Air cargo shipping is one of the most complex shipping methods due to the many variables involved. Shippers need to know the pros and cons of air cargo shipping to make the best decisions for their shipments. The pros of air cargo shipping include the speed of delivery, the ability to ship to remote locations, and the shipment’s safety. The cons of air cargo shipping include the high cost, the potential for delays, and the need for special handling.
To help you gain an overview of air freight service, its advantages, disadvantages, freight charges, and pricing, we have provided you with a comprehensive guide that lets you figure out if air shipping is the right choice for your cargo.
An Introduction to Air Cargo Shipping
Air cargo shipping is a process by which goods are transported by airplane. Air cargo shipping is faster than other shipping methods but is also more expensive. This mode of transportation is usually used for high-value or time-sensitive shipments. Air cargo shipping is also used for shipments that are too large or heavy to be transported by other means.
The air cargo shipping industry has three main players: airlines, airports, and freight forwarders. Airlines are the companies that own and operate aircraft. They are responsible for getting the cargo from one point to another. Airports are the places where aircraft take off and land. They are responsible for handling the cargo and getting it to and from the airlines. Freight forwarders are the companies that arrange cargo transportation and handle the paperwork.
The air cargo shipping industry is regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The IATA sets standards for the transportation of dangerous goods, live animals, and other types of cargo. They also set rates for the transportation of cargo.
How Air Cargo Shipping Works
The air cargo shipping process is a complex system involving many players cooperating to safely and efficiently transport a wide range of commodities.
The first step in the process is to find an airline that can transport your cargo from point A to point B. Once you find an airline, you must book your shipment with a freight forwarder. A freight forwarder is a company that specializes in arranging transportation for cargo shipments. They will work with the airline to get your shipment from point A to point B. After booking your cargo flight, the freight forwarder will give you a shipment number that you can use to track your shipment in real-time.
The next step is to prepare your shipment for transport. This preparation includes packing your shipment correctly and ensuring it is appropriately labeled. You will also need to fill out a customs declaration form, which will be used to clear your shipment through customs. Once your shipment is ready, the freight forwarder will pick it up and take it to the airport.
At the airport, your shipment will be loaded onto the aircraft and flown to its destination. Once the aircraft arrives at the destination airport, your shipment will be unloaded and taken to the freight forwarder’s warehouse. The freight forwarder will then clear your shipment through customs and deliver it to your door if you have asked for door-to-door delivery service.
Key Benefits of Air Cargo Shipping
There are three key advantages of shipping cargo by air:
- Speed: Air cargo shipping is faster than ocean freight and land freight, which means your goods will arrive at their destination sooner. When compared to ocean liners, airplanes move around 30 times faster. While slow-moving ocean liners go at 16–18 mph, passenger planes travel at a speed of 575 mph. From a plant in China to a warehouse in the United States, an air freight shipment can travel there in as little as five days.
- Reliability: Air cargo shipping is one of the most reliable transport methods. It offers improved tracking and increased assurance that your items will arrive at their destination on time. Also, air freight companies have a good track record of delivering items on time and in good condition. They also have an extensive network of agents and partners who can help with the shipping process. This means that if there are any delays or problems with the shipment, they can usually be resolved quickly.
- Protection: When goods are shipped by air, they are typically placed in containers designed to protect them from the elements and from being jostled around. This means that your goods are less likely to be damaged in transit, and they are more likely to arrive at their destination in the same condition that they left in. Moreover, being shipped by air, your goods are less likely to go missing in transit.
Drawbacks of Air Cargo Shipping
As with any mode of transportation, air cargo shipping comes with its own set of drawbacks as the following:
- High Costs: Air cargo is generally more expensive than other modes of shipping, such as ocean freight. This is due to the many factors that go into running an air cargo operation, such as the high fuel cost, the need for specialized equipment, and the need for trained personnel.
- Limited Capacity: Cargo aircraft are much smaller than ocean cargo vessels and can only carry a fraction of the total cargo that an ocean vessel can. This limits the volume of goods shipped by air and can often make air cargo shipping more expensive than ocean shipping.
- Unfit for Specific Products: some products are unsuitable for this type of transportation. This is often the case with perishable goods, as they can spoil during the journey or be damaged by extreme cold or heat. Additionally, explosives, flammable liquids, corrosive materials, pressurized containers, and magnets are among the items that are typically considered unfit for air cargo shipping.
- Dependable on Weather Conditions: Air cargo shipping depends on weather conditions. If the weather is bad, it can cause delays in the shipping process and even lead to cancellations. This can be a significant problem if you are shipping something that is time-sensitive or needs to be delivered by a specific date.
Air Cargo Shipping Costs and Prices
Weight and volume are crucial elements in air freight shipping. Depending on which is more expensive, airlines will charge either by volumetric weight (also known as dimensional weight) or actual weight.
