How to Package for Air Freight?

How to Package for Air Freight?
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Packaging for Air Freight: A Guide for Businesses – Using air cargo allows businesses to ship goods quickly across international borders.

Using air cargo allows businesses to ship goods quickly across international borders. However, products shipped by air require specific care and handling to guarantee they arrive in perfect condition. The success of air cargo shipping depends not just on the promptness of delivery but also on careful and rules-compliant packaging.

This guide will cover the essentials of preparing packages for air cargo, explaining the necessary preparations, materials, and measurements to ensure that your shipment is successful. It is designed for both small business owners and beginner e-commerce entrepreneurs aiming to broaden their international presence, along with more experienced air cargo shippers looking to optimize their operations.

Basic Considerations for Air Freight

Air Freight packaging involves various materials and techniques tailored to meet specific shipping requirements. These range from reinforced boxes that protect against compression to custom containers designed for precise temperature regulation. This selection ensures the safety and integrity of your goods during their journey. As part of the decision-making process, shippers usually have to balance two key considerations:

  • Protection: Protecting the integrity of goods is the primary concern in air freight packaging. By understanding how different packaging materials and types of containers work, shippers can make smart choices to safeguard their merchandise. For example, corrugated fiberboard boxes, known for their strength and affordability, are commonly used in air freight, but heavy-duty containers and tanks can also be used.
  • Weight and Dimensions: The management of weight and dimensions plays a vital role in air freight packaging. Incorrect weight distribution can cause significant cost and freight handling issues. It is also crucial for shippers to be familiar with the airlines’ cargo size regulations to avoid the risk of having their shipments rejected or incurring fines.
  • Compliance and Safety: Air freight packaging must adhere to strict regulations and safety standards set by authorities. Shippers need to use approved materials, properly label packages, and follow guidelines for handling dangerous goods to ensure compliance and avoid potential hazards during transportation.

It’s vital to balance these considerations to find the appropriate packaging type for your cargo to protect it from the unique risks associated with air transport.

How to Prepare Your Packaging for Air Freight

A smooth and secure air freight experience is not merely about the flight; it starts on the ground with how the cargo is prepared. This section will guide you through the essential steps required before your shipment takes off.

Know General Restrictions on Cargo Dimensions

For international air freight in the fuselage of a passenger plane, a maximum pallet size of 2.44m x 3.15m (96×125 inches) applies, with the height of the item differing depending on the type of aircraft being used as transport. Air freight on a typical passenger plane cannot exceed 1.55m (61 inches) in height.

Items that are larger than these dimensions can still be shipped, but special charter services may be required that contain only cargo and no passengers, which may increase the height limit to 3m (118.1 inches). 

Utilize Unit Load Devices (ULDs) 

In most cases, your goods will likely be transported using a Unit Load Device (ULD) to facilitate shipping and storing your cargo. A ULD is prepacked on the ground with other ULDs. Then, they are loaded into the plane all in one go rather than in individual crates. This can be thought of as a form of consolidation, meaning that you still need to make sure that you packaged all your goods following best practices of packaging. 

It is important to clarify that air freight does not always use ULDs and that individual crates or packages can also be shipped. If your goods cannot be loaded into ULDs, they will have to be shipped in a different manner. Ensure that they are shrink-wrapped or bubble-wrapped to avoid damage during shipping. It is likely that, in most cases, your freight forwarder will be able to arrange such a shipment. 

Use The Right Boxes

Whether your shipment involves ULDs or not, for the safety of your shipment, it’s crucial to pay attention to even the smallest details, including the type of box you use. 

Use high-quality, new boxes instead of reusing old ones to ensure a higher level of security. A double-walled box is recommended due to its thick, corrugated cardboard layers, which offer increased durability and are especially suitable for transporting delicate items.

Before you pack your goods into boxes, there are several factors to consider. First, check the weight and material restrictions of the aircraft that will transport your shipment. It’s also important to assess the risk of moisture and humidity, as you should use a box that can adequately protect your cargo from such conditions. 

Label Clearly

Ensure you label in large font and ideally attach it to all the sides of your package to ensure it is easily read by shipping handlers. This should contain the details of the air freight service arranged for, as well as the destination and return address of the goods. Also, if your labels fall off, be sure to include some contact information inside the boxes themselves so that you can be contacted.

