Amazon Air has agreed leases for an additional 12 Boeing 767-300 freighters from Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), which are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021.

Amazon announced the deal on 3 June, stating the expansion of its fleet is part of its efforts to deliver goods ordered through its e-commerce website but also transporting medical supplies for health workers and US relief organizations. The e-commerce giant tells Cirium that it will meet its commitment of 70 aircraft by the end of 2020, with plans to “have over 80 aircraft in our fleet by the end of 2021” following the aircraft deliveries from ATSG.

“Our combined experience in the industry and access to a fleet of 767 cargo aircraft make us an ideal partner to support the growth of Amazon Air’s fleet.” ATSG chief executive Rich Corrado says in a statement.

The carrier, which began operating as Prime Air in 2016, has a fleet of 56 aircraft all of which are leased, Cirium fleets data shows. Amazon Air already leases 26 freighters from ATSG, all 767s, which are operated by the lessor’s subsidiary Air Transport International. Amazon has additional contracts with GECAS to add 12 Boeing 737 aircraft to its fleet by 2021.

The grounding of so many aircraft amid the slump in travel demand has led to “a severe capacity crunch in air cargo”, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac says in a 1 June statement.

The 28% year-over-year decline in global air freight demand in April is the sharpest drop IATA has ever recorded, yet capacity declined even further by 42% year-over-year because of the sharp cuts in passenger operations that also carry cargo.

Amazon and other cargo carriers are positioned to benefit from that capacity shortage while passenger airlines begin to slowly return aircraft to service.

After breaking ground in May 2019 on its $1.5 billion megahub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, the company will plans to expand operations at Lakeland Linder International in Florida “this summer” and at San Bernardino international in 2021.