top of page

Air Freight Shipments: An Overview

Wanting to ship by air this holiday season? Here are a few tips to help you be guided on deciding to ship via air.

When we talk about shipping by air, we come across two widely-used terms: air freight and air courier. They are, sometimes, used interchangeably. So what is the difference?

Air Courier vs Air Freight:

Air courier shipping is performed by well-known services such as FedEx, DHL, UPS, and others and includes door-to-door service. When something is sent via one of these services, you receive it at the address you indicated. Whereas, in air freight, cargo is transported by a freight company, either on their own planes or on a plane belonging to a third party.

Air courier or Air freight: Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Air courier is more expensive than air freight but offers the convenience of door-to-door shipping. Air freight is much cheaper but may have numerous hidden costs.

  • Air freight can be a more cost-effective option if you’re ordering a heavy or bulk shipment from a faraway country.

Advantages of shipping by air:

  • Speed: If you need to move cargo fast, ship by air. A rough estimate of transit time is 1-3 days by express air service or air courier, 5-10 days by any other air service, and 20-45 days by container ship. Customs clearance and cargo examination at airports also take a shorter time than at sea ports.

  • Reliability: Airlines operate on strict schedules, which means cargo arrival and departure times are highly reliable.

  • Security: Airlines and airports exercise strict control over cargo, significantly lowering the risk of theft and damage.

  • Coverage: Airlines provide wide coverage with flights to and from most destinations in the world.

Disadvantages of shipping by air:

  • Cost: Shipping by air costs more than transporting by sea or road since it is charged on the basis of cargo volume and weight. It is not cost-effective for heavy shipments.

Given the potential additional costs of air freight, a good rule to follow when comparing air couriers to air freight services is to consider the volume of the shipment. Using an air courier for small shipments makes sense if you need your shipment to arrive fast. For large packages or bulk goods weighing tens or hundreds of kg, it is more cost-effective to choose air freight. If you are shipping via air courier or air freight, it’s best to consider which method of transportation best suits your purposes and the costs involved. While each has advantages and disadvantages, it will come down to convenience and what you’re prepared to pay.

Air freight: Cost and calculation

Both cargo weight and volume are key to calculating air freight. Air freight is charged per kilogram on the basis of gross (actual) weight or volumetric (dimensional) weight, whichever is higher.

  • Gross weight: Total weight of cargo, including packaging and pallets.

  • Volumetric weight: Volume of cargo converted into its weight equivalent. The formula to calculate volumetric weight is.

Whether Courier or airfreight, you must also understand the hazards involved in shipping goods internationally on air:

  • Punctures and abrasions: when the product shifts, or has insufficient internal packaging.

  • Compression: stacking, shock, vibration, or tie-down straps all generate compressive forces that can cause product damage.

  • Shipment handling: proper packaging must be able to protect the contents from the drops and impacts that are common with handling operations.

All of these can be minimized with proper packaging and preparation before shipping of your goods.

Packing Materials Perfect for Air Freight Shipments:

Wood packaging:

Crafting your shipment for air freight can help protect your goods, allowing for damage-free transit if done properly.


Pallets are commonly made out of either wood or plastic. Pallets make moving packages more efficient by assisting in the consolidation and handling of packages. Using pallets also allows shipments to be moved without direct contact with packages, reducing exposure to damage.

Here are some things to note about air freight pallets:

  • Pallets should be large enough to accommodate shipments without overhang

  • Broken pallets should not be used

  • Protruding fasteners should be removed before packages are placed on a pallet.

  • Pallets on any shipment are required to have a floor-bearing load of more than 100 lbs per square foot.

  • Know the rated capacity of your pallet; never exceed it.

Need a quote? Contact Image International Freight on +61 2 9773 1378 OR email your Image sales representative, We would love to provide a competitive quote for any urgent shipments you may require especially at this time of the year.

When submitting a quote request, remember to keep these cargo dimensions – weight, L x W x H, number of pieces of cargo – in mind to receive an accurate quote.


bottom of page