documents used in international tradeuirements

Planning Air Freight Consolidation – A Short Description

Planning Air Freight Consolidation

Planning air freight consolidation is directed at those who are new to air freight consolidation. A few points are for the attention of shippers (aka consignors). Unnecessary theory will be avoided. Only practical points.

Air Freight Consolidation Goals

An example of what happened in the real world : A large piece of freight belonging to the class of heavy engineering goods was picked up at the customers facility, transported to the airport, right to the apron for a nose load (freight loaded into the nose of the aircraft. Boeing 747). Freight is placed on the lift platform to load and lifted. all goes well, until the moment of shock. The size of the freight is too big! It cannot be loaded into the aircraft!  No names mentioned and none will be revealed.

Those who are curious to know what a nose loading process is, here is an image that shows exactly what it is. 

Why did I post this example. What can be deduced from the above? The above occurrence points us to one particularly important item on the list of a freight forwarding professional : organisation. The incident above point out:

  • Carelessness
  • time wasted
  • loss of money
  • dissatisfied customer

Such a terrible mistake should never happen. However, they open our eyes to where the focus has to be in the field of air freight operations. Consolidating freight is only one side to the freight forwarding industry.

So what are the goals that need to be kept in mind while planning air freight consolidation?

The whole process of consolidation can be wrapped up in one phrase, air freight optimisation. All the activities that go into what is technically called air freight consolidation (“consol” as freight forwarders name it) is aimed at optimisation.


Although people talk about quality, there is no doubt that the market of today is price driven. Cheapest possible price, rock bottom price etc. are terms that a freight forwarder hears every day. Planning air freight consolidation  does not need a university degree in logistics. It is a simple and straightforward process.

Optimising Price

Consignments travelling to a one destination are booked under one master air waybill. One can call it a “single freight consisting of several pieces”.  The airline does not sell flights, but freight space. Freight space is booked in advance and is filled as the week goes by.  The more the freight, the lesser the rate. Since it is space that is being sold, it should be clear to the shippers that “volume” is of importance.  20 Kg of cotton and 20 Kg of iron weigh the same, but occupy a totally different area.  Heavy freight occupying less space (high-dense pieces) should be found to contain the volume weight within limits.

Optimising time

All the pieces of freight move in one lot and not at different times of the week. Shippers and consignees can organise their order processing to achieve a price benefit. This will help, all the parties involved, to save money.  Move the freight on a weekend consolidation to save money and nerves! While planning air freight consolidation one should always keep the focus on time. Air freight is a fast transport mode and time is precious.

Optimising co-ordination

What the shippers and consignees conveniently forget is that the freight forwarder has snot finished his task once he has given the shipper the flight data. It is the freight forwarders job to co-ordinate the freight at the destination. The air freight agent at destination needs to be informed, documents need to be passed on, customs formalities need to be put in place are all unavoidable tasks. The advantage of consolidation is all the freight can be co-ordinated at once in one go. Planning air cargo consolidation is all about co-ordinating various aspects  within a tightly defined frame.

Destination based freight management

Once the freight has cleared final export customs clearance and has been tendered to the airline, the air freight agent at the airport of destination needs to be informed. documents need to be passed on. The customs bill of entry needs to be processed, data capture has to be done. The agent at the airport of departure (AoD) should be in a position to help his counterpart, when it comes to any documents, information etc. Planning air freight consolidation means planning a co-ordinated movement in such a way that it is smooth and efficient. Managing the freight abroad by managing communication lines.

A new business going to the US for example needs a few things to be checked in advance.

  • Has the consignee a bond in place?
  • Does he have his own broker?
  • If the consignment is NOT going to the airport closer to the consignee, but to a destination far away, would the broker be prepared to do a remote filing?
  • If he cannot, he should be ready to give a sup-power of attorney to your agent at the airport of arrival.
  • A bond has to be in place BEFORE the arrival of the freight, in order to save warehouse charges (demurrage)

Attention Shippers.

Pay attention to your packaging. If you are using wood keep to the ISPM norms. For more information click here.  Avoid overhang! If you are using pallets, try to use pallets with encased chocks (feet) .

Planning – A Concise Layout

Accurate dimensions are important. An aircraft has limited space and freight is always transported on or in  ULDs (Unit Load Devices)

Reference : ULD Unit Loading Devices

  1. AKE LD3 Lightweight
  2. AKE LD3 – 45
  3. AKW LD3 – Val
  4. AVA LD3 – Val
  5. AMH 10 Ft
  6. AMJ 10 Ft
  7. PMC 10 Ft
  8. PLA Half Pallet
  9. PLW Wings

Only those with valid certification are permitted to build  ULD consols  (built up units). Visit Lufthansa site for detailed information on ULDs.

Weight: No guesswork, please! Consignments are often weighed by the airline. Wrong weights mean, loss of time. Since several pieces make up  a consolidation, a few wrong weights can accumulate to form a large difference. An overloaded ULD might  collapse under weight. Think about floor load weight tolerance limits. Planning air freight consolidation doesn’t have to become a thesis. It just needs to be as accurate as possible

Documents : Original documents should be included in the consol pouch. Recheck if needed. Be a pedant when it comes to freight going to South America. Spelling mistakes can invite penalty (Venezuela, Brazil), Signatures on AWBs (Brazil). War risk declaration (Israel), No weight discrepancy (India) on AWBs. No “Pro-forma” on invoices (India)

ULD Consolidation

Check dimensions of the pieces! No sharp edges! Check the ULD before loading the freight :

Some of the points to be checked:

  • Rivets missing?
  • Tie down slots damaged?
  • Torn walls/Slits?

Third Party Freight In Consolidation

Check the pieces. Neutralised effectively? Labelled properly. Documents removed? Accompanying documents in consol pouch or on the consignment?

No ghost pieces! Consignee and shipper details to be mentioned on pieces.Airlines do not deliberately misplace freight. Since air freight is a fast mode, handling is a fast process and human beings can make mistakes.


Table calculators may be good. But not for consolidation jobs. Use a spreadsheet. Enter the consignment details (length, width, height, gross weight). Get the computer to calculate the volume (cubic metres ) and the volume weight.


Update the airline on time. Freight management can function well only when the agent and the airline work in harmony.

Update your agent at the airport of arrival. He needs to make preparation for the bills of entry.

Update your customer with flight details. He will update his customer abroad of the arrival of the freight.

Planning air freight consolidation : keep the aircraft in mind

Attention shippers: Keep your consignments, as far as possible to a maximum of 160 cm in height. That is the limit for all “lower deck” (belly load). If your freight is going to smaller airports (no direct flights) , try to keep the pieces to 70 cm in height or less and if possible limit the weight to maximum 150 Kg. On long haul flights 160 cm is quite normal. However, if the freight needs to be offloaded at the main airport and then go by transit to another, it is quite possible that a “narrow body” aircraft is used (B757 maximum height 70cm. Lufthansa takes 80cm. A319/A320: 110 cm)

MD 11 Main deck loads : maximum 244 cm in height.

B747-400 : standard is 295 cm height. In certain versions a bit more may be possible.

Remember: the length and the width of the consignment matter!!


To be continued….

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