Atlas Air signs two year lease with Amazon for Boeing freighters

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., the air cargo carrier that arranges leases with customers and provides the plane, crew, maintenance and insurance, has revealed that it has signed two multi-year leases with Amazon for 20 Boeing 767-300 freighters converted from passenger aircraft configuration.

In addition, Atlas granted Amazon equity ‘warrants’ to acquire up to 30% of Atlas’ common shares at a fixed price of $37.50 a share over the next seven years.

Under terms of the deal, Titan Aviation, Atlas’ leasing unit, will lease the aircraft to Amazon, and Atlas will operate them.

The so-called dry lease operation that involves Titan, Atlas and Amazon will run for seven years. The agreement for the crew, maintenance, and insurance services solely provided by Atlas has a 10-year duration. Operations are expected to start in the second half of the year and will build until full ramp-up, set to take place throughout 2018, Atlas said.

Mark Solomon, writing in DC Velocity, said that the modus operandi behind’s quest to build a transportation and logistics colossus to support its e-commerce business may be taking shape.

Amazon’s vesting in the warrants is tied to the launch of operations of all 20 planes, as well as other conditions, Atlas said. The 767-300 freighter can carry around 115,000 pounds at a range of about 3,300 nautical miles, according to Boeing data. The aircraft type will support Amazon’s one- to two-day air express-delivery service on routes that may not be reachable by commercial vehicle in that transit time window.

Solomon added that nearly two months ago, Amazon struck a similar arrangement with Ohio-based Air Transport Services Group (ATSG). Amazon agreed to lease 20 of the same planes for a five- to seven-year period and to acquire a 19.9% ownership stake in ATSG if all warrants were exercised. The exercise price was set at $9.73 a share, based on ATSG’s closing price on Feb 9, the day the deal was announced.

The Atlas and ATSG deals bind Amazon to the two carriers both operationally and financially. It also removes capacity that might have been available to other users. And if Amazon exercises the warrants, it would mean making money as an investor in those companies.