To calculate the volumetric weight for air cargo shipping, multiply the item’s volume in cubic meters by 167. For instance, you have a package with the following dimensions: W: 50cm, H: 50cm, L:50. This means that the volume is 0.125 (the multiplication of all sides divided by one million). Then, multiply this by 167, and you get a volumetric weight of 20.875 kg.
The volumetric weight becomes the chargeable weight if it is greater than the actual weight of the goods. You can determine whether your shipment will be charged by actual weight or dimensional weight for air shipments using a chargeable weight calculator that freight forwarders usually provide on their website.
Air Cargo Shipping Additional Charges
In addition to the cost of air cargo, which is determined using the price calculation method above, the total cost of shipping by air is likely to include:
- Fuel Surcharges
- Security Surcharges
- Container Shipping Station/Terminal Handling Fees
- Airport Transfers
Air cargo services, such as the following, will also be included in the pricing for door-to-door costs:
How to Choose the Right Air Cargo Shipping Company
There are a few things to consider when choosing an air cargo shipping company. The first is ensuring the company is reputable and has a good track record. You can check online reviews and compare prices to understand what different shipping companies offer.
It’s also essential to ensure your chosen company has experience shipping to your destination. Some companies specialize in shipping to certain countries or regions, so it’s crucial to ensure they’re familiar with your destination’s customs regulations and procedures.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the cost of shipping. Air cargo can be expensive, so it’s advisable to get quotes from several companies to compare prices. Make sure to ask about any additional fees or surcharges to get an accurate estimate of the total cost.
How Air Freight Rates Have Changed Over the Past Years
Air freight shipping rates have changed significantly over the past years. In the early 2000s, the average air freight shipping rate was around $0.50 per pound. This rate has since increased to approximately $1.00-$1.50 per pound, depending on the specific circumstances. The primary reason for this increase is the rising cost of fuel. Airplanes use a lot of fuel, and as fuel prices have gone up, so have the rates for air freight shipping.
In addition, the global economy has become increasingly interconnected, leading to more goods being shipped worldwide. This increased demand for air freight shipping has also contributed to higher rates.
According to Transport Intelligence, global freight forwarders saw an increase in international air freight usage of less than 1% in 2015. Air freight growth in 2019 was only 1.6%, down from 5% in 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
This mild drop was caused, in part, by a greater reliance on ocean freight. But due to the lengthy delays and unpredictable travel times that plague maritime freight, more importers and exporters switched to air cargo.
Due to a lack of space, restrictions on passenger travel, increasing consumer demand, and other pandemic-related variables from March 2020, air freight charges have doubled. Hence, prices are still high, with importers and exporters often relying on ocean freight if they can afford the time.
Knowing the key benefits and drawbacks of air freight, you can assess your logistics needs and decide whether or not air freight is the best mode of transportation for your goods. You can also ask a professional freight forwarding company to guide you every step of the way.
As a leading digital freight forwarding company in the UAE, DFreight provides you with all the air freight services needed to ship your cargo worldwide. We ship a wide variety of commodities from many countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North & South America, and Oceania to the UAE and vice versa. You can find every specific country you want to ship from/to on our Air Freight Services.
Affordable pricing, fast delivery, booking convenience, online tracking, and customs brokerage are the key value propositions that DFreight Air Freight Service offers its business customers. You can easily submit your inquiry in a few clicks on our digital platform to find the best air shipment proposal that suits your specific needs.
What is air cargo shipping?
Air cargo shipping is the process of transporting goods by airplane. This mode of transportation is usually used for high-value or time-sensitive shipments. Air cargo shipping is also used for shipments that are too large or heavy to be transported by other means.
How can I ship my cargo by air?
First find an airline that can transport your cargo from point A to point B. Then, book your shipment with a freight forwarder that will work with the airline to get your shipment to its destination. After your shipment is booked, the freight forwarder will give you a shipment number that you can use to track your shipment.
What are the advantages of air cargo shipping?
There are three key advantages of shipping cargo by air: speed, reliability, and protection. Air cargo shipping is faster than other modes of transportation. It provides improved tracking and increased assurance that your items will arrive at their destination on time. Moreover, your goods are less likely to be damaged or lost in transit.
What are the disadvantages of air cargo shipping?
Air cargo shipping is generally more expensive than other modes of shipping. It provides smaller cargo space than ocean vessels and is very dependent on weather conditions. Moreover, some products are unfit for air freight, such as perishables or flammable liquids.
Why should I choose DFreight for air cargo shipping?
Competitive pricing, fast delivery, booking convenience, online live tracking, and customs brokerage are the key value propositions that DFreight Air Freight Service offers its business customers.