July 15, 2023

Amazon partner airline ASL cuts 28 European contract pilots


ASL Aviation Holdings, a Dublin-based contract air transport provider for Amazon and other companies, has let go 28 pilots after the online retailer scaled back the number of flights it operates in Europe.

The company confirmed that it released the pilots, who were provided by recruitment firm CAE Parc Aviation, because they were no longer needed. 

ASL has airline subsidiaries in Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as joint ventures in India and Thailand. The company operates 160 aircraft, according to its website.

“Unlike scheduled passenger carriers, ASL Airlines does not operate fixed summer and winter networks. Our operations can change from time to time in accordance with the requirements of our cargo customers and our pilot numbers can fluctuate accordingly. We currently have a surplus of 28 pilots who are of various nationalities and are based in Germany. These pilots are employed by a third party contractor and it is a matter of deep regret that these contracts are being terminated and we are very much aware of the impact on the pilots involved,” the company said in a statement provided by email. “However, we are very hopeful that the contractor will be able to reassign the pilots, and we will also prioritize these pilots for positions in ASL Airlines when we are recruiting.”

Irish national radio station RTE first reported the pilot reductions at ASL

ASL Airlines Ireland operates nine Boeing 737-800 converted freighters for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), according to fleet database Planespotters. The planes operate through several regional hubs, including one at Leipzig/Halle airport in central Germany.

The company declined to identify the customer that scaled back business, but the personnel reductions coincide with Amazon’s acknowledgement that it is streamlining its European air parcel network.

“At Amazon we are constantly evaluating and refining our network to ensure we can provide customers fast, reliable delivery. We are reducing some Amazon Air flights in Europe, which won’t have any impact on the existing delivery experience that customers can expect from Amazon in the region,” the company said in a statement.

News about Amazon’s change to European flight activity originally appeared in Air Cargo News.

The moves follow Amazon’s recent decision to terminate its contract with Silver Airways, a small regional carrier that flew five ATR72-500 turboprops for Amazon from a Texas base.

Amazon uses its air logistics network to meet one- and two-day delivery promises for eligible Prime members. The U.S. and European cuts are a response to Amazon reconfiguring its logistics network along regional lines rather than distributing inventory from distribution centers across the country, resulting in shorter travel distances and reducing the need for some air routes. Slower e-commerce sales are likely also part of the calculation.

For example, Amazon has built up its European fulfillment network and can now use its larger footprint to place inventory closer to customers, a company representative explained.

Research by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development in March revealed that Amazon is also relying less on point-to-point routes in favor of a hub-and-spoke system. European takeoffs and landings had increased to 48 per day as of February versus 17 two years earlier. The DePaul study said Amazon Air also utilizes planes operated by ASL Airlines that aren’t branded as Amazon.

The in-house airline’s frantic pace of growth has slowed from recent years, but the retail platform has not engaged in the same kind of air downsizing — at least domestically — taking place at express carriers FedEx, UPS and DHL, where many planes have been parked or retired early because of soft market conditions.

Amazon Air flew 3% less month over month in April, but flight activity increased 7% in May and was flat in June. It is up 13% year over year, according to analysis by Morgan Stanley.

In February, Air Transport Services Group said its flying for Amazon had diminished slightly. Amazon disputed that characterization, saying air cargo volumes have remained consistent and that flight schedules are typically lighter in the first part of the year to allow for regular aircraft maintenance.

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

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