A Guide to Air Freight: What Importers/Exporters Need to Know

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A Guide to Air Freight: What Importers/Exporters Need to Know

You’re an exporter or importer ready to take your business to the next level by shipping goods by air. Bravo! But where do you start? What do you need to know?

Don’t worry; ABL Logistics is here to help. Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to air freight. This guide will explain everything you need to know about air freight forwarding, from choosing the right shipping company to understanding the documentation process.

Shipping by Air Freight

When we talk about shipping by air freight, we come across two widely-used shipping/trading terms: air freight and air cargo. Sometimes, air freight companies use these terms interchangeably. While air freight refers specifically to large exports, air cargo refers to any property carried on an aircraft. This includes Air freight, Air Express, Airmail.

If you want to ship by air freight, you can use any of the seven incoterms: EXW, FCA, CPT, CIP, DAP, DPU, and DDP.

The Advantages of Shipping by Air Freight

There are a few advantages to air freight that you should be aware of if you’re thinking about using air freight shipping.

1. Air Freight Is Fast. Really fast. Air freight is the way to go if you need to get your international shipments to your customer quickly.

2. Air Freight Is Relatively Safe. Your goods will be packed securely and less likely to be damaged in transit than if other methods shipped them.

3. Access to Almost Any Destination. The top air freight providers have a network of destinations that spans most of the globe. Although it’s common to send air freight from China to the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, etc., this mode of transport gives you access to thousands of destinations worldwide.

4. Air Freight Is Relatively Easy to Track. You’ll be able to see exactly where your goods are at all times, and you’ll be able to give your customers updates on the status of their orders.

5. Low Freight Insurance Premium. Air freight offers a lower transportation time than sea or land freight so that the cargo insurance will be lower for this mode of transport.

6. Air Shipments Are Highly Reliable. Airlines are meticulous about scheduling flights. The arrival and departure times of your air freight are usually very reliable, which allows you to give accurate info to the receiver of your air cargo.

The Disadvantages of Shipping by Air Freight

Now that you know the basics of air freight, let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages:

1. Air Freight Cost. Air freight is more expensive than sea freight. If you’re on a tight budget, this might not be your shipping method.

But, since you benefit from a lower freight insurance premium and less required packaging. This means you will save money in other areas. It’s also worth reminding you that the damage risk is reduced, so there is less chance you will have to replace or repair damaged cargo.

2. Smaller Carrying Capacity. An aircraft has a limited carrying capacity, so air freight is often unsuitable for Exporters/ Importers to ship heavy, bulky cargo or goods in a large volume.

3. Air Freight Is Sometimes Unpredictable. Air freight is fast, but it’s not always reliable. There can be delays due to weather or other factors beyond your control.

How Does Air Freight Work?

When it comes to air freight, there are a few things you need to know about how it works. First, let’s start with the basics: air freight is the process of shipping goods by plane.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive into the logistics of how it all works. The logistics chain by air includes these steps:

  • 1. The shipper and consignee agree on terms and conditions, including price and estimated time of arrival (ETA).
  • 2. The shipper provides the documentation and prepares the shipment for transport. This includes ensuring that the goods are properly packaged and labeled.
  • 3. The freight forwarder or carrier picks up the shipment from the shipper’s premises and transports it to the airport.
  • 4. The shipment is loaded onto the aircraft and flown to its destination airport.
  • 5. The freight forwarder or carrier picks up the shipment from the destination airport and delivers it to the consignee’s premises.

And that’s how air freight works! Pretty simple.

Types of Air Freight Services

Express Air Freight: Express shipping is the fastest & most expensive way to ship air cargo. Carriers guarantee expedited service, e.g., overnight delivery, for a premium price.

Standard Air Freight: This is the most common service. The shipment might stop at 1 or 2 airports, where it might be transferred to another aircraft or where another cargo might be loaded or off-loaded.

Deferred Air Freight: This allows shippers to defer shipments that are not high priority till space becomes available on an aircraft. Deferred air freight provides the best cost savings because of a longer transit time and multiple stops.

Air Charter: If you’re moving a significant amount of cargo urgently, you can charter a plane, a quick but quite expensive way to ship by air.

Air Courier: such as DHL, UPS, or FedEx – couriers that pick up international cargo from your suppliers/warehouses, ship it by air, and deliver it to its final destination. Air courier is more expensive than general air cargo. If your air shipment is relatively small, for instance, less than 1 cubic meter (CBM) and 45 kg, it might be best shipped by courier.

Different Types of Air Cargo

There are three main types of air cargo: containers, pallets, and unit load devices (ULDs).

-Containers: Containers are the most common form of air cargo. They come in two types, general purpose (GP) and half-height (HH). General purpose containers are the most common and can be loaded from both the top and bottom. Half-height containers can only be loaded from the top.

