13 Eye-opening Facts About Air Freight

When you hear the term ‘Air Freight’ you probably cringe a little because in shipping it’s usually associated with expensive mistakes. But, if you’re like me and you have hidden inside an air freight shipment once just to see exactly what happens on it’s journey, you might already know about the following counter-intuitive facts about the world of expedited freight transportation.

  1. Greater than 80% of “Air Freight” moves by truck. Expedite companies have a dirty secret and it’s been fooling us all for years. They’re wearing those goofy Mr. Potato Head mustache-glasses and laughing right now. The most air your expedite shipments usually get is when the truck hits a bump. I know, I know, that’s preposterous. But it’s the truth, most of it moves on the ground.

  2. Size matters: That’s right, your wife lied to you. The weight doesn’t really matter, it’s all about how much of the, uhh, box your...err...package occupies.

  3. Cut-off times and traffic still apply. Air freight is not Superman. They cannot fly to your door and rescue your shipment and magically drop it at your customer’s feet at 6 AM and save the day. It’s all based on dudes driving trucks, fighting traffic, complying to log books and having to eat/pee/sleep. In other words, Air Freight is human. Which brings us to #4.

  4. There are no guarantees. You won’t see this term much in air freight because you already have the most reliable form of transportation. In other words, this is the backup. There is no cavalry coming. If the shipment fails, it fails and you get it when you get it. (By the way, in LTL there really is no such thing as a guarantee either, that is a marketing term meant to make you feel safe. Yes, LTL carriers will give you your money back if they fail on a guarantee...but only if you don’t hit one of the many applicable exclusions [such as weather].)

  5. TSA “Known” Shippers get better rates. Make the effort to get this frequent flyer designation, it’ll save you money when you actually need to fly it.

  6. Chartering planes is obnoxiously expensive, your business can’t afford it. If you can, congrats, you are the 1%. Chartering planes typically runs in the 7 figure range.

  7. The boxes inside those planes are tiny for a reason. Max length is 120”. If your freight is longer than that prepare to spend b/t $20-$30k if you are lucky enough to find a partial DC-9.

  8. Passenger Airlines move a lot of “air freight”. That’s right, Southwest, Delta, AA are all in the air freight game, albeit, at a very limited capacity and the shipper must be “known” status with the TSA.

  9. You don’t always need air freight. You can use the weekend to your advantage and ship on an LTL provider, such as Forward Air or YRC, whose special programs count weekend days in the transit time.

  10. Hotshots, team drivers are a big business. They are everywhere and you’ve probably seen them without knowing. These teams/sprinters are very reliable and can add a cost-effective bow to your expedite quiver.

  11. Not all freight goes in big trucks these days...Do you have the ability to load a non- dock height vehicle? Sprinter and cargo vans are all the rage these days and they are very reliable, not to mention economical.

  12. Do you really have to send the whole shipment? Or, can you get away with a partial expedite and sending the rest via expedited ground freight? Better yet, is there some way to send only the bare minimum via parcel service and then send a fast LTL shipment after it?

  13. When do you REALLY need this? More often than not when someone says they need it “as soon as possible” they aren’t working with an accurate idea of true ASAP cost. On top of that the ASAP sense of urgency is often an emotional reaction to a perceived crisis when in fact there might be additional time built in if they took the time to dig into the underlying time constraints. So, pour yourself a stiff bourbon and ask a lot of questions up front such as, “when do we really need this by?” and “what happens if it doesn’t get here?”

There are a lot of options to consider but it’s helpful to have an accurate picture of what happens behind the curtain so you can ask better questions and make more informed decisions. Thanks for sitting on my couch, please take 2 of these checklists and call me in the morning...preferably asking me to setup an air freight shipment.

Looking for a reliable, experienced freight broker who can take everything off your plate and always find you the best rates?  Contact Chris.