International Air Freight – A Step-by-Step Guide

International Air Freight

We witnessed how covid-19 shook the whole world with fear. Every person or every country was trying to find the solution to cure themselves.

In this critical situation, there was only one hope left that was air cargo services. Because of airfreight, vaccines could reach their destination in time.

Because of its fast and reliable service, Air cargo made it happen to reach every corner of the world. Whenever the world faces an emergency or war where people need urgent help air freight performs its part very well.

Ahead in the article, we will talk about why you should choose air freight, types of international airfreight, who are the main players in this whole airfreight process, how this process works, and how to choose a reliable freight forwarder.

In which conditions should you choose air freight?

When it comes to moving valuable goods or urgent deliveries, it’s best shipped by air. While air shipment takes two to three days to arrive. Some significant factors can affect the urgency of your shipment. 

Air cargo services are not suited for all kinds of goods. Following types of goods are usually transferred by air. 

  • Perishable food 
  • Drugs, vaccines, and pharmaceutical 
  • Flowers, Fruits, and plants 
  • Luxury products 
  • Artwork medical equipment and accessories 
  • Urgent goods/ mail 
  • Trendy and fashion materials 
  • E-cigs, e-liquid, vaporizers, pods 
  • Chocolates and sweets 
  • Pet animals like cats, dogs, birds, etc 

How many types of international airfreight?

Normally, air freight is transported on passenger flights and dedicated cargo planes. But generally, they consist of two categories: 

  • General Cargo 
  • Special Cargo 

General cargo doesn’t require extra precaution and care for air shipment including hardware, electronics, machinery, toys, clothing, textiles, and consumer goods. 

The Special cargo includes dangerous goods, over-dimensional, temperature-controlled goods, and hazardous material. This service consists of two further boards: 

  • Dangerous Good Board (DGB) 
  • Live Animal and Perishable Board (LAPB) 

The DGB deals with the development standards and guidance related to the transport of dangerous goods by air including Lithium Batteries. 

The LAPB deals with the development of standards for the transport of livestock, Perishable goods, drugs, vaccines, and pharmaceuticals. 

What is the process of International air freight?

Air shipment involves several intermediaries and complex interaction between different players adds to dwell time at airports. It includes carriers, freight forwarders, customs brokers, local and intercity trucking companies, ground handling companies, federal agencies, and shippers. 

Who are the Players in the Airfreight Process?

All air shipments are not the same. There are some rules and regulations that apply to different kinds of air cargo.  

  • It starts with the shipper, who can be individual or many depending on the shipment. 
  • The next player is the carrier or the freight forwarder, who receives the product from the shipper for further process. They offer different types of assistance depending on the client’s requests. Some airship cargo conveyance channels are: 
  • Integrated express operators (FedEx, UPS, DHL) operate a large fleet of scheduled aircraft. 
  • All cargo carriers (Atlas, Air cargo, Polar Air Cargo, Evergreen) operate containerized cargo planes from one airport to another. 
  • Commercial service passenger airlines offer air shipment service in the belly of passenger airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Cathay pacific. 
  • Ad-hoc cargo charter carriers are unscheduled air charters, who move goods from airport to airport. 
  • Now, the part of the third crucial player ‘the custom broker’. Many businesses hire their services to avoid blunders. A customs broker is an expert dealing in the customs clearance process during the shipment, such as filling out paperwork and ensuring all rules and regulations during the shipment process. 
  • Last not least, the Consignee, who receives the cargo after it’s cleared from the airport. 

How does the international air freight process work?

International airfreight is the way of importing and exporting goods between various regions utilizing air, ocean, and land. 

Here, we’ve clarified the cycle of the air cargo process in 8 steps: 

Step – 1 Booking in advance 

You need to book a freight forwarder and space in aircraft in advance for your cargo. A reliable freight forwarder provides all necessary details about the shipment process. 

Step -2  Decide the Storage requirement 

You need to decide the storage requirement of air transporters It could be : 

IATA Cargo Handling Manual OR Unit Load Device Dimension. 

Step – 3 Know the difference 

You should know the basic difference between chargeable weight, Net weight, and Gross weight. 

  •  Net weight: Total weight of the actual cargo. 
  •  Gross Weight: It includes the cargo, pallet/ crate, and Container. 
  •  Chargeable Weight: Dimensional or volumetric weight of the cargo 

Step – 4 Labelling and Air waybill 

When a shipping company gets your cargo. So, it would be done by many quality checks. Then, they verify its physical condition, label it with all required details, and make Air Waybill. 

Step – 5 Custom Clearance 

You need to prepare all relevant customs documents for customs clearance. They ensure that the cargo doesn’t have any prohibited goods or contraband items. 

Step – 6 Unloading of shipment 

Your cargo would be unloaded when it reaches its destination with an airway bill and all necessary documents. 

Step -7 Custom Clearance at the destination 

When your shipment lands it will be moved to Cargo Terminal Operator (CTO) to detach and ensure the security of the cargo. 

Step – 8 Receiving Shipment 

Once your cargo gets custom cleared. You need to check if any damage happened or not. If cleared then provide POD (proof of delivery). Arrange all documents with clearance and print the custom release note and POD.

What are the documents involved in the air freight process?   

