During the holiday season, Amazon always sees an influx of shipping orders worldwide, but this year, reports show an unexpectedly high number of transactions.
ShipMatrix. a shipping consultancy agency, estimates that Amazon’s pre-Christmas shipments will total roughly 220 million packages this year, increasing by 27% from 2015.
There are an average of 50,000 merchant ships traveling with cargo every day — many carrying Amazon goods — but the e-commerce giant has been experimenting with other shipping methods, since its normal process has been stretched thin with the high capacity of orders to fill and deliver.
During the past six months, Amazon has been building a worldwide flight network to reduce its dependence on shipping carriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS. Amazon Prime Air is expected to evolve into a drone delivery service, allowing purchases to be delivered in 30 minutes or less using unmanned drones.
An Amazon spokesperson said that Prime Air “has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.”
Currently, however, Prime Air’s shipping methods are more conventional.
Amazon has plans to lease nearly 40 Boeing 767 cargo jets from its subcontractors to make deliveries. While this number is significantly smaller than other carriers’ fleets (FedEx and UPS have nearly 650 jets each), its air operations have nearly doubled since its efforts began. Currently about 15 of the jets are in use, while others should be available for Amazon deliveries next year.
But even getting the Prime Air jets to launch smoothly is proving to be more difficult that expected. In the midst of a pilot shortage, 250 unionized ABX pilots contracted by Amazon went on strike just before Black Friday, amid complaints of being understaffed and underpaid. About 1.3 million pounds of cargo, much from Amazon, was left grounded by the strike until a federal judge ordered the pilots back to work.
Of course, customers only have one thing in mind when it comes to online holiday orders: getting the packages in time. And Amazon is certainly showing that it’s trying to keep up with demand, even if the retail behemoth is falling somewhat short of that goal.
Amazon says that the company is confident that it can still deliver efficient and timely service, but they seem to be learning that their rapid growth during this season has come with great responsibility.