An Overview of International Air Freight Shipping

Feroz Mir
Feroz Mir Nov 30, 2023 • 6 Min read
International Air Freight Shipping Hero
International Air Freight Shipping Hero

Do you have a click-and-order store needing to ship eCommerce products from Canada to the U.S.? Are you looking to send expensive valuables from your location to another destination? Is there a need to deliver packages as soon as possible? Air freight is the answer! 

Air freight is a practical option and a viable solution for delivering goods to another destination. 

But what exactly is air freight, and how does it work?

This article presents an overview of international air freight shipping and serves as a guide to delivering products or packages to another country. Read on to learn the following:

Air Freight Shipping Guide

What Is Air Freight Shipping?

Simply put, air freight involves shipping goods or items in bulk via an aircraft. Small products are usually shipped using standardized ULD (Unit Load Device) containers. Meanwhile, large items are transported via ULD pallets.

What Is Air Freight Shipping

Air freight requires air travel as a mode of transport. You can also transport bulk goods or items by truck, train, and ship. However, air freight suits certain circumstances and offers several benefits for your business.

The air freight market has been growing and expanding. Take the key facts and figures from the Mordor Intelligence report:

The global air freight market could grow from $142.77 billion this year to $190.30 billion by 2028. It's projected to expand at a 5.92% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period (2023-2028).

global air freight market

Key Processes Involved in Air Freight 

Now, you know what air freight is—but how does it work? 

Suppose you're looking to ship products from Canada to the United States. Not sure how to proceed? Below are the processes involved in air freight:

  • Product Preparation and Packaging: It starts with you preparing and packaging items for air freight shipping. Let’s say you're running an online store, and someone places an order. Your back-office team then picks and packs the products from the warehouse.
  • Flight Booking with Documentation: The next step is to book a flight for your packages, and this often requires proper documentation. But for eCommerce, you initially request free freight quotes and partner with an air freight company for regular shipping. 
  • Security Screening with Customs Clearance: Your packages must undergo screening from security personnel before they get loaded onto the aircraft. Of course, you must also secure clearance from the customs authority for shipping your goods.
  • Actual Product Loading and Transport: The airlines will handle your packages, whether you work with a freight shipping provider or drop your baggage at the counter. These packages get loaded onto the aircraft for the actual transport to your expected destination.
  • Product Shipment Monitoring: As a business owner, you can track the products being shipped to your target destination, whether online or through customer service. That way, you can also update your customers about the status of their orders.
  • Product Arrival and Delivery: Finally, your packages arrive at their destination. If you work with a freight shipping provider, these packages can be delivered straight to the customers' doorsteps.

Common Goods or Items Being Shipped Through Air Freight

Now, you might be wondering what products you can deliver through air freight shipping. Here are some:

  • Consumer Goods (beauty products, foods and beverages, clothes and apparel, etc.)
  • Product Samples (cosmetics, clothing and textiles, household products, etc.)
  • Important Documents (personal identification, contracts, legal paperwork, etc.)
  • Perishable Products (fresh produce, dairy products, meat and poultry, etc.)
  • Pharmaceutical Items (prescription drugs, vaccines, medical supplies, etc.)
  • Electronic Devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, etc.)
  • Jewelry (gold, silver, bronze, diamond, gemstones, etc.)

Beware of Goods or Items Not Allowed on Aircraft

Knowing what goods or items you can ship through air freight is one thing; understanding what products aren't allowed is another. For your reference, here are some types of products not permitted on aircraft:

  • Flammable Items (aerosol products, lighters, matches, fuel, paints, solvents, alcohol, fireworks and flares, etc.)
  • Hazardous Chemicals (corrosives, explosives, toxic substances, oxidizing agents, radioactive materials, etc.)

Note: Be wary of shipping these products. Chances are, they will not be allowed on the aircraft, and you'll just waste your money, time, and energy preparing these packages. To be safe, check with the airline or your air freight provider to see whether your goods or items can be included in the aircraft cargo.

Types of Air Freight Shipping

There is a wide range of air freight companies operating globally. They offer the best shipping solutions for small businesses, mid-sized enterprises, and big companies. But, of course, these solutions vary from one type to another. 

Learn the different types of air freight shipping below.

