Amazon buys planes for the first time to expand its cargo air fleet

Until this week, the company had leased aircraft to build out Amazon Air.

Back in 2016, Amazon’s cargo air fleet (then known as Prime Air) consisted of 11 jets. By the end of 2022, the company told Bloomberg it expects to have more than 85 planes shuttling products across the US and other countries thanks to its recent acquisition of 11 Boeing 767-300 planes. More than the number of aircraft involved, Amazon’s latest announcement is notable because it marks the first time the company has purchased, instead of leased, additional aircraft for its Amazon Air cargo operation.

Amazon is buying seven used aircraft from Delta and four from Canada’s WestJet. After they’re retrofitted to carry cargo, the latter four will start flying for the company later this year. Meanwhile, the Delta jets will join Amazon Air in 2022. As with all of its existing planes, Amazon says these new planes will be operated by contractors.

Over the next few years, it’s estimated Amazon’s air fleet could grow to include more than 200 aircraft, putting it in the same size as the one operated by UPS. As Bloomberg points out, Amazon has always been quick to call out its continued reliance on companies like UPS and FedEx, even as it has added additional planes and delivery vans to its cargo operation.