Amazon Unveils Central Air Hub to Speed One-Day Deliveries

Amazon unveiled its $1.5 billion air hub in northern Kentucky this week. The hub will serve as the “central nerve” of the company’s U.S. air cargo operations and aid in speeding up deliveries and having better control over logistics. Amazon Air, which debuted in 2016 as the company’s growing air cargo arm, operates in 40+ airports around the U.S. Its routes are flown by several contracted carriers. Now, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will allow Amazon to improve its one-day and same-day deliveries.

CNBC reports that, “Amazon has also expanded its aviation logistics unit beyond the U.S., opening a 20,000-square-meter regional air hub at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany last November.” The Kentucky hub project has been in development for 4+ years, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos broke ground on it in 2019, remarking that “this hub is going to let us get packages to customers faster … that’s a big deal.”

The hub, which is 600+ acres, “includes a ramp for aircraft parking, a multilevel parking structure and seven buildings … [as well as] an 800,000-square-foot robotic sort center, where packages are sorted by zip code and consolidated into trucks before delivery.”

A report last year from DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development called the hub the “lynchpin to Amazon’s efforts to develop a comprehensive array of domestic delivery services across the United States.”

In addition to capacity for 100 Amazon-branded planes, the hub will be able to handle “an estimated 200 flights per day, telegraphing Amazon’s ambitions to bring more of its air cargo operations in house.” Amazon Air currently has 75+ aircraft in its network and “expects to have more than 80 planes at this time next year and 85, both leased and owned, by the end of 2022.”

Amazon Global Air vice president Sarah Rhoads stated that, “the company is focused on handling its own package volume” right now, rather than explore the possibility of delivering for other companies. Among its contracted carriers are Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and Air Transport Services Group; “last year, low-cost leisure passenger airline Sun Country began flying converted Boeing 737s for Amazon,” a “welcomed revenue source” during the pandemic.

In January, “Amazon acquired 11 used Boeing 767-300 jets from Delta and WestJet, its first-ever outright aircraft purchase.”