What is Air Freight?
Air freight - Fastest way to move your belongings overseas
Air freight is the shipment of unaccompanied goods between countries via an air carrier, which may be via a specific charter flight, a commercial flight, or a passenger flight. Air freight shipments can travel in and out of just about any commercial or passenger airport in the world.
Air freight is the fastest way to ship your belongings overseas. You can expect a door-to-door delivery within seven to 15 days, depending on your origin and destination.
What Type of Items Should be Shipped via Air Freight?
Given the speed at which items shipped by air freight arrive at their destination, air freight is the best moving overseas shipping option for high-priority items that you will need immediately on arrival (but may not fit into your accompanying luggage), such as:
- Kitchen utensils
- Children’s toys
- Office equipment.
While air freight can be ideal for relatively small or light shipments, it can become quite costly for large shipments.
If you will be shipping most of your belongings by sea freight (which may take weeks or even months to arrive), you may want to consider a small air freight consignment for essential items that you would like to have immediately on arrival.
How is the Cost of Air Freight Calculated?
There are three main determinates used when calculating the cost of air freight:
- The route your items need to travel: what is the distance between your origin pick-up point and the destination delivery point
- By comparing the volume of your shipment with the weight of your shipment; whichever of the two figures is higher will be used as the chargeable weight
- Common air freight surcharges.
This criterion is self-explanatory: the longer the route, the higher the cost. This higher cost can be attributed to factors such as additional fuel and staffing expenses.
The volume of your items (how much room the items take up on the plane) is calculated by multiplying the length, height and width of the item.
The result is then multiplied by a pre-determined weight-to-volume scale, which is usually 167kg per cubic meter.
Once the multiplication is complete, the final number is:
- Kept as is if it is a round number (ie. 100kg)
- Rounded up to the 100kg (ie. 99.6kg would become 100kg).
This is the total weight of the items being shipped, including all packaging materials.
Air Freight Cost Example
As an example, let’s calculate the cost of an air freight shipment if it:
- Weighed 95kg in total
- Had dimensions of 1.5m x 1m x 0.5m.
To calculate the volume of the shipment in cubic meters, you multiply the dimensions: 1.5m x 1m x 0.5m = 0.75m3.
Multiply the answer (0.75m3) by the airline’s pre-determined weight-to-volume scale, which is usually 167kg per cubic meter: 0.75m3 x 167kg = 125.25kg (volumetric weight).
As the volumetric weight of the shipment is 125.25kg, which is more than the actual weight of the shipment, you will pay freight on the volumetric weight of 125.25kg.
Alternatively, if your shipment had weighed 150kg in total, you would pay air freight on the actual weight as this is the higher figure.
Common Air Freight Surcharges
There may be additional airline surcharges included in the cost of air freight, including:
- Fuel surcharges
- Automated Manifest Service (AMS) surcharges (a system used for the processing of electronic air manifests)
- Security surcharges (sometimes referred to as a War Risk or Risk surcharge)
- Screening surcharges (this usually only applies if the shipper is unknown)
- Dangerous Goods surcharges (applicable only if your shipment contains dangerous, hazardous or restricted items)
- Currency Adjustment Factor (CAF) for fluctuations in exchange rates.
How the Air Freight Process Works
The air freight process can vary depending on the provider, however, ours includes several easy-to-follow steps, from packing, preparation and location transportation, through to international transportation, customs clearance and delivery.
Packing and Preparation
- Packing: your belongings will be safely and securely prepared and packed, with a detailed inventory list compiled for each box; this inventory list is essential for smooth customs clearance
- Make Ready for Transport: your belongings and moving boxes will be clearly labeled, and all relevant customs and security documentation will be completed.
- Pickup and Transport: your belongings will be safely picked up, loaded and transported to our warehouse for weighing and security sealing for superior protection. They may be placed inside an air cargo pallet, a lower deck container, a box-type container or an air and land intermodal container (depending on the volume of your belongings and the type of airplane on which they are being shipped) for added protection
- Incoming Checks: your belongings will be double-checked for labeling errors and re-labeling if required; customs documentation will be double-checked
- Airway Bill Prepared: a master Airway Bill will be prepared
- Transport to Airport: your belongings will be safely and securely transported to the airport, with the carrier informed ahead of time of their arrival.
- Outgoing Checks: administrative checks will be performed to ensure all paperwork is provided and in order
- Loading: your belongings will be carefully loaded onto the aircraft, and prepared for a safe flight
- Flight: your belongings will be quickly and reliably transported overseas by air
- Incoming Checks: as your belongings are carefully unloaded from the aircraft, the shipment will be thoroughly checked against all shipping manifests, and then loaded onto a truck for dispatch.
Customs Clearance and Delivery
- Customs Clearance: your belongings will be processed by the destination customs authority, cleared for transfer and collected by our reliable, professional movers
- Delivery: we will help ensure that your belongings are safely and securely delivered to your new home (or into storage) on-time and intact.
What are the Different Types of Air Freight Aircraft?
Your belongings may be transported in several different types of aircraft, including passenger aircraft, dedicated cargo aircraft (also known as ‘freighters’), combination aircraft or (although less likely) super transporters.
Passenger aircraft are often used to transport air freight consignments. Depending on the size, type and configuration of the aircraft, some passenger planes can carry as much as two semi-trailer loads of freight. For instance, a Boeing 747-700 can hold just over 400 passengers, along with over 150m3 (5,000ft3)of freight. Freight is usually placed inside specially designed containers or pallets that lock into place in the cargo area, which is located immediately below the passenger deck. Many passenger aircraft also have pressurized and temperature-controlled areas below the passenger deck for the transportation of pets and animals.
