Amazon Air arrives at Des Moines International Airport as company pushes toward same-day service
Amazon Air, the air cargo carrier for the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, began daily cargo service Tuesday at Des Moines International Airport, a move analysts said inches the company closer to achieving same-day delivery of many of its products in central Iowa.
The airport leased 8,052 square feet in an existing facility and 32,475 square feet of adjacent tarmac and other storage areas to Trego-Dugan Aviation, an Amazon contractor that will operate the cargo hub.
The inaugural Amazon Air flight arrived shortly before 3 a.m. from Fort Worth, Texas. Cargo was unloaded, and the plane departed again at 6:18 a.m., an airport news release said.
It's the first gateway for Amazon Air in Iowa and "supports shipment of Amazon customer packages throughout the region and country," said a statement from the airport.
The number of jobs at the hub was not released.
Amazon Air's arrival in central Iowa comes as the company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build delivery infrastructure in the Des Moines metro and elsewhere in Iowa. The work began in 2018 with the establishment of a delivery center in North Liberty near Iowa City. A massive expansion began the following year with the construction of a 3-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Bondurant.
Since then, it has built or opened:
- A 247,591-square-foot delivery center in Iowa City.
- A 110,000-square-foot delivery center in Grimes.
- A 278,000-square-foot sortation center in Bondurant, adjacent to the fulfillment center.
- A 137,000-square-foot warehouse in Ankeny.
Under construction are a fulfillment center in Davenport and a 270,000-square-foot sortation center in Council Bluffs. And all signs point to Amazon as the tenant for a planned 1.08-million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Woodward. It would have the largest single-floor footprint of any facility of its kind in the metro.
Marc Wulfraat, president of Canada-based supply chain consulting firm MWPVL International Inc. and a close student of Amazon's expansion, said the establishment of the Des Moines air cargo operation was a predictable part of the company's plan for Iowa. The next nearest gateway for Amazon Air is Kansas City International Airport, nearly 200 miles away.
"Des Moines is geographically remote and has a metro population of 635,000 people so it needs to be connected to the rest of the country to enable two-day delivery for Amazon Prime customers for products that are stocked elsewhere in the country," Wulfraat told the Des Moines Register via email Tuesday.
Amazon initially jumped into air delivery service back in 2015, building up its cargo operations in an effort to avoid delays and maintain its rapid e-commerce growth, according to reporting from The Seattle Times.
Since then, Amazon Air has expanded operations to more than 40 airports in the U.S. and over a dozen international locations, according to research published in September by DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.
The cargo airline, the research says, maintains a fleet of 73 planes.
"Amazon Air's expanded reach bolstered its ability to rapidly move inventory among its multitude of warehouses and sorting services to make next-day delivery possible for an enormous array of products to much of the U.S. population," said the report, titled "Blue Skies for Amazon Air: The Expanding Capabilities of Amazon's Cargo Airline."
Amazon continues to grow in Iowa
Amazon so far has invested around $250 million in Iowa, adding around $200 million into Iowa's annual gross domestic product, according to Amazon spokesperson Caitlin Polochak.
That's not counting the warehouse planned in Woodward. Code named Project Hawk., it is slated for the Woodward Eco-Business Park, just south of Iowa Highway 141.
City officials say they are sworn to secrecy about the company behind the project. But the name of the project is not unlike the initial code name used for the Bondurant fulfillment center, Project Blue Jay, when it was under a similar secrecy pact. Also, just as with that project, an application for state funding to help pay for a roadway surrounding the facility says the company behind Project Hawk "strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.”
The phrase is identical to one on an Amazon public relations website describing the company.
Wulfraat said Amazon's growth in Iowa is only just beginning, with same-day delivery for the Des Moines metro likely within the next two to three years.
"They will likely be adding delivery stations to Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Davenport, Waterloo and Dubuque over time," Wulfraat said. "Des Moines will likely in the future be getting a 150,000-square-foot, sub-same day fulfillment center, as Amazon calls it."
The smaller fulfillment center stocks around 100,000 of Amazon.com's most popular products so the company can offer a five-hour delivery window.
Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @byherodriguez.