E-commerce powerhouse amazon.com is expanding the capacity of its air freight network again, announcing today that it has purchased 11 Boeing jets from Delta Air Lines and WestJet Airlines.
Scheduled to join the mega-retailer’s fleet in 2021 and 2022, the deal marks the first time that Seattle-based Amazon has purchased planes outright instead of leasing them from other owners. However, the company will continue to rely on third-party carriers to operate the new aircraft.
The move comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has nearly frozen global air travel by passengers, pushing many airlines to ground large portions of their fleets in the face of spiraling financial losses. That move has also restricted those companies’ ability to carry cargo, because a large portion of air freight is stowed in the “belly holds” of passenger jets.
Indeed, the four Boeing 767-300 jets being purchased from the Canadian economy-brand airline WestJet are currently being converted from passenger to cargo use, which is an increasingly common solution to that pandemic air cargo capacity crunch. And Delta plans to do the same thing to deliver the seven jets it is selling, an Amazon spokesperson said.
Although Amazon’s air capacity is still much smaller than established carriers like UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp., it is growing fast. Launched in 2016, Amazon Air already had a fleet of more than 80 planes before this latest deal. And in November 2020, the company opened its first regional air hub in Europe at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, shortly after beginning flights through Florida’s Lakeland Linder International Airport in July and declaring in May that its western U.S. air freight hub would be located at California’s San Bernardino International Airport. The company’s central hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is also expected to complete renovations during 2021.
According to Amazon, its latest expansion will help meet continued demand by its customers for fast shipping of online orders by enabling the company to transport items across longer distances in shorter timeframes. “Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” Sarah Rhoads, vice president of Amazon Global Air, said in a release. “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.”
Editor's note: This article was revised on January 7 to include more information from Amazon.
Wheels up! ??— Amazon News (@amazonnews) January 5, 2021
Today, Amazon Air announced its purchase of 11 aircraft that will take to the skies in 2021 and 2022. These new additions to our growing fleet will help us continue to delight customers for years to come. ?? pic.twitter.com/TAu6eoIaD1