Whether you are an importer taking advantage of our strong U.S currency to purchase from overseas and get your shipments expedited or an exporter with the right products meeting the needs of the broad overseas market places, you may consider using air freight shipping and consolidation services to rush your orders where it is needed most.
Here are some of the basics of what you need to know before utilizing air freight shipping services.
Weekly departures with most airlines
Your air freight international forwarder with an international air transport association (IATA) license, can access a large pool of airlines to insure good flight capacities and rates per kilo that are lower than the general tariff rates. The frequencies of flights may vary from airline to airline and the destination.
Combi-aircrafts, or aircrafts that can carry passengers, cargo or both at the same time, have more flight frequencies than freighter aircrafts. International shipping companies that have been IATA licensed can fly about every day and consolidate your cargo to get the lowest consolidated rates.
Depending on the size of the air freight consolidation, the minimum shipment is 45 kilos (approximately 99 lbs). When using an all freighter aircraft (an aircraft that only carries freight), your shipments can exceed the restrictions of a combi-aircraft. Shippers should always be very distinct about the total weight on the scale as well as the exact packed dimensions.
Combi-aircrafts are reserved for known TSA listed shippers with shipments that do not exceed 62 inches in height. Rates are also lower than all freighter aircrafts. All freighter aircrafts are used by known or unknown shippers.
Known versus unknown shippers
If you are shipping via air freight you may want to consider applying to become a known shipper by the TSA. A known shipper is permitted to ship cargo on a plane designated for passenger travel. Any shipper can request to become a known shipper with the TSA. Your licensed international freight forwarder can assist you with that request, which may take about 10 days for the TSA to reply.
The TSA will not always allow a shipper to be a known shipper, although overtime with more shipments under your belt the TSA may allow the shipper to become a known shipper.
Gross weight versus volume weight
Like most other shipment, air freight shipments are priced via weight. Though where air shipment differs is that airlines may calculate the air freight rates using one of two possible weights. All airlines will verify the gross and volume weights of your shipment and use whichever weight is greater when billing you making it important that you are aware of both measurements so you are not caught off guard.
How will you know if you have more volume (dimensional weight) than actual (gross) weight? Gross / actual weight represents the weight on the scale. Volume / dimensional weight, you multiply your length by your width by your height in inches to get to your cubic inches, you then divide that number by the airlines ratio of 166 to get you volume weight in pounds.
Should you have freight palletized, you have 2 things to remember: first, your wooden pallet must be heart treated (HT stamped on one of the beams) or use plastic, shrink-wrap, transparent film only, label each box, and add 4 large labels (one on each side) with the consignee /receiving party and the booking number. HT stamped pallets can be purchased from a lumber company or a large home-improvement chain store.
Second, the measurements must include the pallet from ground up and side to side (L x W x H). I recommend no overhang to keep the boxes within gauge of the pallet. Also, to prevent unnecessary volume, it is best keeping the same type of boxes. Shippers may like to use double wall cardboard boxes to prevent a collapse.
Delivering or having your shipment picked up to an air freight consolidator
Upon reaching the dock, the warehouse will verify the weight and the dimensions of your shipment. You may have your driver obtain a copy of the warehouse weight and dimensions. Please note that we often find discrepancies between what shippers declare and what the warehouses and airlines find. If your freight is being consolidated and having a master airwaybill issued (legal form), all of the shipments weights and volumes are verified. If there is any change, airlines will issue a CCA (Cargo Charges Correction Advice), your freight invoice would be pro-rated up or down.
Shippers must supply a commercial invoice, a detail packing list, and their EIN number (Tax ID number). Shippers with no business entity can obtain an EIN number for individuals only. Your freight forwarder can help you get one. If customs in the country you ship to has any additional requirements, you must obtain the documents (supplier / buyer).
Trucking to or picking up from a US airport
Your forwarder must use a trucking company with a STA (security threat assessment) with the TSA. From there your shipment is ready to move via ground transport to the next stage of its journey!
Looking for more great tips like this one? Join us in our upcoming webinar titled, "Ask a Freight Forwarder," hosted by none other than myself!