Shipping Terms Glossary

Air Freight

Air freight is a popular choice for shipping high-value, smaller shipments. It’s important to understand how your shipment weight will be calculated to avoid expensive surprises.

What is Air Freight?

Air freight, or air cargo, is a way of transporting goods by air, using both cargo and passenger airplanes. 

On every flight you’ve ever taken, a lot of cargo was also traveling along with your luggage, stored beneath, in the airplane’s 'belly'. 

What is air freight?

Is Air Freight expensive?

Not as expensive as you'd think. Air freight rates will depend on the weight and volume of your shipments. For example, if you are shipping 20kg of goods, it will be cheaper to ship them by air than by ocean.

How are Air Freight costs calculated?

Air freight cost = Rate per kilogram x Chargeable Weight

Chargeable Weight = Volumetric Weight vs Gross Weight (whichever is greater)

A quick example:

Bookairfreight Tips:

Let’s say you are planning to ship 1 carton from Thailand to the US by air.

Carton dimensions = 75 cm x 45 cm x 30cm
Carton weight (per carton) = 10kg
Dim factor* = 6000
Freight rate per kilogram = US $15

Volumetric weight = (length x width x height ) ÷ dim factor
= (75 cm x 45 cm x 30cm) / 6000
= 16.87 kg (per carton)

Chargeable weight = Volumertic weight VS actual weight/gross weight whichever is greater
= 16.87 KG > 10 KG = 16.87 KG

So, Air Freight Cost = Rate Per Kilogram * Chargeable Weight
Air freight cost = US $15 * 16.87 kg = US$ 253

*Dim Factor is a number that freight carriers come up with to balance shipment volume against shipment weight. Commonly for air freight is 6000, and for UPS, DHL etc is 5000.

Why do airlines charge by chargeable weight?

Larger goods with a light overall weight can occupy more space on an aircraft than a small, heavy item. 

So, with chargeable weight, they take into account both the size and the volume of a the shipment to calculate the final rate.

What other charges can you incur when shipping by Air?

You will have to pay for any fuel surcharges, terminal charges, customs fees, or transfers charges.

If you’re shipping door to door, you’ll also have to account for pick-up and drop-off charges.

Bookairfreight's quotes disclose all potential charges - there are no hidden fees!

How often do air freight rates change?

Much like flight tickets, air freight rates can change weekly or even daily, depending on capacity and demand. 

They can get super expensive at the last minute, so always plan in advance and coordinate with your manufacturer.

When is it best to ship by air, compared with other options?

There are quite a few benefits to shipping goods by air. It's faster, more secure, and a lot safer.  

There are no strict guidelines on when to ship by air, but generally, air freight is a better choice for smaller, unpalletized shipments. We've recently put together a more comprehensive air vs ocean freight comparison article. Make sure to check it out.

Rajitha Reniguntla

Rajitha Reniguntla is a supply chain enthusiast from Hong Kong. With a curious mind, she's an avid learner carrying a knack for exploring and breaking down complex ideas. She loves to learn about new things and always aims to enhance the customer experience. Outside of work, she enjoys cycling, doodling and listening to podcasts!

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