Add Pittsburgh and Kansas City, Missouri, to Amazon’s rapidly growing network of airports (NASDAQ: AMZN), served by its in-house cargo carrier. This helps the company reduce ground transportation times and deliver online orders quickly to businesses and consumers.
The first Amazon Air flight arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport on Wednesday, the airport authority said in a press release. Amazon Air will operate daily flights into the city on a Boeing 737-800 freighter operated by contractor Sun Country.
The announcement comes two weeks after Amazon Air opened its hub in the western region at San Bernardino International Airport in California and Finnair Cargo started flights to Pittsburgh for a limited time.
Amazon has grown Amazon Air into a major express service provider over five years to support two-day and next-day delivery for its Prime customers. Amazon’s online retail sales rose nearly 39% last year and now accounts for a third of all US ecommerce sales, according to Digital Commerce.
Amazon Air now flies to more than 40 US airports. PIT leases 50,000 square feet of space and the location is expected to support more than 50 jobs. The facility will include an on-site parcel sorting area for the next destination and will be managed by Trego-Duncan Aviation.
Meanwhile, another 737-800 freighter, flying in the colors of Amazon, launched daily flights from Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida to Kansas City on Wednesday, the Kansas City Aviation Department said. Amazon’s 34,000 square foot warehouse at the Kansas City Airport is managed by PrimeFlight Cargo.
“Expanding the network of locations that Amazon Air flies to is critical to supporting fast, free shipping for our customers,” said Chris Preston, director of Amazon Gateway Operations, in a statement.
Amazon is expected to move to a $ 1.5 billion national air transport hub at the Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky Airport in September.
Amazon claims to have more than 70 branded aircraft in its active fleet, whose flight activities have been outsourced to airlines such as Sun Country (NASDAQ: SNCY).
Amazon Air’s flight activity is growing month by month. Analysis of the latest research by the Susquehanna Financial Group suggests that the airline operates around 140 flights per day in the United States
The 660,000 square foot sorting center in San Bernardino began handling Amazon Air flights before the state of California and environmental groups ruled on lawsuits against the company. Amazon Air offers one daily flight to the airport, but the San Bernardino Sun says it will increase to six daily flights through July and nine by the end of the year.
Freight PIT stop
Freight has become a bigger part of PIT’s business plan as officials work to position the airport as an alternative gateway for air freight. The main advantages are a lot of space and speed. Ground teams in Pittsburgh can process much faster than crowded international gateways designed to support a large volume of passengers. It is also geographically within a day’s truck ride from major population centers in the Midwest and along the east coast.
In March, the air freight volume in Pittsburgh increased by 29% compared to 2020, as the freight companies stepped up operations there and deployed larger aircraft, according to the airport authority.
Last month, Finnair started flying non-stop passenger planes with cargo only from Helsinki. Temporary operations on Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which originally carried auto parts from Asia, are expected to last until May. Airline officials said there is a chance the service could expand beyond the original schedule.
Worldwide Flight Services employees unload cargo from a Finnair flight at Pittsburgh International Airport on April 27, 2021. (Photo: Beth Hollerich / Pittsburgh Airport)
It is the first planned A350 flight of any kind after PIT.
In December, Qatar Airways resumed cargo operations at PIT with a weekly flight on a Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft, the seats of which have been temporarily removed to increase capacity while passenger traffic remains low. Cathay Pacific carried cargo for a logistics customer on a similar aircraft for three months last year.
The airport said FedEx and UPS had also stepped up their PIT operations, with airlines increasing flights 46% and 83%, respectively, in March year over year.
UPS has added an additional day flight from Louisville and expanded existing aircraft to include larger aircraft. FedEx also increased its presence at PIT in the first quarter, including the addition of weekday flights to Newark, New Jersey and Indianapolis.
Smaller passenger or cargo airports like Chicago Rockford, Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus, Ohio, and Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina are also seeing increases in freighter flights as logistics companies and their customers try to avoid multi-day backlogs at major airports like Chicago and New York’s JFK.
Click here for more FreightWaves stories from Eric Kulisch.
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