Air Freight Consolidation

International Air Freight Consultant


What is consolidation or what is consolidated freight? Shipments or consignments from several shippers booked under a single master air way bill goes by the name of consolidation of freight consolidation. The freight forwarders call this as consol. Shipments from each shipper travel under individual house air way bills (also called house bills). Air cargo consolidation bookings are usually for flights leaving on the weekend.  If the amount of freight expected is very large, bookings are done for the middle of the week. Such consolidations are called midweek-consol (consol is the short form for consolidation and is often used in the freight forwarding industry). Freight consolidation saves cost and helps airlines to plan freight movements.It helps businesses to grow by giving them an opportunity to move goods in a cheaper and effective way.

Loose Consolidation and ULD Consolidation

ULD means Unit Loading Device. It is the term used for air freight containers. The freight forwarder can put all the consignments of a particle consolidation into one container (ULD)  and get a so-called ULD Booking. A loose consolidation means the freight forwarder tenders to the airline all the consignments belonging one particular consolidation without a container. The airline can then decide to organise a container or fly the pieces without a container.

Apart from passenger airlines there is also a class called cargo airlines. These are companies that fly mainly cargo aircraft or only cargo aircraft. Cargolux is an example of a fully cargo airline. Cargo airlines also carry consolidated freight. They may also operate chartered flights.

What Should The Shipper do?

Simply put, define the situation based on basic principles in trade, combine them with the requirements of the freight forwarding industry.

The Steps

Consider the following questions:

  • Is your shipment urgent?
  • Is there a  very tight time frame for delivery?
  • Is your shipment meant for a stalled production line?

If your answer to any of the above questions is a YES, do NOT go for consolidation. You need to fly your consignment on a single direct air way bill and the freight forwarder has to be informed that the freight must go on a direct air way bill. For emergency freight please read my article here.

Define your freight

  • Total number of pieces: if  10 cartons are put together on one pallet, the number of pieces will be 1. Secure the cartons, number them, with numbers facing the outside. Leave room for air freight labels, which the forwarder will affix to the cargo. Mention “10 cartons on one pallet” on the Shipper’s Letter of Instructions
  • Packaging: wooden packaging? If yes, please read my article about packaging.
  • External Dimensions: always as:  Length x Width x height in cm or inches  (please mention)
  • Total Weight : Total weight of the finished cargo! (not the nett weight)
  • Incoterms: who is paying for the freight? If the consignee is paying, then he has to tell you about his choice of the freight forwarder.
  • Customs Formalities:  If an export declaration is needed, finish it. Usually this is not an expensive step at all (at least in Germany it is not) and harping on the terms of sale being ex works (EXW, named place) will only cause delay.
  • Incoterms: use them correctly. Simply stating  FCA will create a situation for the freight forwarder to ask you what the complete terms are. You need to complete the term by saying FCA,named place. If you want to deliver the goods directly to the customs door without paying the duties (or the customs clearance), state the terms as DAP,named place (the term DDU does not exist anymore). Air cargo and sea cargo have their respective terms but a few tend to be used for both.
  • In the SLI (Shipper’s Letter of Instructions) please mention ALL the details (Shipper, Consignee, dimensions, weight, pick up time frame, contact numbers of the consignee etc)

The Despatch

  • Advise the freight forwarder, one day in advance, if possible, to pick up the air cargo.
  • E-Mail ALL the documents to the freight forwarder. Avoid faxing! Think of the environment
  • The freight forwarder will message you the flight booking. This will include
  • The HAWB (House Air Way Bill. also called House Bill or HB)
  • The MAWB (Master Air Way Bill)
  • The Flight Numbers followed by the date

A consolidation will consist of several air cargo shipments (consignments) booked under a single master way bill. The individual shipments will have their own house way bills. Each forwarder has his own way of numbering. There is no international standard. However the master air way bill numbers are all in the same form. The way bill number begins with a three digit number followed one with eight digits. The first three numbers denote the airline and the last number of the way bill is called a check digit.

Send an email with all the booking details to your consignee

Send excellent electronic copies of all your documents to your client


Freight forwarders move hundreds of pieces and consignment daily. Consolidation is only one of the various forms of methods they use. A freight forwarder will have several consolidations to look after and that means managing a huge amount of paperwork, bookings, checking and documentation for various purposes. Hence, keeping an eye on your consignment is a step, which you cannot and should not avoid.

Learn to check the freight using the internet. A separate article will show you how to do this.



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    you can check the articles here on air freight that also mention consolidation


    Air cargo – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Air Cargo is any property carried or to be carried in an aircraft. Air cargo comprises air freight, air express and airmail. Contents. [hide]. 1 Aircraft types; 2 History.

    Cargo airline – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Cargo airlines (or airfreight carriers, and derivatives of these names) are airlines dedicated to the transport of cargo by air. Some cargo airlines are divisions or …

    International Air Freight Forwarding – FedEx Trade Networks

    FedEx Trade Networks offers international air freight forwarding services connecting major global markets – inbound and outbound, intercontinental, and …

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