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Amazon inks deal to lease 20 more airplanes

The agreement with Atlas Air Worldiwide comes soon after a similar deal with Air Transport Services, another aircraft operator.

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Amazon is taking flight -- again.

The e-commerce giant on Thursday unveiled a long-term partnership with Atlas Air Worldwide, enlisting the aircraft operator to fly 20 Boeing 767 freighter planes to help Amazon get packages to its millions of US customers. The deal comes after Amazon in March reached a similar deal to have Air Transport Services Group manage another 20 Boeing 767 planes for Amazon.

The Atlas deal will "support package delivery to the rapidly growing number of Prime members who love ultra-fast delivery, great prices and vast selection from Amazon," Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations, said in a statement.

Amazon has been focusing on growing its shipping and logistics capabilities, including buying up thousands of its own truck trailers last year. While such efforts should help Amazon clamp down on its ballooning shipping costs, many observers wonder if Amazon plans to someday rival FedEx or UPS as a shipping provider to other companies. FedEx CEO Fred Smith has dismissed that notion, saying Amazon isn't likely to spend the money needed to build out a sizable delivery network.

For consumers, Amazon's logistics deals may help the company ship products even faster and also keep up the expensive practice of sending people just a few items at a time in only two days.

The Atlas deal is expected to start in the second half of this year and ramp up through 2018. The deal also includes warrants for Amazon to acquire up to 30 percent of Atlas. Amazon put together a similar deal with Air Transport, getting warrants to acquire up to 19.9 percent of that company, too.