Air Freight : Do It Right



Air Freight is expensive and there should be no compromise on quality. You value your client and the your product. The transport of your valuable product should meet the same quality standards. The point here is NOT the ISO quality benchmarks, on the contrary practical points that are utilised to move the freight. The importance here is not of getting the freight to the client but HOW will it get there. SUPATH Air Freight tries to give you as much information as possible and all from reality.

Flow of Information

In the unbroken span of thirteen years in air freight, I can say without doubt that one of the major points that was ignored was the flow of information. Right from the customised declaration to the final processing of the goods at the airport of arrival, the key role is played by information.

Telephone, email and fax (pity it is still being used!) are all vital lines. VOIP is, unfortunately, not a favourite choice. One of the reasons quoted is that of security.


Placing an order does not mean the end of the operations process. The seller might have questions, the buyer might have enquiries. Changes might be needed in the order. Email is, no doubt, the easiest way to communicate them. However, the addressee may be facing computer problems such as server failure, crashes, non-availability of lines etc. Fax comes handy, because a transmission failure will be received immediately. A short telephone call will help. Motto: Keep the lines open. Communication must be possible.


Abide by the rules of packaging (ISPM 15, IPPC logo). Does the country of destination demand a Non-Wood Packing Declaration? or a Fumigation Certificate? If recycled packaging is used, remove old barcode and air freight labels! If cartons are being used, make sure they are sturdy. All holes and cracks must be secured. Any opening will be classified as “Packaging Prone to Manipulation” leading to rejection of freight or repackaging measures. This means not only cost but also time lost.

Shipper and Consignee addresses have to be clearly mentioned on the packaging. Avoid small print. Warehouse staff have very less time. Enough room should be available for airfreight labels. If documents are being attached to the outside of the consignment, the affixing must be quite sturdy and resistant to being ripped off. Shipments are placed as close together as possible to save  space and moving the freight might result in documents being lost


First question: Does the country of destination stipulate that the original documents accompany the goods? If yes ; please check the regulations; please do not ignore it. Ignoring that will create extreme difficulties for your client.

Send high quality scanned documents via email or even by FTP. Include ALL the documents


Shipper : make sure the consignment leaves your warehouse with a clean receipt. No damage receipt should be maintained.

Consignee: make sure the content received is free from any visible damage

If, during delivery, freight shows signs of damage, document it (photographs with date and time), the air way bill number should be visible on the photos (all freight pieces will have air freight labels attached).


NEVER forget! The driver picking up or delivering the goods must be made to sign a receipt. That should include the vehicle registration, the printed name of the driver, the delivery company, the delivery / pick up time and date.

Claims and Intend to Claim

Do not ask the shipper to table a claim immediately after receiving the freight. A freight with visible damage will NOT be accepted by any airline for transportation. A damage can occur in the warehouse of the airline or at the airport of destination. Send a letter of liability to the freight forwarder that delivered the goods. The lorry company is not the company to be held liable by you. The freight forwarder has sub-contracted the delivery. So the letter of claim should be addressed to the freight forwarder who ordered the delivery of the goods.


Please ask. SUPATH has a solution to almost every solution

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Air Freight: What You Need To Know

International Air Freight Consultant


Air freight mode of transport is fast but expensive but in a fast-moving world  there is no other faster mode of transport . Businesses must be fast in getting their freight to their clients. Unless sea freight has been mentioned explicitly air freight remains the popular mode of transport in moving small to medium freight. Large freight is shipped by air, when an emergency arises. As air freight is expensive, attention is to be paid to the details and the planning should be fast and correct. Knowledge is power and armed with the right information, a company can keep the cost under control. SUPATH brings you practical suggestions that you can use, and  knowledge that has been tested


Cost Involved : Mandatory Charges

The following charges will definitely be an inseparable part of air freight. There are charges that cannot be listed by SUPATH because the charges vary from country to country and from company to company.

  • Pick up – from the shipper’s place to the freight forwarder or to the airport warehouse
  • Haulage – the lorry service to the airport of departure
  • Handling – air way bill, labelling, warehouse checking, customs formalities
  • air freight rate – based on chargeable weight (gross weight or volume weight: whichever is higher)
  • Fuel Surcharge : usually charged on gross weight. Of late most of the airlines charge this on chargeable weight
  • Risk Surcharge: also called security surcharge. charging mode similar to Fuel Surcharge
  • AMS Fee : Automated Manifest Service Fee: Airlines need to transfer air way bill data to customs authorities. Electronic transfer
  • Warehouse Charges: demurrage charges! ask for tariff. There is no general tariff. Each country and each airport of destination has its own listing! SUPATH can never warn you enough.  Delay could mean a shocking invoice!

