again and again, and with today's rising airline costs spiraling out of control, we feel now is the perfect time to give travelers a new option."

   Weise deftly removed the velvet cloth covering a PeoplePak standing nearby and was met with thunderous applause and gasps of amazement. He then stepped down from his podium as other executives began escorting members of the press to the giant envelope for closer inspection.

   Even as threatening letters and phone calls began  executives and FAA officials, the stoic executive remained confident.

   "I fully expected these reactions from the airline big boys," he stated firmly. "After all, it's my intention to take millions [of dollars] out of their pockets, if not more."

   "And as for the FAA," he continued. "They're always like this. A couple people accidentally explode during decompression testing and suddenly they're all over you. But I'm sure they'll come around by April."

   In an effort to exploit the class competition among airline passengers, FedEx will offer three tiers of PeoplePak service. Basic service will offer only the pouch and guaranteed next-day delivery; Extra will include a pack of peanuts and heating controls in the envelope for added comfort; and Max the PeoplePak equivalent of First Class will feature a myriad of in-pouch storage pockets for travelers' personal effects, a battery-powered reading light, a Lunchable snack treat (including juice box), and an ultra-compact Porta-Pottie.

  Copyright 2000 breaking news, A.M.

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