Flying your business to greater heights

Posted by Barloworld Logisitics on 04 Jul 2019 11:00:00 AM

Air freight

South Africa falls amongst the five countries that handle 60% of Africa’s intercontinental air cargo. In 2018, South Africa alone exported goods valued over R14 billion via air freight. With this influx of goods being exported through air, it is indeed vital to understand the intricacies of this mode of transport and how it can propel businesses to new heights. 

Apart from the fact that it is the most time convenient mode of transport for any business, just how much do you know about air freight? 

Types of air freight

Air freight is commonly used for goods with a shorter shelf-life, as well as for fast replenishment and the movement of high-value cargo from various destinations around the Globe. This speedy method of moving cargo offers various options including: 

Commercial planes – Moving both passengers and cargo, however, preference is most often than not, given to passengers meaning at times cargo may be deferred to accommodate passengers.  Commercial planes are also restricted by maximum dimensions i.e. volumetric weight which is the space allocated for cargo to occupy. Commercial planes offer more flexibility and are often more regular as they may have up to 4 flights a week.

Cargo planes – Also known as freighters, these planes are designed to accommodate more cargo at a rate that is slightly higher than commercial planes as they are solely dedicated to moving freight. Cargo planes have less frequent flights due to the amount of cargo they can secure, as opposed to commercial planes which frequently travel due to the high demand of passenger transit. Cargo planes often fly out once a week or once every two weeks from a particular destination.

Methods of air freight:

Next flight out - As the name suggests, freight is shipped as soon as a flight is available. This is the quickest air cargo shipping option and is often the most expensive. 

Consolidated shipping – Goods from various shippers are combined to form one shipment which moves on a set schedule. This way, shippers can take advantage of cheaper rates by moving goods at set times, with a larger shipment of goods. 

Deferred:  which entails postponing the shipment of your lower priority freight until there is space available on the aircraft. This type of air shipment operates on a regular schedule with shippers simply defering their air cargo to the third, fourth, or fifth business day. This type of air cargo often offers the greatest cost savings due to the potential for longer transit times.

The advantages of air freight:

  • Highly reliable: Air freight has highly reliable arrival and departure times. This makes it one of the best methods of transport to move perishable goods as their shelf-life is dependent on time. 
  • Faster transit times: As air freight offers quicker transit times, less can be spent on warehousing costs as custom clearance, goods inspection and goods handlers are more efficient and can clear cargo within a short period of time.  The quicker transit times also mean that goods can reach the market in the intended time and yield cash flow results for the shipper.
  • Low insurance cost: Although others may argue that transporting cargo using air freight is slightly expensive, time for air cargo is comparatively short, which makes its insurance premium low; resulting in savings in terms of lower insurance costs. 
  • Tracking and safety: With strictly managed airport controls, this mode of transport offers reliable remote tracking and safety of goods. 
  • High-value cargo:  As it is safe and easier to track, air freight is commonly used for high-value goods. 

Disadvantages of air freight:

With all the advantages of transporting cargo by air, there are also shortfalls which may require consultation with a freight forwarder on the most favourable options for moving goods.

  • Types of goods shipped: It is difficult to transport bulky and heavy goods by air. Heavier items such as furniture or awkwardly shaped goods become a challenge for this mode of transport. 
  • Small carrying capacity: Capacity is another factor to consider when choosing between cargo and commercial planes as the latter usually have a small carrying capacity. 
  • Higher cost: Air freight ishigher as compared to sea freight, due to goods being calculated based on their volumetric weight.
  • Dependent on weather conditions: Climatic and extremely bad weather conditions can determine when goods are shipped. 


In order to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of transporting air cargo, consider the below:

  • Ensure that all the necessary paperwork is accurately completed for a smooth customs process.
  • Pack perishable goods properly to minimize loss.
  • Always label all your packaging with a “caution” sticker.
  • In order to minimize costs, have a discussion with a logistics professional as air freight is charged by volumetric-weight utilizing a three-dimensional formula.
  • Maximum- sized dimensions can vary by airline, so engage your logistics professional to help minimize costs.

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Topics: Services