Beyond Prime: Amazon Air gets a shorter name for Christmas, at least in the news

Alan Boyle
GeekWire
Amazon’s delivery planes get a shout-out in the company’s Christmas commercial. (Amazon via YouTube)
Amazon’s delivery planes get a shout-out in the company’s Christmas commercial. (Amazon via YouTube)

Is “Amazon Prime Air” no longer a factor? Not quite, but if you’re reading the tea leaves in today’s post-holiday recap from Amazon, you’ll notice that the online retailing giant’s fleet of Boeing 767 cargo delivery jets is now called “Amazon Air.”

The references pop out in the context of how much stuff Amazon delivered during the holiday season. For example, it’s nice to know that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Amazon Air “carried enough packages to equal over a billion Echo Dots” — which would work out to 360 million pounds, assuming that each Dot weighs 5.7 ounces. Or should we be talking volume? That’d be in the range of 8 million cubic feet.

The post-holiday recap also confirms that Amazon Air’s fleet currently comprises 32 Boeing 767 planes, with some (but not all) bearing the Prime Air livery that made its debut back at 2016’s Seafair festival in Seattle. Twenty planes are operated by Air Transport International. Twelve more are under Atlas Air’s aegis, with another eight undergoing conversion to cargo freighters for operation by Atlas.

All 40 planes that Amazon envisioned at the time of the cargo air operation’s launch in August 2016 are to be in service by the end of 2018. Representatives of the union representing pilots at Atlas and Air Transport say the rapid growth of the fleet is a contributing factor to labor troubles, including a recent work slowdown, but there’s no slowdown in Amazon’s plans.

In fact, Amazon Air is likely to grow, even as the company continues to rely on outside carriers such as UPS and FedEx. Its $1.5 billion cargo hub, currently under construction at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, should eventually be capable of accommodating 100 aircraft.

Last month, Scott Ernest, the president and CEO of Textron Aviation, told CNBC that Amazon’s one of the potential customers for his company’s newly unveiled Cessna SkyCourier 408 turboprop, which is due to enter service in 2020.

“This SkyCourier that we’ve designed is set up for freight at the most economical per-mile basis,” he said.

Even though “Prime” isn’t included in Amazon’s latest references to its cargo air fleet, it looks as the company is sticking to its custom of using prime numbers as the tail numbers for its planes. So it’s a good thing there’s an unlimited supply of primes.

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