The Complete Guide to Air Freight

Air freight

John Pipe International have over 60 years of experience delivering export packing as well as land, sea and air freight. With experience comes insight, so we have created this guide to air freight which aims to help you understand the process of air freight and make your logistics straightforward.

Air freight is the fastest shipping method, making it a popular choice for international exporters. It is also seen as a reliable mode of transport as airlines tend to monitor their schedules closely, however, adverse weather conditions can cause delays or bring air traffic to a complete halt.

If you are looking into a solution for your international shipping, air freight will have likely crossed your mind. We would always recommend talking to an export specialist before reaching a decision but we’ve answered most of the questions we get asked about air freight in this guide to get you started.

What is Air Freight?

Lots of people ask us what air freight is. You’ll be relieved to hear it’s not as scary as it sounds! The meaning of air freight is simply ‘to transport bulk goods by air travel’. This means that your exports will travel to their destination as cargo on an aircraft – often a fast and reliable service.

If your business takes international orders, you will need to send goods overseas. You can choose whether the export travels by land, sea or air. Each mode of freight have their own advantages and disadvantages so it is worth looking into your options.

What is Air Cargo?

Sometimes, air freight companies use these terms interchangeably. While air freight refers specifically to large exports, air cargo refers to any property that is going to be carried on an aircraft. This includes:

  • Air freight
  • Air Express
  • Airmail

6 Advantages of Air Freight

In this guide, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of air freight to help you make an informed decision.

1. Speed

Air freight is well-established as the fastest mode of transport when exporting goods to an overseas destination. This is why it is often the first choice for any exporter with urgent requirements.

Many business owners have to meet strict deadlines and ensure their goods arrive at the destination by a certain time. If your cargo is under time pressure, air freight is the best option for you. The speed of air travel cannot be compared to that of sea or land travel.

2. Reliability

Airlines are meticulous about scheduling flights. The arrival and departure times of your air freight are usually very reliable. This allows you to give accurate information to the receiver of your goods.

Another advantage of air freight is its frequency. Even in cases where a flight has been missed or cancelled, we can usually get your export on the next aircraft. Although this could add hours of delay, it is much better than the days you could have to wait if this problem occurred with sea freight.

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 UK or vice versa, this mode of transport gives you access to thousands of destinations across the world. We’ve even hired an entire Russian Illushiun 76 to get machinery to Detroit, USA from London Stansted.

4. Low Insurance Premium

As air freight offers a lower transportation time than sea or land freight, the insurance premium will be lower for this mode of transport. If your goods are spending less time travelling, there is less chance of anything being lost, stolen or damaged. This can be a huge saving to factor into your budget.

5. Air Freight Tracking

One of the reasons our customers love air freight is the detailed tracking that is available. As well as accurate departure and arrival times, you can monitor flight paths to check that your cargo is en route and keep your customers informed.

As the urgency of air freight often makes it a stressful process, tracking can help to give you and your customers peace of mind. John Pipe International offers a door-to-door service that allows you to track your air freight throughout its journey. 

6. Reduced Damage Risk

Airport safety measures over cargo are tightly managed, meaning air freight is often the safest and most secure mode of transport for your goods. The speed of delivery and less human intervention also means there is less chance of theft, damage or loss. This is another reason why air freight is usually the mode of choice when high-value goods are concerned.

3 Disadvantages of Air Freight

1. Cost

With so many advantages, it can’t come as a surprise to find out that air freight is the most costly mode of transport for your international exports. Often, air freight rates are so high that exporters won’t use this service for low-value shipments.

On the other hand, you do benefit from a lower insurance premium and less packaging is required. 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 which means air freight is often not a suitable option for international shippers exporting bulky or voluminous goods. The maximum cargo dimensions for standard air freight are 2.44 x 3.15m.

3. Air Travel is Unpredictable 

Although the airlines provide you with a detailed flight departure and arrival schedule, there are several reasons your cargo could be delayed. To make matters worse, these reasons are often unpredictable and out of anyone’s control.

Air travel can be halted in adverse weather conditions, so it’s best to keep an eye on the forecasts and have a backup option ready in extreme conditions. 

Calculating the Cost of Your Air Freight

Air freight costs are calculated using the weight or volumetric weight (depending on which is larger) of your cargo. To obtain the volumetric weight of your goods, the air shipping rule of thumb is to multiply the item’s volume in cubic metres by 167. 

The costs are seasonal, increasing when demand reaches its peak. The cost will also vary depending on the arrival destination and the distance your air cargo is travelling. For example, air freight costs from China to the USA range from $2.50 to $5.00 per kilogram.

The best way to obtain an accurate quote for your air freight is to measure the dimensions and weight of your cargo and get in touch with our team for a quote. 

Choosing the Right Air Freight Company

Of course, the decision is down to you. Many air freight companies can get your goods to an international destination. The more information you have about a company the easier it will be to make the decision. 

One of the most important factors to take into consideration is experience. The more experience a company has providing air freight services, the smoother the process will be. John Pipe International have over 60 years of experience in the industry. During that time, we have built relationships with all of the major airlines and do our best to get your export on the next available flight.

Looking into an air freight companies experience will also tell you whether they have the skills and expertise required to manage your load. While some exports are simple, others require additional documentation or extra precautions at the packing stage. John Pipe International work closely with the MoD packing and freighting dangerous goods, defence exports and aerospace exports.

Once you understand the service, it’s important to find an air freight company that can handle your project from start to finish. Whether you need a door-to-door service or detailed air freight tracking, our team are here to help 

Get in touch for a same-day callback and to receive your quote.

Thanks for reading!


Related Blogs