Amazon has a rare opportunity to snatch up cheap planes and take on FedEx

Now could be the best time for Amazon (AMZN) to dramatically increase the size of its air fleet. That’s according to Bank of America analyst Justin Post, who sees the depressed price of aircraft, coupled with the massive increase in demand for delivery services spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, as a golden opportunity for the ecommerce giant to pump cash into its Amazon Air division.

And while that would help Amazon increase its one-day shipping capabilities, it could also give it the firepower it needs to solidify its nascent third-party delivery business as a true competitor to the likes of FedEx (FDX) and UPS (UPS).

Aircraft prices are slumping

According to Post, the cost to lease a B747-8F is down 13% since the start of 2020, while B777s and Airbus 330s are off by 10%, as airlines have cut back on capacity due to the dramatic decrease in air travel caused by the pandemic.

Amazon has already made significant investments in its Amazon Air efforts, with its massive $1.5 billion Air hub built near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport expected to open in 2021.

The goal of the hub is to help lower delivery times for Amazon shipments, expanding its ability to offer one-day shipping services to customers across the country. The company has already stated that it plans to grow its fleet to as many as 70 planes by 2021, up from 50 in 2019.

According to a study by DePaul University, the tech titan could have as many as 200 aircraft in its fleet in just 7 to 8 years, putting it close to UPS, which has 275 planes, in terms of overall fleet size. FedEx still has a far larger fleet of aircraft at 463 planes, the study shows.

A dangerous threat to FedEx and UPS

Amazon is already dipping its toes into the delivery services industry for businesses not shipping goods from the ecommerce firm’s fulfillment centers. The nascent arm of the firm sees drivers pick up packages at participating businesses and deliver them to their customers.

Launched in 2018, Amazon’s shipping service put it in direct competition with the likes of FedEx and UPS. In 2019, FedEx, seeing the growing threat Amazon posed, ended its ground delivery contract with the company.

Amazon Prime Air Boeing 737 aircraft. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But Amazon’s third-party shipping service has been put on hold as a result of the dramatic influx of orders the company has seen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Suspending the service allowed Amazon to focus more on its own in-house delivery needs, which included getting essential items like cleaning supplies and groceries to its customers.

But that doesn’t mean the service is done for. In fact, According to Post, BofA sees Amazon’s delivery service as a potential fourth tentpole business for the already massive company behind its ecommerce, Amazon Web Services, and advertising.

“While the majority of Amazon’s deliveries will be internal with indirect revenues through Prime, using comps we see Amazon’s delivery capabilities as having a 2025 potential market value of $75bn to $171bn in the U.S., based on 7.5bn to 9.7bn packages delivered and a comparable $8 to $10 in revenue per package,” Post wrote in a research note.

Globally the business could have a market value as high as between $100 billion and $250 billion, Post wrote.

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