-Pallets: Pallets are large platforms that goods are placed on for easy loading and unloading. There are two types of pallets, air-freight specific and general purpose. Air-freight specific pallets are designed to fit into the holds of airplanes while general purpose pallets can be used for other forms of transportation.

-Unit load devices: Unit load devices (ULDs) are used to transport cargo that is not containerized or palletized. ULDs come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate different types of cargo.

Air Freight: Cost and Calculation

Now, let’s dive into the details of how air freight costs are calculated. The three main factors are:

  • Weight: The heavier your shipment, the more it will cost to transport.
  • Volume: The larger your shipment, the more it will cost to transport. This is because airfreight carriers charge by volume (cubic meters or cubic feet).
  • Route: The distance your shipment has to travel will also affect the price.

Gross Weight: The gross weight is total weight of air cargo, including packaging and pallets. To calculate it, you’ll need to know the weight and dimensions of both the freight and its packaging.

Once you have that information, you can use this formula:

Gross Weight (kg) = Weight (kg) + Dimensions (cm) / 6000

Volumetric Weight: The second way to calculate the cost of air freight is through volumetric weight. This is basically a measure of how much space your shipment is taking up on the plane, and it’s calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of your shipment (in centimeters), and then dividing that number by 5,000.

The size of your shipment has a big impact on the cost of air freight.

Chargeable Weight: Now that you know the Air Freight rates, you also need to calculate the ‘Chargeable Weight’. The chargeable weight is the greater of the two:

– Actual Weight (rounded up to the next full kilo)

– Volumetric or dimensional weight (height(cm) x width(cm) x length(cm)) / 5000

Additional Charges

Other than the base rate, there are a few other charges you should be aware of:

  • Fuel Surcharge
  • Warehousing Charge
  • Terminal Handling Fees
  • Airport Transfer Fee
  • Documentation Fees
  • Customs Brokerage
  • Hazardous Cargo Surcharge
  • Air Cargo Insurance
  • Pick-Up & Door-to-Door Delivery
  • Accessorial Charges
  • Demurrage Fee

These charges can vary depending on the airline you’re using, so it’s always best to check with your carrier/freight forwarder before booking your shipment.

Air Freight Required Documents

There are a few documents you’ll need to have in order before you can ship your freight via air. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need:

Commercial Invoice: A contract of sale the exporter provides to the importer. It has shipment details, including value and quantity, and their contact details. The importer needs commercial invoice to clear the shipment on his end.

Airway Bill: AWB is a bill carrying details of the cargo issued on completion of the export customs process. The Airway Bill is meant for the carrier, shipper, and consignee. There are 2 types of airway bills–Master Airway Bill issued by the air carrier to the freight forwarder on receipt of the cargo as an agreement to deliver them, and House Airway Bill issued by the freight forwarder to the shipper.

A Packing List: This document lists all the items being shipped and their respective weights and dimensions.

Shipper’s Letter of Instruction: SLI is a legal agreement between the shipper and freight forwarder with particulars such as details of the shipper, consignee & carrier, departure & destination, cargo description, specifics of freight payment, etc.

Door-to-door Air Freight

Door to door shipping is a great option if you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to get your goods from Point A to Point B. But what exactly does door-to-door air freight mean?

In a nutshell, door-to-door air freight is when the freight forwarder takes care of everything from the pick-up to delivery. You don’t have to worry about anything except letting your freight forwarder pick up your goods from your supplier.

ABL Logistics offers a wide range of air freight shipping from China services, including multi-modal transportation and door-to-door delivery, to help you meet your inventory needs and ensure the efficiency of your supply chain and your company’s competitiveness.

Choose the Right Air Freight Carrier

Of course, many air freight carriers can get your goods to an international destination. One of the most important factors to take into consideration is experience. The more experience a carrier has providing air freight services, the smoother the process will be.

ABL Logistics is a highly experienced international air freight forwarding company with over 13 years of experience in the logistics industry. We offer air freight, express shipping, shipping to Amazon FBA, sourcing agent in China, customs brokerage, cargo insurance, and China warehousing services.

We only work with the most reputable global airlines that share our passion and vision. Get in touch for a same-day callback and to receive your freight quote.

Trust Your Air Freight with a Proven Forwarder

It’s important to partner with a proven, reliable air freight forwarder who will treat your air shipment with the utmost care and respect. A professional freight forwarder will have a network of contacts and resources to ensure your international air shipment is delivered on time and within budget.

As a trusted China freight forwarder, ABL Logistics‘s worldwide air freight solutions feature multiple carriers and suppliers that help us provide expedited cargo delivery at competitive shipping rates. We have a mission to become the most respected Freight Forwarder in China that accommodates profitable freight forwarding services along with stress-free delivery.

Check out our Air Freight Services or Contact Us today for your free shipping rate quote.

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