Costs Involved : Possible Charges

  • Dangerous Goods Fee : only applicable to hazardous goods (IATA regulation)
  • Development Fee : only if the airport of destination lists this (Canada does)
  • Broker Transfer Fee : depends on who does the brokerage. Applicable if the de-consolidator and the broker doing the customs clearance is not the same company.
  • Crane  or Forklift charges
  • Insurance : If you want to insure the freight, you need to cover it before the pick up of the freight

Documents involved

  • Commercial Invoice(s)
  • Packing Lists (freight to India: if you have  more than one piece please include a packing list)
  • Delivery Note : some companies issue these. Not needed for customs clearance
  • Pro-forma Invoice : NOT accepted by customs in India for clearance.
  • Certificate of Origin : needed in countries that have Agreement on Preferential Tariffs ( goods from India to Europe should carry Certificate of Origin; also called Form A; so that the importer can get reduction on duties. Original certificate is to be tabled.
  • Certificate of Conformity : usually for electronic and electrical goods. Also applicable for telecommunication equipment in certain countries
  • Export Permit : In Europe, if the goods for export fall in of the categories of dual use listed in the appendices of the EC regulation, an export permit in original is mandatory
  • Export declaration : varies from country to country. In India the export clearance takes time and a customs inspection may take place.
  • Customs Bond : in the US, either a single entry bond or a continuous bond is mandatory
  • ATA Carnet : needed only for exhibitions. Not all countries are parties to the ATA Carnet contract.
  • Fumigation Certificate or Non-Wood Packing Declaration may be required by the country of destination
  • IEC : (Import Export Code) : needed by importers in India along with the PAN (Permanent Account Number)


Check the invoices for mistakes (spelling mistakes in names can cost money: e. g. South American destinations)! Keep contact lines open: time is money

Questions? :

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How to Ship Large Freight By Air?

Introduction: Large Freight

Here is a very touching video. This is not only about freight but about a loving heart. It is meant to show large freight is possible on smaller aircraft. Commercial transport of oversized freight is, however, done in a completely different way . Courtesy David Gates We salute you Gary Roberts for your big heart



How to ship large freight is a “large” question. There are too many points to put on the check list. Large freight means freight that is oversized and that includes heavy freight and  is usually shipped as sea freight. However, large machines and structures, often, become emergency freight and the forwarding has to be fast.

Should you charter cargo aircraft? What does the forwarding cost?  How long does it take? What arrangements are to be done? Too many questions surface.

Realistic and Down To Earth Thinking

  • Keep a cool head and think of all possible questions about transportation. You will need to consider at least the following points
  • Freight packaging: if the freight is more than 10 tons, most airlines will refuse a packaged freight. Unknown content, untold risk!
  • Know the dimensions of the freight: Length, Width and Height
  • Weigh the freight! Know the nett and the gross weight
  • A heavy-duty forklift might be needed
  • A gantry crane might be necessary
  • Should a heavy-duty crane be ordered?
  • Cranes might mean, the freight has rings for steel shafts to be inserted. The hoist chains or cables are then attached to the shafts
  • Any moving items need to be dismantled and secured in such a way that the pieces neither move nor cause damage to the sides of the freight
  • If the freight can be moved, lifted or loaded using a forklift, the freight must be mounted on pallets (please refer  freight packaging  )
  • Do not finish the packaging before the airline people inspect the cargo

No hazardous materials to be included! Any item, which has been classified as hazardous as per the IATA regulation, is to be excluded. Pressure chambers are classified as dangerous goods. so ship them separately.  VERY IMPORTANT: When packaging pressure chambers, make the packaging so dense that the content does not show any movement when shaken. (This will be updated)

  • Any fragile item should be excluded or well protected.
  • Protect the edges of the freight. styrofoam is better. It is light
  • Make room available under the freight for wooden boarding! Metal against metal (air freight pallets are of aluminium) is not permitted on aircraft.


Dimension, Weight and other factors

  • The aircraft doorways are not extremely big. There are limitations like door actuators, which, although small, can become problematic for ver high cargo
  • The length, width and the height of the freight have to be considered in relationship to the aircraft and the weight of the freight
  • Not all aircraft have winches on board
  • If the height of the freight is more than 240 cm, it cannot be loaded on to  an MD 11
  • On a 747 freighter a height of 295 cm might be critical (depending on the version of the aircraft )
  • Nose Load (loading through the nose of the aircraft: the cone is lifted to show the cargo compartment located under the cockpit on a 747 jumbo) is not possible for freight of more than 249 cm! (weight and width of the cargo will also be taken into consideration)
  • Advance arrangements for offloading and transportation are to be done at the airport of destination.
  • Additionally, the import clearance should be planned down to the minutest detail.


