Air Cargo: the lowdown
In addition to their ocean-bound counterparts container ships, air freight imports and exports make up 20% of the cargo industry. It’s a popular method of transporting many different types of goods from A to B all over the world for understandable reasons of ease and quickness – but still very little is known by anyone outside of the industry on how it works and what happens to get your package from China to the UK in as little as 24 hours.
Who uses air cargo services and why?
Sending packages by air, whatever their size, is quick and convenient but is especially perfect for small, urgent time-definite items. It’s quicker than transporting cargo by sea, but rates for both forms of transportation do vary and are often similar. Container ships can hold larger amounts of items (and can carry bigger items than aircraft, too) so they are still the go-to choice for mass commercial-scale exportation of clothing, vehicles, electronic equipment and other types of goods. Often lorries bring shipments which have already travelled a good distance by land, air or sea – so sometimes air travel only constitutes part of the cargo’s journey – but with personal goods it’s usually via one method only apart from a courier or pick-up on the other side.
Air cargo services are used by all sorts of people, to send all sorts of things. From small personal items and purchases made from overseas to live animals, foodstuffs and human remains, a whole host of different sized packages of varying natures pass through our airports’ cargo terminals each and every day.
How does it work?
If you want to send a parcel by air (and you’re not enlisting the help of a courier like us!), it usually involves a little more than simply dropping off your package at the post office.
Air cargo travels in a specialist cargo aircraft, or in the hold of a passenger plane. Cargo aircraft are normally jumbo jets or larger aircraft which have been ‘stripped’ inside; leaving only a large empty space to fill with cargo. They normally only carry the flight deck crew and perhaps a couple of others depending on the length of the flight and nature of what’s on board. Passenger planes carry cargo in the hold of the aircraft in specialised pallets alongside passengers’ baggage. Of course, they have less capacity than a dedicated cargo aircraft but normally they can still offer competitive rates for transportation.
Depending on where your parcel is going, its size, nature and why it is travelling will determine which airline will carry your goods. You can approach the airline directly for cargo services; but it is normally more cost-effective to speak to an airline check consolidator, who can negotiate a cheaper rate as they combine shipments together to cut costs and can obtain cheaper rates from the airline.
If you use a dedicated courier to help you to send your goods by air, you can often expect a door to door service at a set price. Without this, most cargo is just ‘airport to airport’ – so you’d have to have someone collect your item from the cargo centre on the other side – bearing in mind that it will be subject to customs clearance and taxes.
Is there anything I can’t send?
Technically no, but you must check with the airline if your package contains or constitutes dangerous goods as there may be an extra charge for this, and precautions may need to be taken. ‘Dangerous goods’ aren’t always obvious on the outset – things like batteries (or products that contain them) and cosmetics can be classed as dangerous goods so it’s always advisable to check with the carrier and your courier before you send. Charges and the classification of dangerous goods also depend on the quantity being sent.
It’s also a good idea to have a look at the regulations and restrictions the destination country has in place regarding all types of cargo. Australian border controls for instance are notoriously strict, so if you’re looking at sending anything made of natural materials or food products, you’ll need to check with the authorities first to confirm that they will accept your shipment when it reaches the other side.
If you need to send a package or a larger shipment by air, have a chat with us at Speed Courier for more information on how our expert knowledge can help you get your goods from A to B.