Breaking: Amazon Air to expand fleet with 12 freighters

Light blue Amazon plane sits at gate waiting to be loaded.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) said Wednesday it is leasing 12 Boeing 767-300 converted cargo aircraft from Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG), one of the major providers of airlift for its in-house air network. The additional aircraft will bring Amazon’s fleet to more than 80 aircraft.

One of the new aircraft joined Amazon’s cargo operation in May and the rest of the order will be delivered in 2021, Amazon said.

ATSG’s leasing company, Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM), has deployed seven newly converted 767s in the past year, the company said in its first-quarter earnings release last month. CAM has 62 of its in-service cargo aircraft leased to customers, and 35 of those are operated by sister companies ABX Air or Air Transport International. CAM has 15 aircraft being converted to cargo configuration or ready for lease, and more than half are already committed to customers, with the rest likely to be rented this year or next, ATSG said at the time.

Air Transport International currently provides pilots and maintenance for some 767-300 planes Amazon leases from CAM. The charter operator and ABX Air operate about two dozen 767 all-cargo planes on Amazon’s behalf.

“Amazon Air is critical to ensuring fast delivery for our customers — both in the current environment we are facing, and beyond,” said Sarah Rhoads, vice president of Amazon Global Air, in a statement. “During a time when so many of our customers rely on us to get what they need without leaving their homes, expanding our dedicated air network ensures we have the capacity to deliver what our customers want: great selection, low prices and fast shipping speeds.”

Amazon Air is also rapidly expanding its airport infrastructure to handle the fleet. The company will open a new regional air hub at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida later this summer and, as FreightWaves reported, at San Bernardino International Airport in California next year. Also opening in 2021 is Amazon’s global air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

In May, Amazon Air began gateway operations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.