  • Know your international air freight rate!
  • You are paying for volume! It is the chargeable weight that counts.
  • Ask for the chargeable weight on the air way bill  (if you are being billed for items separately and not a single lump sum price )
  • Should your freight be insured?
  • Crane charges are for the time taken! ask for the correct pricing!



  • Keep good photos of the freight (even digital ones)
  • Commercial invoices
  • Packing Lists
  • If wood is used: have you included a fumigation certificate? Ask the consignee if it is needed! Written statements, please!
  • Contact numbers (telephone, fax, mobile phone etc.) mentioned on the papers?



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Business Between Germany and India: Tips

International Air Freight Consultant


India is a booming economy and one of the most important future markets. A growing middle class and increasing standards of living have changed the relaxed and complex country into a powerhouse of economic development. There is a lot of movement of goods on the international trade lane to and from India. This article proposes to show prospective industries both in India and in Germany a few salient points, which will help both the sides avoid headaches and unnecessary stress.

It must be mentioned in advance that no negativity is meant in the article. It considers the facts in all honesty and the attempt, here, is to offer solutions and not to cause discomfort.

Important note:

The masculine pronoun ‘he’ is being used here in the historical neutral sense and it implies not only the male members of society but also the female.

The German scenario

No matter what trade is being done and from where, the simplest factor that forms the most important part of the foundation is the human one. The German approach is a systematic one, set in an apparently, rigid frame-work.

The German work flow has a linear functionality compared to the relaxed approach found in India. An order will be processed in a certain pre-determined way. Although many people consider the German system inflexible, it is not really the case. One must approach it from the German way, that is all. The Indian way of functioning is, in comparison, quite different. There is a relaxed nature to everything, which is not meant in a deliberate way. One just needs to know in advance the functioning of the subcontinent.

A typical work flow that takes place in Germany would be as follows. I shall not go into details but just give an approximation of the entire process.

The order will be processed by a particular department

A particular person will be responsible for the order and he will always have a standby person, who will take care of the order in the absence of the former.

Once the order is placed, it is a standard practice to send the buyer an order confirmation letter. This document will, almost always, carry an order confirmation number, the date and the name of the person who processed it.

The order in its technical sense, I. e. the technicalities of the item ordered, will be the sole concern of the sales department. This department is not directly involved in the despatch of the items, its packaging or in the customs formalities.

The despatch department will handle the packaging, the customs documents, the putting together of the papers that go with the goods and the communication with the freight forwarder.

Once the goods are ready, they are packaged in conformity with the regulations of international trade. Depending on the amount shown on the commercial invoice, the pre-export customs formalities are set in motion. This usually has a delay of at least one day. There are exceptions to this rule, where an export declaration will be released by the German customs on the same day.

Once the export papers are ready the freight forwarder can organise the pick up of the freight. The pick up will be subject to the conditions of the shipper. There might be limitations, such as pick up timings, pick up formalities (if it is a big company), pick up equipment etc.

Communication is always to the point. Unnecessary points are almost never included resulting in short and concise interaction. The German principle is: be short and precise.

Communication regarding the invoicing, pricing, commissions, discounts etc. are to be directed to the sales department.

Communication about despatch, customs formalities, air way bill etc. are to be directed to the despatch department.

The person on the German side is to be addressed by Mr or Mrs followed by the surname and not by the first name (the latter way is common in India). One may use the first and the last name, too. If the gender is not known, please use the first and the last name (Correct spelling is important. Speaking from experience).

The Indian scenario

Emails from India will, almost always, be copied to (several) persons that are involved in the process. If the gender of the person is not known (which is often the case) please use the first and the last name, as mentioned above.

The promptness in replying, often seen on the German side, may not be reciprocated from India, but it is not meant in an impolite way. Decision making processes in India is quite a complex affair but things are changing.

A short email confirming the pick of the goods is a big help to the client in India. He needs to set an enormous bureaucratic machinery in motion and can face delays with processes, over which he may not have any control.

It is very important to send very clear copies of the way bill, commercial invoices, packing lists and if needed the certificate of origin, well in advance. The Indian customs demand that the documents to the consignment arriving be advised to the customs office, at the airport of destination, 24 hours in advance. That means 24 hours before the consignment lands in India (Indian time)

Please avoid short shipments to India! An amendment to the consignment advice sent to Indian customs can be time-consuming and will incur penalties.

Three to four days for customs clearance is quite possible, in India. The amount of imports arriving in India is huge and the Indian customs authorities need time to manage the processing as the regulations are quite vast and complicated.

Companies in India are permitted to import only if they are in possession of the so-called IEC or Import Export Code. The Indian importer has to pass on this code to the freight forwarder to help him with the import clearance

Companies in India please note: Please pass on to the shipper, in Germany, the contact details of at least two persons in India, so that the freight forwarder at the airport of destination can despatch the incoming documents without delay. This will help speed up the import clearance. If you are using a broker of your own, please convey the details to the Indian freight forwarder who will receive the goods from abroad. It is a very good practice to give the shipper these details. The shipper can be instructed to pass on this information to the German freight forwarder, so that the details can be printed either on the air way bill or mentioned in the communication going to the partner forwarder in India.

