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

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Packaging in International Freight Forwarding (Air Freight): Filling Materials

International Air Freight Consultant

One of my articles, posted here, already discussed packaging. The central theme of that article was wood used as packaging and filling material. A further article may be necessary to explain the terms mentioned there viz. IPPC and ISPM 15.

In this article, I shall draw your attention to a filling material, which is used quite often i.e. styrofoam chips.

Apart from large machines and machinery parts that are transported on the international trade lanes, smaller electronic and fragile goods are also moved by air, sea or road. Obviously, each of these modes of transport requires individual standards of packaging, as the risks vary in their form.

Irrespective of the mode of transport used, one common factor is the haulage. Before a freight can be put on board a ship or an aeroplane, a lorry is required to transport that cargo to the place of loading.

The second factor that plays a generally ignored role is vibration. Vibration transmitted from the vehicle to the freight will, inadvertently, affect the content. One should not forget that a freight will be subject to various movements during transit and any form of movement will have a direct impact on the content within the packaging.

The general scenario of movements

  • Fork-lift
  • Pallet jacks
  • Tail lift
  • Engine vibration transmitted through the body of the lorry
  • Movements during loading the freight on a ULD ( fork-lift )
  • Movement via loading equipment during transfer into the aircraft
  • Take off, landing and in-flight vibration

Movements arising out of all the above factors are influencing the contents without our noticing it. Providing protection to the contents must take all these forms of influence into consideration.

This is where the so-called styrofoam chips need to be looked at in a fully different light. Chips, being loose pieces, will move because of the vibration they receive. The chips are set in (almost) continual motion which releases the air that is trapped between the gaps. This will change the density of the structure of filling material, because as the air escapes, the chips will resettle into a new formation.

The chips from the top will move gradually down, exposing the top of the contents. thus leaving that part of the freight without any protection. This will mean that the padding that was available at the top area of the freight will vanish exposing the contents to risks from external sources. Since cartons do not have a big resistance, the absence of any padding beneath will cause the shocks of an impact to be transmitted directly to the contents.

If the filling is not done well, the chips on the sides, too, will settle down, exposing the flanks of the freight. Any lateral shock will thus be passed over to the pieces inside. No external damage may be visible. Any form of damage will be brought to light only after the contents are taken out of the packaging. Advice: It is better to avoid chips and use styrofoam blocks.

Professional help in right packaging can help prevent damage to consignments. My suggestions and views come from my experience. I have helped my clients. The term packaging might sound innocent, but a damage due to wrong packaging will result in unnecessary losses and problems. Need help? Write me an email:

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