October 4, 2023

Amazon downsizes cargo operations at German airport


The air logistics arm of Amazon is closing its regional air hub at Leipzig/Halle International Airport in Germany in response to a downturn in e-commerce sales and parcel volumes that has also forced rival express carriers to downsize their air networks to match lower volumes.

“We’re always evaluating our network to make sure it fits our business needs and to improve the experience for our customers. After careful consideration, we have decided to close our Amazon Air operation at Leipzig/Halle Airport and affected employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to other facilities,” an Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) spokesperson said in an emailed statement, confirming news first reported by industry website ch-aviation.

The hub was handling several flights per week operated by contractor ASL Airlines Ireland using Boeing 737-800 converted freighters, according to Amazon officials and aviation databases. ASL Airlines Ireland operates nine 737-800s in Europe under the Amazon livery.

Amazon will continue to use Leipzig/Halle as a delivery station for customers in the Saxony region, but the airport won’t be used as a collection point for connecting other cities in Europe, the company said.

Amazon began operating to Leipzig/Halle airport, where it leased a 20,000-square-foot facility, in November 2020 with two freighters to speed package delivery for Prime members around the continent. The company said service will not be impacted by the hub’s closure.

The online retail giant has invested in expanding its European logistics network in recent years, including a fulfillment center outside Bremen, Germany, that opened in August. It plans to open an additional fulfillment center and a sortation center in Germany over the next three years.

Amazon Air has also made changes to routes and flight frequencies in Europe to reduce overhead in line with a slowdown in e-commerce sales. ASL Aviation Holdings released 28 pilots in July after Amazon reduced flight requirements in Europe.

The Chaddick Institute at DePaul University researches Amazon Air and estimated in March that ASL Airlines Ireland operates 22 flights per day on its behalf, not including auxiliary flights in nonbranded planes.

Amazon, which relies entirely on partner airlines, is not alone in dialing back flight activity amid a lengthy freight transport recession. DHL Express, FedEx and UPS have all trimmed the number of flights on certain routes and outsourced airlift. The U.S. logistics integrators have also parked dozens of aircraft and accelerated the retirement of older aircraft types, with FedEx also closing some pilot and maintenance bases.

The adjustments within Amazon’s air logistics network are modest compared to FedEx and UPS. Growth in Amazon Air activity has slowed considerably this year after the e-commerce surge during the pandemic. That contrasts with FedEx and UPS, which have cut flight hours. In August, Amazon’s domestic U.S. fleet took to the skies 3% more than the prior year following a 16% year-over-year gain in July. FedEx domestic flight activity was 7% lower in August than the prior year and 14% lower in July. UPS flight activity in the U.S. was 13.5% below 2022 levels for July and August.

Leipzig/Halle is Germany’s second-largest cargo airport.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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