Cast your eyes up in the sky for a moment. You might see a passing plane, but it may not just carry general travellers. Instead, it could be safely transporting goods, boosting the global supply chain and logistics, one package at a time.
Air freight services, no doubt, are the lifeblood of many industries, especially for those dealing with perishables, time-sensitive items, or high-value commodities. But as with anything that soars high, it also faces its share of turbulence. From cost considerations to environmental impact, air freight isn’t without its challenges.
And in this blog, this is the topic you’ll learn about. Following this blog, you’ll understand what Air Freight is and its Pros and Cons. Also, you’ll conclude by knowing the different types and the process of Air Freight and how much it costs.
What is Air Freight?
Air freight, in simple words, is the transportation of goods by aircraft. It might sound straightforward, but the reality is far more intricate and complex. Various elements – scheduling, loading, flying, unloading, sorting, and finally delivering – everything streamlined together to get your cargo from one part of the globe to another, often within a matter of hours or days.
But air freight isn’t merely about speed; it’s also about reach and connectivity. It is indispensable in bridging markets, connecting producers and consumers separated by oceans and continents.
What are the Benefits of Air Freight?
Air freight offers an unparalleled advantage in speed. As the fastest mode of transportation for goods, it ensures swift delivery, often within a matter of hours or days. This makes it the preferred choice for time-critical consignments such as perishable goods or time-sensitive medical supplies. For businesses operating on tight schedules or dealing with customers who need immediate service, the unmatched speed of air freight can be a game-changer.
One of the most notable advantages of air freight is its extensive global reach. Unlike other modes of transport, air freight is capable of delivering goods to nearly any location worldwide, even remote or isolated areas. This comprehensive network is an integral part of the global trade ecosystem, connecting producers and consumers across continents and ensuring the smooth flow of goods on an international scale.
Reliable and Predictable
Air freight operates on strict schedules, making it highly reliable and predictable. This attribute is beneficial for businesses that require meticulous planning and execution. The chances of delays are significantly minimized, ensuring goods reach their intended destination within the expected timeframe.
From high-value commodities and perishable goods to urgent medical supplies and small parcels, air freight accommodates a wide range of cargo types. This versatility caters to various sectors, providing them with a flexible solution that meets their unique shipping needs.
Lower Insurance Premium
Due to the shorter transit times of air freight, insurance premiums can be lower compared to other modes of transportation. This can contribute to the overall cost-effectiveness of air freight for certain types of cargo.
What are the Drawbacks of Air Freight?
While air freight provides unmatched speed and extensive reach, these advantages come at a substantial cost. Generally, air freight is significantly more expensive than sea or road transport. The cost per kilogram for air freight can be considerably higher, making it prohibitive to transport bulky or heavy goods that don’t have a high value per unit weight.
The environmental impact of air freight is another considerable downside. Aircraft emit high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses, contributing significantly to global warming. This makes air freight one of the least environmentally friendly modes of transport.
Air transport is subject to strict regulatory controls, which can limit what can be transported. Certain hazardous materials, for example, may be restricted or require special handling, increasing the complexity and cost of shipping.
What are the Types of Air Freight?
An integral part of the air freight industry, charter flights are typically used for unique shipping needs. They are, essentially, private flights that a client hires for a specific route and time frame.
Charters have the unique advantage of flexibility – they can transport cargo to almost any airport in the world. This feature is particularly beneficial for urgent, oversized, or hazardous cargo that needs to be shipped to remote locations or outside regular flight schedules.
When it comes to shipping documents or small packages quickly and securely, on-board courier services are the preferred choice. These couriers personally carry your package onto a commercial flight and deliver it hand-to-hand. This level of personal service ensures the highest level of security and speed, making it ideal for transporting sensitive documents or valuable items.
Commercial airlines play a significant role in air freight, often transporting cargo in the belly hold of passenger aircraft. This practice allows airlines to maximize their revenue and offers shippers access to a vast global network of routes.
As the name suggests, freighters are aircraft specifically designed or converted to carry cargo. These planes typically have large cargo doors and spacious holds to accommodate a variety of cargo sizes and shapes. These cargo-specific aircraft are often used for larger or heavier shipments that can’t be handled by commercial airlines.
Combination carriers are a versatile choice in air freight, operating both passenger and freighter services. These carriers can adapt to market conditions by adjusting the mix of passenger and cargo flights.
What is the Process of Air Freight?
Preparation of Goods
In order to prepare items for air transport, it is crucial to package and label each item according to strict regulations carefully. The packaging must be sufficient to withstand the challenges of air travel, while the labels should indicate the type of goods, their destination, and any special handling instructions.
Collection and Consolidation
Once goods are prepared for shipping, they are collected from the sender and transported to the air freight carrier’s facility. Here, individual shipments are consolidated into larger units for efficient transportation. Consolidation also allows for cost-effective shipping for smaller consignments as they can share space with other shipments.
Loading and Air Transit
Following consolidation, goods are loaded onto the aircraft. This process is carefully programmed to maintain balance in the aircraft and to ensure that goods requiring specific temperature or handling conditions are appropriately placed.
Upon arrival at the destination country, goods undergo customs clearance. This involves inspection by customs authorities, validation of documentation, and payment of any applicable customs duties. It’s essential to prepare accurate documentation to prevent any delays or complications during this stage.
Delivery to Recipient
After clearing customs, goods are then transported to their final destination. Depending upon the terms of shipping, this could be a local freight terminal (for the recipient to collect) or the recipient’s doorstep (known as a door-to-door service).
Tracking and Documentation
Throughout this entire process, the movement of goods is closely monitored using various tracking systems. Shippers and recipients can generally access real-time information about their shipment’s progress, offering peace of mind and allowing for precise planning.
Risk Management and Insurance
Air freight companies employ comprehensive risk management strategies to minimise the potential for damage or loss of goods. This includes meticulous loading procedures, secure storage, and careful handling. Most also offer air freight insurance coverage for the value of goods, providing financial protection against unforeseen incidents.
Unforeseen Delays and Challenges
Despite best efforts, unforeseen delays and challenges can occur in air freight due to weather disruptions, technical issues, or other unexpected incidents. In such cases, the air freight company’s role is to manage these challenges effectively to minimize disruption and communicate promptly with clients about any changes to delivery schedules.
Air freight stands as a beacon of modern logistical achievement. From delivering time-sensitive documents to transporting medical supplies, it serves as a lifeline that connects continents, countries, cities, and people.
Yet, as with any form of transport, it’s not without its turbulence. But with an understanding of air freight’s pros and cons, you’re now better equipped to chart a smoother course.
What are air freight products?
Air freight products encompass a wide range of goods that require rapid, secure, and reliable transport. They typically include perishable items like fresh produce, seafood, or flowers; urgent or time-critical materials like medical supplies and radiopharmaceuticals; high-value commodities such as technological devices, jewellery, and luxury goods; and other sensitive items that demand strict temperature control or special handling.
What is the role of air freight?
Air freight plays a crucial role in the global logistics and supply chain, offering the fastest means of transporting goods worldwide.
What is air cargo vs air freight?
Air cargo and air freight are two terms often used interchangeably in the logistics industry, but they do have distinct meanings.
Air freight refers to the process of transporting goods by air, typically via chartered or commercial aircraft. On the other hand, air cargo refers specifically to the goods or commodities being transported by air.
What documents are required for air freight?
The most important shipping documents are:
- Commercial Invoice
- Consular Invoice
- Certificate of Origin
- Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED)
- Export Packing List
- Inspection Certification
- Air or Rail Waybill
- Destination Control Statement