December 29, 2022

The Importance of Global Air Freight

For companies shipping products overseas, ocean and air freight are the only options. And when time is of the essence, ocean is ruled out. So, let's turn to air freight for answers.
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Cargo can be shipped by various means, but you only have two options when it comes to shipping overseas – by ocean or by air. Ocean freight is by far the most used method, accounting for about 90% of global shipping. But if you want something shipped to it destination fast, air shipping is the only way to go.

Take a look at shipping times between the U.S. and China, for instance. Ocean freight between these countries can take 20-30 days to arrive. But if it’s shipped by air, that time is cut down to about 3 days. That’s a significant difference that can impact a company’s bottom line when time is an issue.

What goods are transported by air?

According to Reuters, the worth of goods transported by air every year is only 35% of international trade by value. But it’s only representative of 0.5% of total volumes and special requirements of not allowing active transmitters in the cargo. And while this number is relatively small in comparison, that actually represents about $6 trillion.

Air freight can include almost anything that can fit on the plain without exceeding weight limits. And a lot of times, it’s urgent cargo. An example would be vaccination supplies and medicine that are urgently needed in a different country. And aside from the need for these to arrive fast for medical reasons, fast shipping also helps preserve cargo conditions. The less time a product spends in transport, the less time it has to deal with the constant variables that affect its usability.

Postal parcels and letters are another popular air freight item. In fact, there are 348 billion letters and 7.4 billion postal parcels sent this way every year.

Air freight prohibited items

Although many things can be transported by air, there are many that are also many that are prohibited or that carry certain restrictions. Specifically, items considered dangerous goods can’t be transported by air.

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Dangerous goods are anything that "can in any way jeopardise the health, safety and overall conditions of everything else on the plane."

Some examples of dangerous goods include:

  • Car batteries
  • Ion batteries
  • Liquids
  • Gasoline
  • Acids
  • Pesticides
  • Ethanol

All air shipments require careful monitoring to ensure the safety of its transporters, passengers, and recipients.

Global air freight competition

Despite the fact that global air freight is a faster shipping method than ocean freight, there is some stiff competition in the industry.  Unfortunately, much of the cargo shipping is shifting to ocean freight rather than air freight for several reasons.

For one thing, shipping by air requires extensive data logging, which slows down the process. So, even though it’s still much faster, air shipments now take around 6.5 days as opposed to the three days they used to take. Fortunately, better data logging is being developed all the time in order to cut down the time it takes to handle unloading and loading of shipments.

There's also a shift from transporting electronics by air as much. These high-value items have become smaller and require much less space. Therefore, they no longer require dedicated freighters for shipment. This means they can often be transported in the bellies of passenger planes, much like many other goods.

Global air freight matters

Despite the competition and the lagging numbers in the industry, air freight is still an important part of the shipping process. And in an effort to raise awareness of its necessity, IATA (International Air Transport Association) launched a worldwide campaign.

The IATA, along with many other entities and individuals, feel that air transport is an important part of the economy, global relationships and commerce.

For one thing, there are more than 68 million people employed in the air freight industry. The more this system weakens, the more people are forced out of jobs. And equally important are the vaccines shipped urgently to foreign countries that save more than two million lives each year.

In conclusion

Global air freight is far from dead. It is still a valuable part of the shipping industry. However, many are attempting to revive its numbers and update its processes. But with the need for fast shipping for so many products, air cargo shipping isn’t going anywhere soon.

Did you enjoy this post? Take a look at our blog posts 10 Tips to Make Your Supply Chain More Eco-Friendly, Four Ways Technology Will Boost Warehouse Efficiency and Big Data in Supply Chains as well.

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