Amazon is buying four jets from WestJet and seven from Delta as the e-commerce giant moves to beef up its delivery fleet at a time when passenger jets are no longer so in demand.
In a release, the company said the 11 jets, which are all Boeing 767-300s, are all currently set up to carry passengers but are in the process of being converted to carry only cargo. The WestJet jets will join Amazon’s fleet some time this year and the Delta ones in 2022.
“Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” Sarah Rhoads, vice-president of Amazon Global Air, said in a release.
The 767 was a key jet for WestJet in its evolution as it was the airline’s only wide-body jet, but the airline has recently decommissioned its entire fleet of them and moved to larger 787 Dreamliners for many long-haul flights.
“Last year our 767s were removed from service as we gauged market interest for the procurement of the 767 fleet,” spokesperson Morgan Bell told CBC News in a statement. “We are pleased they found a home with Amazon.”
The four jets represents WestJet’s entire fleet of 767s.
Amazon building delivery network
Amazon launched its own air cargo fleet in 2016 and, prior to Tuesday’s news, the company leased 80 planes, but the move is the first time the company has bought their own.
The company uses parcel services such as UPS and FedEx for its current deliveries, but is moving to build its own delivery network as it increasingly views itself as a competitor to those services, not a partner.
Amazon owns tens of thousands of its own delivery trucks, and has been experimenting with its own fleet of autonomous delivery drones. But those are for the last leg of the delivery journey — it still relies on planes to get packages across vast distances, quickly.
Tuesday’s news is the first purchase of jets, but also the second time in the pandemic that the company has added to its number of planes.
In June of 2020, the company leased a dozen 767s from Air Transport Services Group, Inc.
Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.