Amazon buys 11 aircraft to 'better manage operations'

14 January 2021

Amazon has purchased eleven aircraft to increase in-house cargo capacity to meet US delivery demands.

Amazon Global Air, the retailer’s air cargo services, has bought seven Boeing aircraft from Delta Airlines and four from WestJet Airlines, which will join the cargo delivery fleet by 2022.

The company plans to have more than 85 aircraft by the end of 2022, with around 74 leased.

Amazon would not comment on the value of buying aircraft over leasing them, but said it was the "natural next step".

Sarah Rhoads, vice president of Amazon Global Air, said: “Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the US in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal.

“Having a mix of both leased and owned aircraft in our growing fleet allows us to better manage our operations, which in turn helps us to keep pace in meeting our customer promises.”

Zoe McLernon, multi modal policy manager at Logistics UK, told SM the air freight sector had “never been more important”, as supply chains have seen a significant rise in cargo-only movements over the past few months.

She added: “Half of global air freight is carried in the bellyhold of passenger planes and as a result of the reduction of passenger services, air cargo capacity fell in 2020. It is therefore encouraging to see companies preparing for increases in demand, especially with e-commerce on the rise.

“Air freight services contribute over £7.2 billion to the UK economy and supports over 151,000 jobs.”

The WestJet aircrafts, bought in March 2020, are currently being converted from passenger to freighter purposes. Amazon Air will continue to use third party carrier firms to operate the aircraft.

The expansion of Amazon's fleet for US delivery comes at a time when customers are relying on fast, free shipping more than ever, and will add cargo capacity for years to come, said Amazon.

In 2020, the firm also launched new regional air cargo operations at eleven international airports across the US, including Florida’s Lakeland Linder International Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and California’s San Francisco International Airport, and bought 6m gallons of sustainable aviation fuel.

The company launched the Amazon Air fleet in 2016. It also invested in a fulfilment centre in 2017 that would deliver packages using a fleet of drones.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said in a tweet in May 2019 that it had invested $1.5bn in a cargo jet warehouse to get customers their packages faster.

Amazon Air has also leased Boeing aircraft from partner companies, including Atlas Air and Air Transport Service Group.

Separately, the International Air Transport Association’s latest global air cargo statistics show that in November North American supply transport firms reported year-on-year increased demand, while other regions showed a negative trend. 

The stronger performance was largely due to continued flights across the US, resulting in less of a capacity drop, while grounded passenger aircraft persist in other regions due to Covid.

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