Shipping by air needs more clearance documents than shipping by sea. These documents give evidence of a contract between shipper and airline. The list of these documents are: 

  • Commercial Invoice 
  • Export Packing list 
  • Bill of lading 
  • Certificate of origin 
  • Consular Invoice 
  • Shipper Letter of instruction 
  • Export License 
  • Cargo insurance Certificate 
  • Inspection Certificate 

Commercial Invoice 

This type of invoice has every description and also lists the value of your goods with name and address. 

Export Packing List 

This list is made by an  international air freight agent including  

Product name 

Number of items 

Net weight 

Gross weight 

Size of the product 

Material type 

Number of the quantity of each product name/box 

Customs code 

Detail of the company  

Bill of Lading 

The bill of lading is the agreement between the owner of the goods and the freight forwarder or carrier. This bill carries the details about the quantity and types of goods in the cargo. 

Certificate of Origin 

For certain types of products, this certificate is needed by some regions. It also verifies which country the cargo originated in and is certified by an authorized semi-official organization. 

Consular Invoice 

Many countries require this document. Make sure it is in the same language where the cargo lands. You can get this invoice from the consulate of the same country. 

Shipper Letter of Instruction 

This letter has instructions about shipping goods for a Freight forwarder or carrier from the shipper.  

Export License 

This license is issued by the Government that authorizes the export of your cargo in a particular quantity to a specific destination. 

Cargo Insurance Certificate 

This certificate ensures the consignee that in case of damage or broken of any goods insurance will cover the damage or loss. 

Inspection Certificate 

Some purchasers or countries require this certificate to confirm the specification of the goods shipped. A third party performs inspection so you can obtain this certificate from an independent testing organization. 

How many types of containers are in air cargo and how can we measure our cargo?

From pickup to shipping goods, how international air freight shipping companies pick containers according to your cargo size and dimension. We have discussed this in detail about air freight container type and sizes. There are four types of containers in air cargo: 

  1. Air cargo pallets  
  1. Contoured Air cargo Containers 
  1. Lower deck Containers 
  1. Box Type Containers 

1- Air cargo pallets  

Generally, in all-cargo aircraft, this flat pallet is fitted to the main deck to secure the cargo by using a net. 

2- Contoured Air cargo Containers 

It’s a semi-structural cover container with one side open and protected by nets or fiberglass removable glass. 

3- Lower Deck Container 

It is made for lower deck cargo spaces and is completely enclosed. 

4- Box type Container 

They use it to consolidate shipments with easily handled and rated units. 

The chart below shows different kinds of containers used in air cargo. 

How Much Does Air Freight cost?  

When it comes to calculating airfreight cost, we need to understand some mathematical terminologies. Such as Volumetric or Dimensional weight, Gross weight or Net weight, etc. 

The actual weight of the package with pallet and packing is called Gross weight. 

To Find the Gross weight for airfreight 

you need to suppose: 

Product weight = 45Kg 

Pallet + Packaging = 25 kg 

Gross Weight = Product weight + pallet & packaging  

                       =    45    +  25 

               GW =     70 Kg 

To find the volumetric weight for air freight 

Sometimes the package seems heavy but it’s light in weight. For this purpose, air shipping companies measure the volumetric weight of the cargo by international air freight rates calculator or you can try this method given below: 

Let’s Suppose, 

You package has width = 1.5 m, Height = 2.5m,   Length = 2m 

So formula will be applied  

Width* Height *Length = CBM (Cubic Meters) 

1.5 * 2.5 * 2 = 5 CBM 

Therefore, the volumetric weight would be 5 CBM * 167 = 835kg 

What is the Chargeable Weight cost of the cargo?

In the above calculation we have: 

The Gross Weight = 70 kg 

The Volumetric weight = 835 kg 

So, the carrier will charge you the volumetric weight of your cargo. 

Hence, the chargeable weight = 835 Kg 

You can also find the international air freight rates per kg on related company websites. For further details read this article about Air Freight Cost 

How to Choose a Reliable Company For International Air Freight? 

We are suggesting you some handy tips about how to choose reliable international air freight companies or a freight forwarder. 

Do your research 

First of all, do your research and find out who is playing the better role in this industry. Search all customer reviews. Gather information on their websites and their overall rating in the market. So, put them all together then it will show you a better picture to make your decision. 

Check out the air freight rate quotes 

When you are going to move your shipment internationally, you need to get quotes from different freight forwarders. After this, you can compare all rates and it will allow you to explore market information.  

Check their knowledge about the Logistic industry 

You need to find the right freight forwarder who has good experience in this field. If they have enough information about industry, rules, and regulations, both the country of origin and destination, the International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme, and also they have a good network. 

Cargo insurance and Transparent Pricing 

For risk- reduction factor, make sure the freight forwarder you chose if they provide cargo insurance as well as licensed by the relevant authorities. Sometimes, freight forwarders charge extra fees of fuel surcharge, brokerage fee, etc, so you need to confirm a transparent price so you couldn’t face any issues later. 

What is Qafila and how can we help in air freight forwarding? 

That would be difficult to put the faith for your goods into someone else’s hands. But, when you choose Qafila, your international freight forwarder and logistic provider with excellent services, is a freight forwarder who takes pride in solving the most complex challenges. They ship your goods across the globe with the latest technology and utmost care.  

The Final word 

After knowing all the details above about international airfreight, now we can comprehend it’s the best option when the cost of shipping is less than the worth of goods or need to be transported urgently. Also, this service is swift, credible, and secure than any other mode of transportation. 

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