Air Freight Packaging – Floor Load Tolerance

supath seo unitised cargo


Air freight packaging must be strong enough to withstand fast operational procedures. Forklifts, pallet-jack handling, moving, sliding, vibrations etc are all factors that need to be taken into account. Waterproofing of the package is an additional measure that may be added to the checklist. However, one important point, which should not be forgotten is the floor load tolerance or floor load capacity limit.  This factor is of extreme importance when pallets with chocks are used in air freight packaging.

Why Is Floor Load Tolerance Limit Important

Freight forwarding by air uses unit load devices (ULD), which are mostly made of light weight aluminium. Although the metal is known for its tensile strength, it is not fully resistant to damage. As per the air freight regulations certain amount or type of damage can disqualify a ULD from being used in transport.  Missing rivets, deep dents or ripped sides etc. can disqualify a ULD.

Air freight packaging referred to here includes the carrier pallet. This may be made of hard board, wood, plastic or any other permitted material.

Understanding Air Freight Basics

Floor load tolerance limit is the maximum permissible load per square meter. The standard used by Lufthansa is  2000 Kg per square meter. An amount of weight higher than this amount is assumed to damage the ULD and hence endanger the safety of the aircraft. A damaged ULD gives rise to the risk of freight moving while in flight, which in turn can set off destabilising the other freight on board.

Since the maximum permissible load per square meter has been set, we need to  calculate the area of the footprint (the area occupied by the freight). In order to make the calculation understandable, the simplest example of a pallet with chocks is used below. The chocks (feet) of the pallet apply a concentrated weight on a very small area. Calculating the footprint is, to put in other words, finding the contact area.

The contact area in square meters is then multiplied with the maximum permissible load (2000 Kg). The result is the maximum weight of the freight.

The Calculation

air freight floor load capacity


We shall consider a pallet with four chocks, with each chock measuring 8 cm (both length and width).  Since the unit of the area is square meters, we need to convert the  measurements into that unit. 8 cm = 0.08 meters.

Area = length  x width => 0.08 x 0x0.08 => 0.064
Multiply the area with the maximum permissible weight => 0.064 x 2000 = 128

128 is taken as the weight. Hence the freight above (including the pallet) may weigh not more than 128 Kg. Any load on the top of the freight will mean crossing the load tolerance limit.

You, as a shipper, are not required to know the calculation. The article is to help you plan your air freight packaging with the freight forwarder and airlines in mind.

Air Freight Planning

  • Try to avoid pallets with chocks, especially conical chocks. The amount of weight per contact area of a conical chock is greater than that of a chock that is flat.
  • Use pallets with chocks resting on strips making the full length or width of the pallet. This will help distribute the weight over a large area
  • Even distribution of weight within the crate/carton with dunnage preventing the movement of the content.
  • Wobbly content shifts weight and creates possibility for  damage to content
  • Avoid overhangs! Freight should occupy only the area of the pallet and not project out of the rims.
  • If wooden pallets are to be used, make sure they are IPPC standard and the logo should be visible from the outside (embossed  on the side)
  • Air freight packaging must be strong enough and air worthy. Waterproofing is not mandatory but is certainly recommended.

Resources Centre

Anybody needing help or advice to plan air freight Please get in touch using the contact form. However, consultation with your freight forwarder/air cargo agent cannot be stressed enough. 


Experts in the field: please point out any errors or changes. A feedback from readers will be highly appreciated. Please share your thoughts by commenting. Any recommendation on bettering the content is welcome and will be highly appreciated.


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References for air freight

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.