The U.S. carrier Atlas Air which once only operated a large B747 freighter fleet, has made a new name for itself as prime operator for Amazon within the United States. Not with B747Fs, but with a new fleet of mainly converted B767 passenger aircraft into freighters which carry up to 50 tons of Amazon cargo each flight.
Amazon Prime - a household name in the USA
The success of Amazon Prime product lies not only within the company itself. It was Atlas Air’s CEO, Bill Flynn who recognised the potential of e-commerce and managed to align his company with Amazon. The first aircraft, a converted B767 passenger variant, was put into service one-and-a half years ago. Since then, things have been moving in leaps and bounds. In the meantime the carrier’s name has been changed from Amazon Prime into Amazon Air.
It’s a simple formula so far: Amazon acquires the aircraft and hands them over to Atlas Air and Air Transport International (ATI) who both operate them with their own crews on behalf of Amazon. A total of 32 B767Fs are so far online with a further eight to follow by the end of this year. The majority are converted B767 passenger aircraft with an average age of around 24 years. No problem for a well maintained aircraft which has been converted into a freighter to operate for quite some years to come.
So far there have been no noticeable problems with the operation which is centered around the continental USA. Amazon holds warrants to purchase at least 20% of both ATI and Atlas in the coming years and has invested around US$1.5 billion in an air cargo hub in Cincinnati’s Northern Kentucky Airport as well as ploughing much money into expanding their continental U.S. road feeder fleets.
Next step Europe?
This is the question many are asking themselves!
When finished with investment in the USA, then where else? And - why not Europe. Amazon has become a household name in Europe but relies solely on sub-contractors for transport and distribution of the billions of euros worth of goods moved around the continent.
The option for 20% of Atlas Air and ATI, may be a well thought-out move to get ready to position themselves in Europe with a fleet which they can control and direct themselves. There are many rumours in the European market that Amazon, as well as China-based Alibaba, are on the lookout for a suitable distribution company to take over and expand as their own transport platform. The large ones such as DHL, FedEx and UPS are not option. There are however other smaller parcels units within Europe which may be attractive to Amazon. Some of these are fighting to keep their heads above water as they continually combat the aforementioned larger competitors.
Would a regional aircraft fleet be an option for Amazon in Europe as far as distribution is concerned? Smaller aircraft, operating throughout the day and being able to quickly access regions which have become a massive problem due to congested highways in countries such as the UK, France, Italy and Germany. Amazon is presently using a B737-400F which is operated by ASL Airlines France for flights from the UK’s East Midlands Airport to Milan and Madrid.
More to come?
Some laugh at the idea - however it can only be seen as sure that Amazon will not just rest on their laurels in the USA.
John Mc Donagh