Atlas Air, ATSG appear to be operating more than twenty freighters each for Amazon

Based on data from FlightAware and FlightRadar24, forty-three 767Fs operated by Atlas Air and ATSG-affiliate carriers were flown on routes and schedules consistent with the Amazon Air network within the past three days. Forty-one of those had flights scheduled on 13 December.

Now that both Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings have met their respective contractual obligations to dry-lease twenty freighter-converted 767Fs to Amazon and operate them on a CMI basis for the e-commerce giant, industry insiders and financial analysts have questioned how soon Amazon might look to grow the operation beyond forty freighters. Recent evidence from flight-tracking databases strongly suggests, however, that Atlas is already operating twenty-two aircraft on Amazon’s behalf, while ATSG is operating twenty-one.

Atlas would only confirm what it has already shared publicly, that the company has “a long-term dry-lease and CMI agreement with Amazon for twenty 767-300BCF/BDSFs, which are all in service.” Amazon would not comment on the record. ATSG also declined to comment on its business with Amazon.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registry, twenty-two 767Fs operated by Atlas appear to be linked to Amazon through Andromeda Leasing LLC, an affiliate of Atlas’ Titan Aviation Holdings leasing subsidiary. Titan (Andromeda) dry-leased twenty 767Fs to Amazon. Within the past week, two new Atlas-operated 767Fs have appeared in the FAA registry linked to Titan, one of which was Atlas’ twentieth aircraft dry-leased to Amazon. As can be seen from the chart at right, there are certain Amazon-specific features that connect the registrations to the e-commerce giant. Typical with Amazon branding, all of the registrations are prime numbers and end with the letter “A”.

Following Titan’s most recent prime-number registration earlier this week, the leasing company’s portfolio now includes twenty-two freighter-converted 767-300Fs – a mix of both Boeing and Bedek conversions.

Although Amazon’s requirement for daily flight operations demands the use of spare aircraft to cover regular maintenance, Cargo Facts’ analysis of flight data suggests that even spares were in service this week, and more than twenty aircraft are regularly in service with both ATSG- and Atlas-affiliate carriers. On 13 December, twenty-one aircraft with ATSG-affiliate carriers were scheduled to operate flights consistent with the Amazon Air schedule and network.

Atlas, too, has operated more than twenty-one aircraft on such routes during a single day. On 3 December, data from twenty-one Atlas 767-300F flight schedules was consistent with Amazon Air flights.

There is no evidence that would suggest additional leasing agreements have been made between Amazon and its leasing and CMI service providers. However, the additional maintenance spares reserved for Amazon operations under current leasing agreements are likely being pressed into service as peak season shipping demand requires additional capacity. Whether this capacity is temporary for peak season, or a prelude to additional Amazon-leased freighters, remains to be seen.

Recent announcements from Amazon related to additional flight frequencies, and new gateways to support the company’s air operation, likely point to the latter. Just this week, Amazon revealed that construction is underway for a new regional hub at Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport (AFW). Although few details were provided, Amazon said that the new gateway will be larger in size than existing spokes in the Amazon Air network. The Alliance Airport project follows recent news about added frequencies at Chicago’s Rockford airport (RFD) and plans to resume operations at Wilmington (ILN) – the Ohio hub that Amazon used to launch its air operation, before abandoning it for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) last year.

Returning to the freighter fleet, Amazon is reported to have an RFP circulating for the lease and operation of at least six more 767Fs beyond the forty it has already leased from ATSG and Atlas. With up to forty-three aircraft already operating during peak period, this RFP does not seem unreasonable, though conversion feedstock for the 767 remains tight. Looking ahead, ATSG’s Cargo Aircraft Management leasing affiliate has two 767-300s (26912 and 26915) currently undergoing conversion with Bedek in Tel Aviv, and a third 767-300 (24035, ex-American Airlines) in storage at ILN. Atlas does not appear to have any aircraft in conversion at this time.

Those interested in learning more about trends and opportunities in express networks are invited to join us Cargo Facts EMEA, to be held 4-6 February at The Westin Grand Frankfurt. Register by 14 December to take advantage of early bird rates. To register or for more information, visit www.cargofactsemea.com.

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