Air Freight From China

Air freight is the fastest transportation as it takes only a few hours for shipping goods over longer distances, with its highly reliable and easy to access to anywhere, it has been considered as the first-choice transport alternative for high-value and low-volume shipments.

► What is Air freight ?

► Distance and time?

► Reliability?

► Type of cargo to ship?

► Cost?

► How is chargeable weight of Air freight calculated?

► What is the difference between the freight forwarding of freight forwarding and DHL, UPS, in terms of price, what are the advantages?

► Is there a size limit for air transport?

Common cargo airlines


What is Air freight ?

Air freight, with its name speaking for itself, is to move cargo by airplanes. Air freight is the fastest amongst transportation modes amongst all, including Sea freight, Road freight, Rail freight, and inland waterway.  Transit time is usually measured by hours versus Sea freight which take weeks or over a month From origin of the goods to destination. With accessibility to almost anywhere of the world it is often considered the first choice in moving high-valued and low-volume shipments.

There are various options in international shipping. Amongst all, the most fundamental is to choose between air freight and sea freight. When making decision it is always a matter of time, price, convenience, and cargo safety. Let’s look into the determining factors in deciding to use air freight in the following paragraphs.

Distance and time?

The further the distance between origin and destination, the longer the transit time is. Air freight fits perfectly in direct city to city transport or on direct routes between countries. It reduces the distance between production bases and markets bringing retail goods that needs to be in destination quickly.  Air freight also makes shorter order time possible whenever there is delay in production or replenishment of inventories to large initial orders shipped by Sea freight that having better sale than initially expected.

In terms of time there is no doubt that Air freight is much faster. Time is money so Air freight is a wise choice of bringing new products with short shelf lives to the target markets.


Minimal handling in air freight represents minimal risk in cargo damage and reaching destination in good shape. Volumes of air freight are relatively smaller when compared with that of Sea freight. Congestion at airport is less likely than at sea ports where huge volumes of containers are moved in and out leading to possible risks and additional costs of demurrage and detention. It is also important for landlocked countries where land transportation is unreliable and clearance procedures at the borders or foreign gateways are long and uncertain.

Due to its reliability and fast transit time Air freight is good for opening new markets for initial deliveries of product. It is also important in reverse logistics, for example, repair and warranty work for consumer electronics and other high-end consumer products.

Type of cargo to ship?

Initially, goods having higher values per unit or time sensitive is suitable to be carried by Air freight, for example high fashion, pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics (Battery), Artworks, perishable marine and agricultural products, samples sent to potential buyers for testing, approval or promotion campaigns, initial prototype for approval, spare parts that are critically needed…Apart  the above that mostly related to contracted manufacturing, critical shipment of product patterns, designs and technical drawings though not the major cargo source of air freight are appropriate to be shipped by Air.

In general, there is limitation in Air freight cargoes considered aircraft capacity, weight and safety factor. Therefore Air freight is usually adopted for unitized cargoes. Of course there are exceptions like chartered flights which carry project cargo. There are many different types of aircrafts for oversized projects. Taking the Antonov An-225 Mriya for example which is the largest aircrafts in the world, with its length of 275 feet (83.82 meters) and wingspan at 290 feet (88.39 meters) it carries up to 250 tons of cargo.


Air freight is normally priced 4 to 5 times of Road freight and 10 to 15 times of Sea freight. Generally its rates vary between US$1.50 and US$5.00 per kilogram and the value of cargo shipped by Air freight is above US$4.00 per kilogram typically.

The difference in costs between the two transportation modes mainly depends on the type of cargo and to where you want to ship. There are different factors impacting the rate level of Air freight. Capacity of aircrafts initially is limited by weight and the capacity of vessels by volume, the difference in freight rate for Sea and Air tends to be less for light cargo than for heavy cargo.  Air freight rates per kilometer on short haul flights are higher due to the fact that greater part of the trip is spent on the ground and more time in the sky is spent climbing and descending. Therefore it is preferable to use land transport on the leg when distance between domestic source or destination is short.

It is usually cheaper to use Sea freight for larger and heavier shipments. However for smaller shipment, the margin between the prices of the two transportation modes becomes smaller. Especially when the same vessel may not be able to call at smaller ports due to her size, the container is brought further to the final destination by Rail, by Road, by barge or a combination of these transportation modes. Air freight would be less expensive sometimes.