Letters of Credit: Attention Indian Importers

Please communicate with the German shipper in advance and clarify three important details:

  • German Airport of Departure
  • Indian Airport of Destination
  • Transshipment

A transshipment may be necessary if no direct flights to the airport of destination is possible. For example a direct flight from Frankfurt am Main, Germany, to Nasik, Maharashtra state, is not possible, as no airline operates a flight to there. Another example is, the airline Emirates, whose flight first lands in Dubai. The consignments to Mumbai, India, will be offloaded and transferred to another aircraft that continues to Mumbai as the end destination.

Description and nature of goods are to be kept within reasonable limits. An air way bill has only a limited space and the freight forwarder has to process quite a lot of freight in a given day. The workload per head in Germany is more than the one in India. Hence, mutual understanding will make the day lighter.


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Published on Ezine Articles: Original Article

Air Freight – To Consolidate or not?

International Air Freight Consultant


Almost every importer has faced the situation, mentioned in the title, and many took a decision without thinking much about the term consolidation and/or how it functions.

Economy moves fast and every company needs to keep pace with its high-speed. As technology grows, so do the demands. Especially in the field of manufacturing, the supply of goods, be it machinery or machinery parts, be it packaging parts or tools for production, everything must be available within the shortest possible time.

Understanding Air Freight Price

Many companies do not even have a warehousing system, because goods in the warehouse  are considered dead capital. These companies wish their orders to be delivered “just in time” (that is how the process is called) ,directly to the production line. This way of  managing the figures may have its positive sides. However, there are innumerable factors that cannot be ascertained in advance. Unforeseeable points are the hidden risk here and they can really hurt.

Moving goods across the continents by sea is cheap. However, the strongest argument against this mode of transportation is the time taken.Ecologically speaking sea freight is a better solution. However, many companies cannot afford to wait that long to get their orders. Economy and Ecology become conflicting factors.

The air freight price is not a merely the question of weight . The volume of the consignment will be taken into consideration. The customer is paying for the amount of room the freight takes.  If the volume is greater than the total weight, the former will be used to calculate the air freight price. Cubic meter is the unit used in calculating volumes and the way to determine this is to multiply the  length, width and the height of the goods  (meters). The result is then multiplied by 166.6666 (it is better not to round off the figure) .

Example: if your consignment of 75 Kg  measures 1.2 x 0.8 x 0.80 meters, the volume = 1.2 x 0.8 x 0.8 = 0.768 cubic meters.  0.768 x 166.666=  127.99. As per the IATA (International Air Transport Association) rules, the figure will be rounded up to the next 500 gm, resulting in 128. This is the volume weight of your consignment. Between the gross weight and the volume weight, the higher figure will be used for calculating the air freight price. Assuming the consignment had a total gross weight of 130 Kg, the price will be based on 130 Kg.

Understanding Direct Consignments

A direct consignment is one that is addressed directly to the consignee and the air freight agent (freight forwarder) forwarding the goods is not involved directly with the consignee. The company from which you bought your product becomes the consignor (also called shipper) and you are mentioned on the air way bill as the consignee.The freight is tendered to the airline, immediately after the final export customs clearance is through.  The air way bill which accompanies the consignment is called an IATA air way bill. The freight forwarder is the authorised identity entrusted with flying the cargo.  He will  tender the consignment to the airline after the final export customs clearance and his task ends there. The consignee has to find a broker to interact with the airline to get the freight cleared.

Understanding Consolidation

Consignments going to the same destination but from various shippers are booked under one master air way bill and each Shipper is provided with  a house air way bill. The freight forwarder can negotiate a better air freight rate, which will give each shipper or the consignee the opportunity go enjoy a better and cheaper price in comparison to direct consignments. The cost of the air freight is distributed over several consignments, which results in keeping the rate down.  Consolidations are usually booked to leave on the weekends. Depending on the amount of business, a freight forwarder will set up bookings for the middle of the week.


The master air way bill is almost always addressed to a freight forwarder at the airport of destination. It is his job to split the consolidated cargo into its individual units. This deconsolidation is carried out in a bonded warehouse at the airport of  arrival. Here again the handling charges at the airport is distributed over a large number of freight, thus effectively reducing individual prices. The  deconsolidation takes a bit of time and is not suitable for emergency freight.

Consolidate Or Not

Considering the above facts, one can say, if your consignment is not very urgent, a consolidation is advisable. It will save you a lot of money. However, please note, not every forwarder may fly a consolidation to the particular airport a customer has in mind.



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