Calculate the Billable Weight

To determine air cargo’s billable weight, compare the actual weight with the volumetric weight, using the higher of the two. 

You can calculate volumetric weight by multiplying the package’s dimensions (length, width, height in cm) to get its volume in cubic cm, then dividing by 6000 for the weight in kg. If using inches and pounds, the calculation is multiplying the dimensions together and then dividing by 139.

Check Specific Carrier Requirements

In addition to general requirements, specific carriers may have requirements or restrictions concerning packaging. Some may require the use of certain materials, while others might demand cargo of a particular weight or dimension be packed in specific ways. This information will typically be provided to you by your trusted digital freight forwarder as part of your shipment arrangement.

Air Security Checks

Under air security guidelines, your freight must be thoroughly inspected before being loaded onto an airplane for shipment. There are several methods available to inspect the cargo.

One common method is X-ray screening, which is somewhat similar to the process used in the commercial airline industry for passengers. However, the X-ray machines for air freight are larger and more advanced than those for passenger checks. Additionally, a visual inspection is typically performed by a trained staff member.

In certain countries, it’s possible to skip the X-ray screening if you’re recognized as a ‘known consignor.’ However, for air freight to and from the United States, all cargo must undergo screening to the same standards as passenger baggage.

Hazmat Handling

For shippers of hazardous materials, compliance with IATA Regulations and proper labeling is non-negotiable. Hazardous cargo must have extra protection to avoid harm to the freight but also to the aircraft and its occupants, and in some circumstances is prohibited from being carried on passenger planes.

Cargo Insurance for Air Freight

Finally, never underestimate the value of cargo insurance. While diligent handling and packaging might reduce the risks, the unexpected can occur. Cargo insurance offers peace of mind and financial protection against potential losses during air freight.

The Documents Needed for Air Freight

There are several documents that are crucial to correctly processing air freight. However, the required documents may sometimes vary depending on the origin, destination, and nature of the goods being shipped. Here is an overview of the key documents needed for a successful shipment:

  • Air Waybill (AWB): This is the most critical document in air freight. The AWB acts as a receipt of goods by an airline (carrier) and a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. It includes details like the shipper’s and consignee’s contact information, a description of the goods, and routing details.
  • Commercial Invoice: To avoid customs delays and potential fines, always include a commercial invoice with your air freight shipment. This document is crucial for customs clearance. It includes details about the buyer and seller of goods, a description of the goods including the HS code, the notifying parties (i.e. customs agents) and the value of the goods.
  • Packing List: Complements the commercial invoice by providing detailed information about the contents of each package, which includes the type, quantity, and weight of the goods being shipped. This helps in handling, loading, and unloading of the cargo.
  • Export License: Required for certain goods that are controlled for export, depending on the nature of the goods and their destination. This document is issued by the appropriate licensing agency in the exporting country.
  • Import License: Similar to the export license, this is required by some countries for the importation of specific types of goods. It must be obtained by the importer.
  • Certificate of Origin: This document certifies the country in which the goods were manufactured. It is crucial for determining tariff rates under trade agreements and for complying with various import regulations.
  • Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD): Needed if shipping hazardous materials. It describes the nature of the hazards and includes handling instructions.
  • Insurance Certificate: Provides proof of insurance coverage for the goods during transit. This is important for protecting the value of the goods against loss, damage, or theft.

Understanding key documentation needed is crucial for businesses, whether they choose to work independently or in collaboration with a freight forwarder. This knowledge is key to preventing any confusion or lack of information that might lead to unexpected penalties and delays. 

The Benefits of Using Ship4wd for Air Freight

Forming a partnership with a trusted and seasoned digital freight forwarding service like Ship4wd can significantly enhance shipping operations. This allows business owners to concentrate on growing their business rather than worrying about the shipping process.

The professional team at Ship4wd offers a competitive air freight service. In other words, Ship4wd’s platform will help take care of everything, from offering pre-shipment inspections and competitive freight quotes to booking the shipment, assisting with paperwork, facilitating customs clearance, and coordinating the final delivery to your location. 

With the support of Ship4wd, businesses can be confident that their cargo is handled with care and securely delivered, regardless of whether they are importing or exporting.

Register with Ship4wd now to streamline your shipping processes so that you and your business can succeed in the international market.


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