Inside Atlas Air – The American Cargo Giant

Atlas Air is an American airline offering cargo, passenger charter, and leasing operations to companies globally. The carrier is also notable for being the largest 747 operator globally, with 55 aircraft in its fleet. But did you know Atlas Air also operates the Boeing 747 Dreamlifter and trains Air Force One pilots? Let’s find out more about Atlas Air.

Atlas Air Boeing 747
Atlas Air is the largest 747 operator in the world, flying both the cargo and passenger variants. Photo: Getty Images


Atlas Air started flying in 1993 with a single Boeing 747-200, focusing on long-term cargo leases and has since rapidly grown into a major cargo airline. Its cargo operations extend beyond its own flights and also including leasing options to companies, known as ACMI and CMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance).

Notably, Atlas Air provides leasing services to Amazon’s growing Prime Air fleet of aircraft and operates the 747 Dreamlifter on Boeing’s behalf. The airline also flies cargo for major airlines and companies such as Asiana, Qantas, El Al, Amazon, UPS, DHL, and more.

Boeing 747-400LCF Dreamlifter
Atlas holds the contract to operate the Boeing 747 Dreamlifter. Photo: Altair78 via Wikimedia Commons

As of 2019, Atlas flies to over 400 destinations in 90 countries, with a particular emphasis on routes in South America. The airline operated 65,000 flights last year, not including its subsidiary airlines. Considering the cargo market’s growth in 2020, we can expect the airline to see its operations grow.

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As we mentioned, Atlas Air is currently the largest operator of the 747 globally. It should be noted that Atlas Air also owns cargo airlines Polar Air and Southern Air, whose fleets are included in this count. The airline also operates freight and passenger variants of the 777, 767, and 737. The airline operates an all-Boeing fleet of 109 aircraft, with the following breakdown:

  • 34 Boeing 747-400Fs
  • 10 Boeing 747-8Fs
  • 5 Boeing 747-400s (passenger variant)
  • 35 Boeing 767-200/300Fs
  • 6 Boeing 767-200/300ERs (passenger)
  • 14 Boeing 777Fs
  • 9 Boeing 737Fs
Atlas Air 767
Atlas Air operates an all-Boeing fleet of 747s, 777, 767s, and 737s. Photo: Atlas Air

The oldest aircraft in the fleet are the 767-200s, which average 36.9 years, according to The youngest are the ten 747-8Fs, which clock in at eight years old. Many of the airline’s 747s are older and currently on lease.

Aside from cargo operations, Atlas Air also has a small fleet of passenger aircraft it offers on a charter basis. These planes are routinely used by the US military, sports teams, repatriation flights, and other purposes.

Atlas Air passenger
The airline operated charter passenger services, including for the US military. Photo: Atlas Air

Interesting facts

We’ve already spoken about Atlas’ lucrative contracts as the Amazon Prime Air fleet operator and Dreamlifters. However, one of the most unique missions is its role in training the pilots of Air Force One, the aircraft carrying the President of the United States. Atlas provides ground and flight simulator training to Air Force One pilots in its Miami training facility, according to Globenewswire.

Atlas offers flight simulator training to the pilots of Air Force One. Photo: Getty Images

Atlas Air plans to continue growing its fleet in the coming years as it sees demand continuing to rise. Its fleet of 747 aircraft is also likely to stay on for decades to come, guaranteeing that the Queen of the Skies remains flying.