Amazon Air adds 12 new aircraft to its cargo fleet, expands its ground operations

Catherine Shu
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 5: An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 freighter, nicknamed Amazon One, flies over Lake Washington during the Seattle Seafair Air Show on August 5, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The company plans to lease 40 cargo planes to deliver goods to customers more efficiently. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Amazon announced today it has added 12 new cargo aircraft to Amazon Air, bringing its total fleet to more than 80 aircraft, in part because of increased demand for shipments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The converted Boeing 767-300 were leased from the Air Transport Services Group. Amazon said one of the planes will begin transporting cargo this month, and the rest will be delivered next year.

The company is also expanding Amazon Air’s ground network, starting this month with regional air hubs at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida this summer, and San Bernardino International Airport next year. It also will open a new central Amazon Air Hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport next year.

In the announcement, Amazon Global Air vice president Sarah Rhoads said, "Amazon Air is critical to ensuring fast delivery for our customers—both in the current environment we are facing, and beyond."

Amazon launched its branded cargo planes in 2016 to increase the speed of deliveries, and decrease its reliance on third-party logistics providers. For example, last year, Amazon expanded Amazon Air after FedEx announced it was ending its express delivery contract with the company.

Many Americans under shelter-in-place orders are relying on Amazon for online orders, and the company has brought on 175,000 temporary workers to meet demand related to the pandemic, about 125,000 of whom will be moved to full-time roles this month.

But the company has also come under scrutiny for the safety of its workforce. As of the end of last month, eight Amazon warehouse workers had died from COVID-19. The company has not disclosed how many of its workers have tested positive for the virus, though it says it enforces social distancing measures and alerts other people at a facility if a co-worker tests positive for COVID-19. A coalition of 13 state attorneys general have called on Amazon to bolster protections for workers.

In a letter to Amazon, 13 AGs call for increased transparency and stronger worker protections