Cargo Aircraft or ‘Freighters’
Dedicated cargo planes can carry huge volumes of air freight. For instance, when configured as a dedicated cargo plan, the Boeing 747-400 can transport up to five semi-trailer loads of freight, or 735m3 (25,000ft3). Cargo aircraft look much the same as passenger planes on the outside. However, all the seats are removed, and the carpeted floor is replaced with electric rollers that move pallets. Freight can also be placed on a lower deck, which is fitted with specially designed containers or pallets that lock into place. Loading and unloading occurs through various hatches on the sides of the aircraft and sometimes through the nose. Cargo planes are loaded either via the nose of the plane or through large cargo doors on the side.
As the name suggests, the main deck of a combination aircraft accommodates both freight and passengers. Generally, the front half of the main deck will be equipped with passenger seating, while at the rear, the seats will be removed to hold cargo. Freight is loaded on the main deck through a large cargo door on the side of the plane.
Specialist super transporters are designed to transport heavy, oversized items such as industrial generators, helicopters and even other planes. They have a huge cargo area, often located above the plane’s cockpit. It is unlikely that household goods would find their way onto these enormous planes.
What are the Different Types of Air Cargo Containers?
Air cargo containers for your move overseas
There are three basic types of air cargo containers:
- Air cargo pallets
- Lower deck containers
- Box containers.
The type of air cargo container used for your shipment will depend mainly on the volume of belongings being shipped and the type of aircraft on which they are shipped.
Air Cargo Pallets
Air cargo pallets are specifically designed to be used with conveyer systems in terminals and aircrafts. The bottom of each pallet is secured to the deck of the aircraft. A net is then placed over the top of the cargo, which is held in place by tension straps, effectively securing the cargo to the pallet. In some instances, a contoured cover (known as an ‘igloo’, ‘hulahut’ or ‘cocoon’) may be placed over the top of the shipment for added protection.
Lower Deck Containers
Lower deck containers are completely enclosed and designed to house shipments that are placed in the lower cargo decks of aircraft. If a lower deck container is used, your shipment will be placed on shelving inside the container, with the container doors (constructed from metal, fabric or a combination) securely closed and sealed. Lower deck containers lock directly into aircraft restraint systems. As such, there is no need for tie-downs or nets.
Developed in standard sizes to make uniform shipping possible, box containers may be constructed from plywood, fiberglass, wood, metal or a combination of these materials. Box containers are used to consolidate shipments for quick and easy handling.
What are the Advantages of Air Freight versus Sea Freight?
Air freight could be the best way to move abroad, as it offers several advantages:
- Air freight is the fastest means by which to transport your belongings, with delivery taking between seven and 15 days, depending on your destination
- It can be a safer form of transport when compared to sea freight. Container ships move in six different directions, often travelling over 20m (65ft) with each roll, as often as seven to 10 times per minute. With air freight, your belongings are not tossed about for weeks on end, nor are they subject to the same delays and variables
- It can be a more reliable form of transport when compared to sea freight:
- Your belongings will be in transit for a much shorter period, and subject to fewer (if any) stops along the way. Both factors mean less handling, reducing the risk of breakage or damage
- Arrival and departure times of flights are highly reliable, and missing a flight should not cause too much of delay because flights depart so regularly.
- When compared to sea freight, the customs clearance process can be more efficient, reducing the potential for delayed delivery
- You receive a dedicated tracking number for your shipment, which allows you to check on the location and progress of your belongings in real time
- Air freight is extremely convenient. Airlines have a huge network of destinations across the globe, so your belongings can be transported by air freight to just about anywhere in the world
- As air freight transportation times are shorter than that of sea freight, and subjected to less handling and movement, insurance costs can be lower
- Air freight offers a high level of security, with airport safety controls tightly managed across the globe, which helps reduce the risk of theft.
What are the Disadvantages of Air Freight versus Sea Freight?
The disadvantages of shipping your belongings by air are minimal, with a few things to keep in mind:
- Air freight is a costly international transportation method. As with most services, convenience and speed comes with at a price. However, the higher price does not mean you can’t get great value for money. Simply ship the bulk of your consignment via sea freight, and reserve air freight for those items that you’ll need immediately and high-values items
- Air freight is subject to weather conditions, with inclement weather such as snow, hurricanes, storms and fogs delaying plane departure times. However, given the regularity of flight departures, any delays are usually minimal
- Some items physically cannot be shipped by air freight (necessitating the use of sea freight), including:
- Very large items:
- A height of more than 1.5m (5ft)
- A width of more than 2m (6.5ft)
- A length of more than 2m (6.5ft).
- Some dangerous goods are not allowed to be shipped by air freight (with some also not allowed by sea freight):
- Corrosives materials, like acids and alkalis
- Machines with petrol powered engines, like lawn mowers, chain saws and other power tools
- Explosives, fireworks and flares
- Fuel, petrol, oil and paint
- Drain cleaners and solvents
- Ammunition, gunpowder, mace, tear gas and pepper spray
- Radioactive materials
- Aerosols such as hairspray, perfume and aftershave
- Electronic devices that contain lithium metal, cells or batteries.
How to Request an Air Freight Quote
If you’re considering an air freight shipment, you will need to have some information on hand to help ensure our international moving experts can provide you with the most accurate quote possible, including:
- Total number of pieces in your shipment
- Dimensions (height, length and width) or your shipment
- Total weight of your shipment
- Pickup and delivery addresses
- Pickup and delivery times
- Delivery deadline (if applicable)
- Whether the shipment is stackable.
Once you have all this information on-hand, contact one of our friendly international moving experts who will be able to provide you with a timely, accurate quote on the best air freight options for moving overseas.
To help ensure our international moving experts can provide you with the most accurate, and cost effective, air freight quote possible, make sure you have the dimensions (height, width and length) and weight of your items on hand.