Amazon Air just keeps growing and growing
Amazon’s cargo fleet (Prime Air and Amazon Air) saw the number of flights increase by more than 30% last year. Most of the growth has been in Europe over the past six months, according to a recent report by researchers at the American Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development (DePaul University). They have been following the expansion of the web giant’s air network from Seattle for some time.
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In the US, Amazon certainly does not stand still and increasingly offers logistics services to third parties, in addition to filling its own DCs and sorting depots. As a result, the company has slowly but surely become a competitor to parties such as Fedex, UPS and DHL Express in the US domestic market.
It is striking that from the major turntables Cincinnati Airport (Kentucky) and Wilmington Airport (Ohio) with smaller turboprop aircraft from Silver Airways, the online store is now also expanding the package network to smaller markets in the United States. In addition, the number of cargo flights to the major regional hubs in Seattle, San Bernardino (California) and Fort Worth (Texas) increased. According to Chaddick researchers, the latest expansion means that 73% of the U.S. population currently lives within 100 miles of an Amazon Air airport. By 2020, it was still 60%.
Growth in the North American market last year was 20 to 24%, which researchers say is less than previous years, but still ‘impressive’. Amazon now owns 88 cargo ships. By the end of this year, the fleet will grow to about a hundred of its own cargo aircraft, of which about 70% will consist of B767 with a capacity of 60 tons. That number will double to about two hundred aircraft by 2028. The Chaddick Institute also estimates that Amazon will still adjust its fleet strategy and that it will connect markets in North America, Europe and Asia with large intercontinental cargo ships, to directly control large import flows. from China, among others.
Amazon Air now officially operates 38 daily flights within Europe, connecting eight cities. These are cargo ships that are partly owned, plus aircraft that are chartered from partners, but which fly in Amazon colors and are also registered in the online store. The airline does not itself have a flight permit and leaves flight and other operational work to third parties.
Amazon also uses a large number of cargo planes from partners that partially fly for the US online store. Chaddick analyzed 4,500 flight movements at tracking sites in the second half of last year, where the flights could be attributed to Amazon.
The Irish ASL Aviation Holdings, which also flies for FedEx in Europe, is Amazon’s subcontractor in Europe. Between August last year and March this year, ASL’s daily flights with Amazon Air cargo planes increased from eight to eighteen a day. In addition, ASL operated a further 24 flights a day for Amazon with its own cargo ships. This was possible because the Irish company expanded its fleet last year with seven additional B737-800Fs. Amazon focuses this growing number of express flights mainly on Cologne / Bonn Airport in Germany and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in France.
In addition to a larger, intricate network in Europe and North America, Amazon also appears to have targeted an intercontinental network. The American analyst Cargo Facts reported already last year that Amazon wants to convert old B777-300 and A330-300 into cargo planes. According to Chaddick, it is more or less strategic for Amazon to get the intercontinental parcel flows ‘in-house’ given the scale, volumes and ever-increasing shipping costs.
“We believe that a significant intercontinental role is on the way if only the major problems of the current global supply chain are taken into account,” the researchers conclude. This expansion will take place gradually, they expect. ‘In the initial phase, it will certainly not involve more than twelve aircraft. Most likely there will be even less at the moment. In the long run, it could be a much more robust expansion, “analysts said.
Chaddick expects that Amazon will increasingly target the 48-hour market segment with the further expansion of the network and will stay away from 24-hour overnight delivery services and the consumer-to-consumer market. These remain the domain of the major couriers like UPS and FedEx, it is said. The researchers state that the cost would be too high to build such a network. It would also require a completely different strategy, they argue. That Amazon still has not developed its own ‘superhub’, which UPS (Memphis) and FedEx (Louisville) have, also points in that direction.