Amazon buys planes from Delta, WestJet

Amazon has been among the biggest lessors of converted Boeing Co. 767s in the last five years as demand for online shopping has soared. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Amazon has been among the biggest lessors of converted Boeing Co. 767s in the last five years as demand for online shopping has soared. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Amazon announced it is buying seven planes from Delta Air Lines and four from Canadian carrier WestJet, highlighting the growth of cargo shipments and the freefall in air travel since the pandemic began.

Seattle-based Amazon said the 11 planes are Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Amazon Air has a mix of leased and owned planes and uses third-party cargo carriers to operate them. These are the first Boeing 767-300 purchased for its fleet.

While Amazon uses Sandy Spring-based UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service for deliveries, the online retail giant also has been expanding its own shipping service.

Amazon Air will convert the planes from passenger to cargo use to add capacity. Amazon has expanded at airports around the country, including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

When air travel plummeted with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Delta Air Lines grounded more than 600 planes, or more than half of its fleet, and retired its MD-88, MD-90 and Boeing 777 fleets.

Delta recorded a $180 million impairment charge for the retirement of seven 767-300ERs last year.

The airline has been gradually adding back flights, but air travel is still down more than 50% during some periods. That’s in spite of a spike over the Christmas travel period when, on certain days, more than 1 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo that “as difficult as 2020 was, in many ways, I expect the next 12 months to be even more challenging” because of the uncertainty. He said he expects travel demand to remain “deeply depressed” until vaccinations are widely available. But, he said, he thinks the airline eventually will stop burning through cash and return to positive cash flow by spring.

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