One should also beware of that there are destination charges to consider. No matter you ship by Sea or by Air, customs and destination fees apply. In most cases the shipping cost of Sea freight is lower than Air freight yet the warehousing fees at destination seaports are several times higher than those at airports.

During the time when oil price is high, fuel cost can go as much as half the cost of operating an aircraft annually, no matter for cargo freighters and passenger flights. It is because fuel consumption is more or less in proportion to the aircraft weight and the flight distance, the marginal cost for cargo carriage is calculated based on weight and destination. Cargo space on passenger flights (commonly known as belly cargo) is offered “as available” as priority is given to passengers and their luggage, as well as postal and express parcels. (FBA & Express)

To compromise between the constraints of limitation by the maximum takeoff weight and capacity of commercial aircrafts in order to maximize profit airlines charge air freight by what is known as chargeable weight.  The chargeable weight is calculated a combination of the weight and volume of a shipment. Sea carriers charge sea freight by per container rates which is usually calculated in standard containers - TEU and FEU (FCL) . When volume of your cargo is less than a container load and you ship in LCL the Sea freight rate is charged by cubic meter (CBM).

How is chargeable weight of Air freight calculated?

A pallet that weighs 300 kg and measures (L) 80 cm x (W) 120 cm x (H) 115 cm

Gross weight:  300 kg

Volumetric weight:  184 kg

Because 300 kg is greater than 184 kg;

Chargeable weight:  300 kg (gross weight)

A pallet that weighs 200 kg and measures (L) 100 cm x (W) 120 cm x (H) 155 cm

Gross weight:  200 kg

Volumetric weight:  310 kg

Because 200 kg is less than 310 kg;

Chargeable weight:  310 kg (volumetric weight)

Due to limitation by the weight that an airplane can carry and the capacity of cargo it can accommodate (upper deck and lower deck of freighter aircraft and luggage compartment of passenger flight, usually referred to as belly cargo), in accordance to configuration of aircrafts, airlines multiply the length by the width and by the height of the cargo (L x W x H) to come up with the figure in cubic centimeters then to divide cubic centimeters by 6,000 (volume-weight ratio 1:6,000) to obtain the volumetric weight in kg.  Air freight is then charged by either the actual gross weight or the volumetric weight in kg, whichever yields the highest revenue.  In the case of imperial measurement (in inches), simply divide cubic inches by 366 you will get the volumetric weight in kg.

What is the difference between the freight forwarding of freight forwarding and DHL, UPS, in terms of price, what are the advantages?

DHL / UPS is suitable for small items. Generally, more than tens of kilograms of 45KGS or more should be considered for air transport. Compare with Air transport, also look at the address and volume.

DHL / FEDEX / UPS is only suitable for express mail, small parcels... Generally speaking, 25kgs or less, suitable for them, more than 25KGS or expensive small pieces, or will choose Air.... This is suitable and not suitable mainly Comparison of safety and price... Generally 20-30kgs of goods (charging weight, Express billing calculation method and Air transportation are not the same) the price is almost the same, more than this cargo weight, Air transport is cheaper than TT, the Express mail is also time-dependent , economical .... as long as you do not look at the price, just look at the price does not look at the aging ... and Air transport concept (direct / one transit / multiple transit)

And express those DHL / UPS, Express is a small parcel shipment, a lot of electricity goods, there are some airlines to some points, will be more preferred to receive electricity, if there are not many positions, it will not receive goods temporarily, resulting in Market positions are tight,

If the cargo are below 25kgs, we suggest use Express Service.

Is there a size limit for air transport?

There is no size limit on Air transport.

Air transport is limited in size, different aircraft models have different size restrictions, and the general length or width exceeds 1. meters.

If the height exceeds 1.2 meters, it is necessary to confirm whether it can be received.

Each route has different restrictions. The oversized items depend on the destination, and the aircraft models currently in use on this route. Oversized/special-shaped goods and other suitable aircraft can theoretically be done.

Passenger planes and freighters are definitely the problem of more and less warehouse space. Large cargoes will basically go to large freighters. First, they can meet the size. Second, they can be filled with sufficient positions.

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