‘Transportation juggernaut’ Amazon Air further expands fleet with purchase of 7 ex-Delta Boeing 767s

Dec 31, 2020

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Amazon Air has purchased seven retired ex-Delta Boeing 767-300ERs during a year where cargo operators brought on a record number of freighter aircraft. In a twist, Amazon moved away from its usual model of dry leasing aircraft from operators such as Atlas Air and Southern Air. It also inked a deal in December 2019 with Sun Country to operate 10 cargo aircraft on its behalf.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-332 at Los Angeles international Airport. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

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The Seattle-based cargo carrier was launched in 2016 as a way to meet its commitment to get Amazon Prime customers their packages in a promised one- to two-day delivery window. The move was also seen as a way to bring its logistics operations in-house so it could have more control over delivery costs and speed. It now operated more than 70 of its own jets as cargo continues to grow.

A map that shows the proximity of Amazon Air’s airports on the U.S. mainland to its fulfillment centers. The red circles
designate airports with Amazon flights, based on a sample encompassing flights on a randomly selected day. (Map by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University)

The first three aircraft are being retrofitted to freighter configurations before Amazon begins flying them.

More growth is on the horizon, as Amazon prepares to open its new $1.5 billion air hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) in 2021. The hub will have the capacity to handle 100 Amazon jets and operate 200 flights a day.

Related: Flying high: Cargo airlines are expanding their fleets during the pandemic

A May 2020 report by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University studied Amazon Air and concluded the following:

  • Putting more emphasis on cargo-only airports than most other package-shipment providers
  • More oriented toward daytime flights and point-to-point routes than FedEx and UPS
  • Expanding its fleet to 70 airplanes by 2021 and could grow to 200 planes in seven or eight years
  • Making Cincinnati (CVG), Chicago Rockford (RFD), Ontario (OND), Tampa (TPA) and Wilmington (ILN) focal points
  • Creating a CVG megahub that greatly boosts its potential to be a multi-purpose delivery provider

“Amazon Air is 2020’s transportation juggernaut, flying above the turbulence facing most cargo and passenger airlines during the coronavirus epidemic,” said the report. It also noted that the cargo carrier has expanded rapidly to help handle surging online buying driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Amazon Air’s expansion marks one of the most significant developments in the U.S. air-cargo business in years and gives a boost to airports seeking to cultivate freight traffic,” said the report.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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