- Amazon has ramped up air cargo flights at its largest hubs while maintaining or shrinking flight activity elsewhere, according to an institute tracking the company's air operations.
- Between August 2022 and March 2023, Amazon Air's domestic takeoffs and landings grew 2.8%, per the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development's report, published Tuesday. However, U.S. activity outside of its top hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) fell by 1.5% over that period.
- "Such changes contrast sharply with patterns observed a year ago, when it appeared Amazon sought to create a large set of minihubs, almost all of which seemed poised to grow," the report's authors wrote.
Amazon Air shifts flight activity to its major hubs
Amazon Air's network is starting to look more like the hub-centric models of air cargo giants FedEx and UPS as it reduces its reliance on point-to-point flying, per the report. This approach allows the company to benefit from faster connections between hundreds of flight combinations while also complementing its trucking network.
Amazon Air's CVG hub is a critical component in that strategy. The 800,000-square-foot facility's central location in the U.S. helps it facilitate the rapid transport of packages, Sarah Rhoads, vice president of Amazon Global Air, said in a 2021 blog post, the year it began operations.
Activity at the hub has surged of late, growing from 44 to 58 daily flights since September, according to the report. Growing flight capacity at CVG helps Amazon keep next-day deliveries on schedule even for coast-to-coast shipments.
"The product could be on a plane leaving San Francisco at 4 pm ET and transferred to a CVG-to-Manchester, NH flight that arrives at 3 am, where it could be transported by truck to a local fulfillment center for a late-morning delivery," the report's authors wrote.
Although secondary hubs saw reduced activity over the report's time period, they still play an important role in the company's supply chain. Flight departures tend to be spread out between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. at these hubs, suggesting they are focused on inventory movements and slower delivery options rather than the next-day shipping orientation of CVG, according to the report.
"Daytime flights complement Amazon’s massive trucking operation, which can move merchandise more cheaply than flights and has long had a night-time scheduling orientation," the report's authors wrote.
A reduction in operating costs across its sprawling fulfillment network is a high priority for Amazon this year. As of Feb. 24, the company has canceled, closed or delayed 99 facilities, according to a consulting firm tracking the company. That figure includes a canceled regional air hub in Newark, New Jersey, which saw resistance from elected officials and local activists.