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02/12/2020

Amazon looks to build disruptive ‘startup cargo airline’


Amazon, the e-commerce giant, appears to be planning an expansion of its already substantial air cargo operations

According to a job posting that has since been removed but can be viewed here, the company’s Amazon Air Science and Technology team is looking to hire an applied scientist "to help scale and grow a startup cargo airline.” That implies a more substantive air cargo venture than the one Amazon has been undertaking through third parties in recent years. 

The development plans for Amazon’s "startup cargo airline” seem to be in early stages. According to the job posting, the position will focus on mid- and long-term planning around "how to bring disruptive changes [to] how a startup airline is run, with a focus on statistical and optimization modeling and data analytics. 

It is unclear how Amazon’s expansion of its cargo airline capabilities might affect its current arrangements with Air Transport Services Group and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings-affiliated carriers, which operate 767 freighters — and also 737 freighters, in Atlas’ case — on Amazon’s behalf. Amazon has already reassigned some of its leased aircraft among its contracted operators, as reported by our sister publication, Cargo Facts.  

Amazon has separate lease terms, or dry leases, for its 767F and 737F aircraft, allowing the company to move its aircraft among operators. Whether that will lead to Amazon eventually utilizing those freighters for its own startup airline remains to be seen. 

Cargo Facts Consulting, a leading airfreight and logistics consulting firm, estimates that in the eight months ended August 2019, Amazon moved over 1 billion pounds (more than 453,000 tonnes) on dedicated Atlas and ATSG flights, an increase of 29%, year-over-year. Growth at Amazon Prime Air has accelerated since the company upgraded its Prime offering from two-day to overnight shipping. Amazon’s own-controlled air operation in the United States is currently about 20% the size of FedEx and 15% the size of UPS, measured in tonnage carried, Cargo Facts Consulting estimates.

UPDATE: Subsequent to the publication of this article an Amazon spokeswoman told Air Cargo World, "The role is a network design role and similar to positions we have had since we started our air network five years ago.”