If you need your goods moved in a time efficient manner, air freight may be your best option. Read our guide to better understand the air freight shipping process and get answers to some of your most asked questions.
Air cargo freight can be moved in a L9N Container, LD3 Container or a M1N Pallet depending on the size and quantity of the goods in your shipment.
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Decide which air transportation option is best for your timeline, budget and specific needs. You can calculate and compare air freight rates using the UPS® Forwarding Hub. Visit our freight shipping guide to learn about the different factors that affecting air freight rates.
Air freight can’t be picked up without proper documentation, so gather and fill out the necessary air freight documents. Learn more about shipping documents.
Determine the best packing options and materials to secure and protect your shipment and mitigate damage. You can choose from a variety of air freight packaging materials, such as paper, foam or bubble wrap padding, loose packing, edge boards, corrosion protection and shrink wrapping. If you’re shipment will be palletized, decide if you’ll use plastic or wooden pallets. Depending on the destination, determine if the wooden pallets need to be heat treated.
If you’re scheduling your own pick-up, it’s a good idea to book the pickup several days in advance of your needed pickup date. Determine if you or your recipient will require a liftgate, in the event either of you don’t have a loading dock. Contact the carrier’s local service center. If you’re using UPS, you can schedule your pick up through the UPS Forwarding Hub, where you’ll also receive your cost estimate and tracking number.
Depending on the speed of the air service you selected, your shipment is either transported to a local hub to wait for its departure or it’s directly transported to the airport to be shipped to its destination on the next flight out. If you have a tracking number, you can keep track of your shipment, or if available, be alerted at key milestones or if any exceptions occur.
When your shipment arrives at its destination air gateway, it is processed for Customs clearance, which can take up to three days. If the shipment clears Customs before 9 a.m. that day, it can be loaded onto a truck to be driven to its final delivery destination. Your shipment only has to clear customs in the country of its final destination. UPS has over 100 years of customs brokerage experience. If you have any questions or would like UPS to broker your cross-border shipments, you can speak with one of our brokerage experts.
Our all-in-one customer portal lets you get and compare quotes, book, and track shipments all on one modern, easy-to-navigate platform.
This is when a freight forwarder combines multiple shipments to optimize cost and transportation efficiency. Some freight forwarders own or lease their own fleet of aircraft and operate dedicated cargo flights. This is a price-favorable option that gives you access to the most available capacity. But time-in-transit may be up to three days or more.
Scheduled air freight is cargo that is booked and placed on airlines for carriage on their regularly scheduled flights. Freight forwarding companies often reserve space with airlines to secure available capacity to support their customers’ demand. If you have regularly-planned air freight traveling on a specific lane, this can be an affordable option with a decent capacity availability.
This is a dedicated aircraft and crew specifically hired to fly your cargo directly from origin to destination. These flights can quickly and safely transport a large volume of goods or oversized cargo, and give you flexibility with departure times. It is also likely the most expensive option, and used when speed-of-delivery is the critical factor.
If you need to ship heavier or bulkier manufactured items, air transportation may not be the right answer for you. Ocean freight transportation is better for moving heavier items that are less time-sensitive. You can learn more about ocean freight shipping by reading the Ocean Freight Shipping Guide.