What are ACMI carriers? I’ve seen them compared to UPS/Fedex, and I’m not sure what differentiates an ACMI carrier from UPS and Fedex.



ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) are carriers that provide any and/or all the above to
other airlines or company’s (the most well know and probably the largest is Atlas). A great example
is Amazon. FedEx and UPS are shipping companies that sell their services and own their own planes (ie, you want to ship a package FedEx, you do to a FedEx store, pay them THEIR money, they put it on THEIR airplane, which is flown by THEIR pilots and then it’s delivered by THEIR drivers). When Amazon started really blowing up they had far to much business (and it was also expensive) to ship everything FedEx. They also wanted to set their own schedules. At that point they weren’t sure about buying planes so a good compromise was go the ACMI route. Amazon signed a deal for Atlas to fly where and when Amazon wanted, but allowed them to use their own facilities and resources for the rest which saved them a fortune. While they eventually bought some planes they still use ACMI for much of their shipping. Other airlines like Emirates and Lufthansa also use ACMI carriers when they want to pursue cargo opportunities, but don’t want to go out and buy a bunch of cargo planes.

As I said, ACMIs offer all or part of the pieces. A cool example is Boeing’s DreamLifter. It’s owned by Boeing but Atlas provides the crews.

Fun fact, I have a number of friends who fly for Atlas. When they fly for Lufthansa, Emirates etc, even though it’s their airplane, their call sign changes to “Lufthansa ×××” etc.


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Interesting that the call sign changes. I would imagine that would be a giant scope violation in this country.