  • General Cargo: Think of the products loaded into the aircraft's 'belly.' You hire a shipping provider and have your goods or items delivered to another country or destination. 
  • Over-the-Counter Cargo: Consider dropping your loads at the baggage counter at the airline terminal. This option entails booking a flight which includes baggage for up to a certain number of kilograms.
  • Priority Cargo: As the name suggests, regard this as a 'first flight out' service. With this option, you pay for a higher-rate flight to prioritize your products.
  • Hand-Carry Cargo: Picture having someone take your valuables and fly with them in an aircraft. This is the costliest since you hire someone to carry your items, whether they’re pertinent documents, jewelry, or other expensive goods.

When To Use Air Freight Shipping

Now, you might wonder if air freight shipping is right for you or your business. Of course, you want to avoid international shipping mistakes that can cost you time, money, and effort. 

That said, here's when you should opt for air freight instead of other shipping options:

  • You need to ship valuable goods or expensive items. Think of your important paperwork, jewelry pieces, and expensive gadgets. It's a lot safer and more secure to deliver them via an aircraft.
  • You export small products for your business. Let's say you operate a click-and-order store catering to a global market. It's best to work with an air freight shipping provider responsible for delivering your products to customers from around the world.
  • You need to deliver goods or items as soon as possible. If you're looking to send your packages immediately, air freight is the fastest mode of transport. It takes a few hours to days, depending on the location. However, it's a lot more efficient than other modes of transport.
  • You need to ship products sensitive to the ocean elements. If you send sensitive goods or items, you want to ensure their utmost safety and prompt delivery. Perishable goods, for example, are better shipped via an aircraft.

The Benefits of Air Freight Shipping

At this point, you have learned enough about what air freight is and how it works. You also understand when to choose this transport mode. But how beneficial is it for you or your business?

Benefits of Air Freight Shipping

Discover the benefits of air freight shipping below:

  • Faster Delivery: Time is of the essence in the world of international shipping, and speed is of the utmost importance when running a retail or eCommerce business. Air freight ensures that your products get delivered to customers on the other side of the world as soon as possible. That’s the beauty of air transport!
  • Cost Efficiency: While air freight is costlier than other modes of transport, it is significantly more efficient in terms of delivery speed and package safety. As a business, your return on investments (ROI) is worth it, especially if you guarantee customer satisfaction. That leads to a boost in business profits!
  • Product Safety: Stephan Baldwin, Founder of Assisted Living, cites the value of air freight. “We have a handful of clients or patients requesting valuable goods and items delivered to them. Air freight service providers make a difference in getting their products shipped to them as safely as possible. Clients get their products in top shape and working condition.”
  • Enhanced Security: Linda Shaffer, Chief People Operations Officer at Checkr, applauds the security guaranteed by air freight. “If you want to ship pertinent paperwork and valuable possessions, request to deliver them via air travel. You don’t want to compromise the safety and security of your items.”
  • Shipping Flexibility: As mentioned, there are different types of air freight shipping. Whether general or hand-carry cargo, you can choose what works for you and can even go as far as customizing your packages and rates offered. As long as you partner with the right air freight shipping provider, you’ll find the solution most suitable for your business.
  • Utmost Reliability: Alex Milligan, Co-Founder & CMO of NuggMD, suggests working with air freight companies for businesses. “They are the most reliable in package shipping brought about by their speed, efficiency, safety, and security. You’ll be amazed at how your products safely reach the customers’ houses on time.”
  • Customer Satisfaction: Michael Power, CMO at DTF Transfers, also recommends air freight for customer satisfaction. “As a retail or eCommerce business, you’ll do what it takes to make your customers happy. You want to fulfill their orders promptly and send their products safely. Air freight is best if you cater to a global market.”

Final Words

Air freight is a viable solution for efficiently, safely, and securely shipping goods. It offers a handful of benefits, from cost efficiency to product safety and security, customer satisfaction, and business profitability.

But before opting for air freight, consider the instances and circumstances when you need to do so. Likewise, understand what air freight entails and how it works. Most importantly, work with a highly reliable shipping provider so you can get it right and ensure that air shipping is the correct choice for your business.

With all these tips and steps, your packages will be well on their way to reaching their destinations—promptly and safely.

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