Goods that need to be sent from one location to another require the services of a freight forwarder or an airfreight/cargo forwarder. Both can transport goods across many borders in a timely and efficient manner, but they differ in how they do it.
Airfreight is the process of transporting goods by plane and requires that all goods be encased in a container and be ready to load on the plane. Freight forwarding moves goods via land, sea, or air and does not require encasing the goods in a container.
Airfreight is more time and labour intensive
Before a good is shipped by air, it must first be boxed or crated. Boxes can be quite large, and using enough of them to encase the goods adequately takes up valuable space that may not be readily available for other goods on the flight. Setting boxes up correctly and ensuring they are strapped down securely inside the plane also takes time.
Not only does this occupy valuable space and time, but it also costs money – the boxes themselves, once manufactured, along with any straps or other materials used to make them secure, cost money too. Workers also need to be paid for their time, which adds more cost to airfreight shipments. The additional cost associated with these factors makes airfreight more costly than traditional freight forwarding.
Different countries may have different tax structures
Some countries assess a different rate of customs duty on goods transported via air than those transported via land or sea. Depending on the country and the goods being transported, this can dramatically increase the cost for an airfreight shipment compared to a less expensive traditional freight forwarding shipment.
Security standards and documentation is more stringent
Airfreight agents and airlines deal with high-valued goods and security threats all the time and take their jobs very seriously when it comes to transporting these goods. And they should – if there’s even one breach in protocol, people could die.
Another reason airfreight is more costly than traditional freight forwarding is that necessary procedures are more time and labour intensive.
Airfreight agents do not have the infrastructure available to transport goods by other modes
Airfreight agents cannot send a good from one city to another via truck or ship – they only originate shipments from an airport using a commercial airliner. Therefore, they rely on other modes of transportation for further movement of a good, which increases cost and risk because there is an increased possibility that something will go wrong with the second mode of transportation.
While traditional freight forwarding does require additional costs associated with secondary modes of transportation, these costs are minimal compared to those required when transporting goods via air freight only.
The distances travelled between airports also has an effect
The distance travelled by an air freight shipment between two airports is usually much longer than that of a traditional shipping mode, making airfreight more expensive because it costs the company transporting the goods more to cover fuel, labour, and other operating expenses.
Air transportation requires special permits
Air travel is considered dangerous for people’s health in certain conditions (e.g., high altitudes), which means any good transported via plane needs special documentation before transporting it legally.
Goods travelling by boat or truck do not need this type of documentation, thus making them less costly overall when compared to their counterparts travelling via plane. This reason makes airfreight more costly than traditional freight forwarding.
Air transportation requires unique packaging materials
Since it is the responsibility of an airfreight agent or airline to move a shipment from airport A to airport B (whichever is closest), they need specific types of vehicles with specific types of containers that can withstand certain conditions like high altitudes, extreme weather, etc.
The company transporting the goods must pay for these vehicles and cover any additional labour or time to get these heavier or more expensive vehicles ready for use on the tarmac. It gives airfreight agents an edge over traditional transport modes and makes airfreight more costly.