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Amazon’s cargo airline begins daily service to Fairbanks, Alaska

Sun Country Airlines, which is raising more than $200 million in IPO this week, to operate flights

Amazon Air's fleet includes narrow-body Boeing 737-800 aircraft. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves at IAH Airport)

Amazon Air is adding Fairbanks, Alaska, as a new destination in its e-commerce freight network, the company announced.

Transportation partner Sun Country Airlines will depart Thursday evening with a 737-800 cargo jet from Portland International Airport on the inaugural flight with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) packages. Amazon also launched daily service to Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday, with ground handling provided by Pinnacle Logistics.

Fairbanks International Airport is Amazon’s second cargo terminal in Alaska after Anchorage and its most northern gateway in the world.

“The addition of this gateway in Fairbanks allows us to deliver items to our customers faster, while gaining the ability to deliver to areas of Alaska that were not previously serviced by Amazon Air,” said Sarah Rhoads, vice president of Amazon Global Air. 

The new gateway will include an on-site area to sort packages bound for their next destination. Naniq Global Logistics LLC is in charge of loading, unloading, sorting and truck transfers at the airport. 

The new site will have more than 50 employees.

Amazon has rapidly built its private airline in five years into a significant express delivery operation to support two-day and next-day delivery for its Prime customers. Amazon’s online retail sales increased 38.6% last year and now represent nearly a third of all U.S. e-commerce sales, according to Digital Commerce. 

Amazon has more than 70 branded  aircraft in its active fleet, with flying activity outsourced to carriers such as Sun Country and Atlas Air (NASDAQ: AAWW). Fairbanks and Toledo are the 32nd and 33rd cities in Amazon Air’s network.

In 2020, Amazon Air began service at several airports, including two more in Hawaii; New Orleans; Austin, Texas; Lakeland, Florida; and Leipzig, Germany. Gateway airports are smaller locations with point-to-point service.

Amazon Air is scheduled to open its $1.5 billion central air hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport this fall. 

Last week, Amazon took a minority stake in another air transport contractor, Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG), based in Wilmington, Ohio.

Sun Country IPO

Sun Country Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ: SNCY) is a leisure airline controlled by Apollo Global Management that began flying 10 737-800 aircraft last year for Amazon on a few routes.

On Wednesday, the low-cost carrier went public with the sale of more than 9 million shares at the initial price of $24 per share. It expects to raise between $218 million and $251 million and use the proceeds to repay loans from the U.S. government under last year’s CARES Act and to buy more used aircraft, officials said in a statement and interview with Reuters.

Sun Country plans to increase its passenger fleet to 50 from 31 by 2023, according to Reuters.

It’s the airline industry’s first initial public offering since 2018. Shares were trading at more than $34 Thursday afternoon.

CEO Jude Bricker told CNBC that Sun Country’s sales have returned to pre-COVID levels and the carrier is rehiring. The company lost $3.9 million last year.

Click here for more FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]