Air freight is very much the premium end of the cargo business. It is used mainly for urgent and high-value items. Manufacturers use it for receiving ‘just in time’ components, and for distributing new products in high demand at their launch.
There are restrictions on the weight and size of the goods that can be carried – and there is a longer list of prohibited items. Packaging is of special importance: and pricing is mostly weight-based.
Air freight tracking is as sophisticated as passenger control, and clients can see where their shipment is at a given time.
The air freight market is currently depressed due to high fuel costs, improving surface transport and other market changes, and prices are keener than usual due to supplier competition. Freight forwarders can achieve good consolidated shipment rates
Air Freight Options
The majority of shippers will opt for the relatively affordable option of Consolidated Freight or ‘Consols’. As with sea freight, this is where the freight forwarder combines your shipment with others to create a more cost-effective load and gets better rates from the airline due to the economy of scale.
It does take time to put together loads this way and the flights handling consolidated freight are less frequent than dedicated services. They often run once or twice a week (commonly Wednesdays and Saturdays) to main destinations, so transit times may be around 5-7 days. Each freight forwarder has its own House Airway Bill (HAWB).
Companies who have more goods to ship may fill a scheduled plane hold and they can use a ‘Back to Back’ or Direct service. This will often travel on the next available flight direct to its destination, using just one Master Airway Bill (MAWB).
At considerable extra cost it is possible to arrange Aircraft Charter of a freight plane. This is paid for in advance, cancellation charges are steep and the customer pays for a round trip. However, it can be possible to take advantage of empty ‘backhaul’ flights at better rates on some routes.
Priority ‘Next Flight Out’ services are normally restricted to a baggage-based (as opposed to freight) check in of a package that is ultra-urgent.
Air freight forwarders can offer the usual options including collection, customs clearance, delivery and also special cargo requirements.