Air Cargo – How Does It Work?

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Air Cargo – How Does It Work?

From shipping household items to cars and construction equipment, he most convenient way of shipping is by air freight. Transportation by air is the fastest method available, especially when it comes to moving or shipping internationally or across the country. Air shipping is best for urgent shipments as well as high-value goods, not to mention its real-time online tracking.

Using Air Freight Services for Faster Transportation

For many businesses, air transport is a critical part of the supply chain. When an assembly line breaks down and critical parts need to be replaced quickly to keep the process running, manufacturers often turn to this type of shipping.  Even pharmaceutical firms opt for air cargo when they need to ship temperature-sensitive vaccines. There are different types of refrigerated shipping containers, also known as reefer containers, for storing and shipping perishable items. Even electronics manufacturers opt for air freight for sending high-value and high-demand electronics across the globe.

So how does it work?

Different Options for Air Shipping

When shipping by air, you have many options. Even though cargo planes might be the most common aircraft for this purpose, they are not the only one. In fact, depending on your requirements, you can even ship in passenger planes or by private charter.

1.    Passenger Airline Freight

You may not know it but almost all passenger flights carry some freight along with passengers and baggage. This is a perfect solution for shipping smaller items, and for many shippers this is the most economical form of air shipping. Since commercial flights are regular, capacity is not usually an issue.

There are two types of aircraft in commercial shipping are available for air freight:

  1. Narrow-bodied planes
  2. Wide-bodied planes

Both types can carry freight on either pallets or in shipping containers.

However, the flight also carries passengers, so rules restrictions are stricter than you would face with other air freight options. The type of plane, the airline company, and whether you are shipping goods between provinces or internationally are all factors determining size and weight limits.

Besides passenger baggage, your freight is consolidated with other packages, and the freight is packed into special containers. The containers are kept in a storage area located right under the passenger compartment. For instance, a Boeing 747-400, which is one of the largest passenger planes, can easily hold up to 416 passengers and about 5,330 cubic feet or 150 m3  of cargo. Wondering how much that is? Picture two semi-truck trailers filled with cargo.

While most of the freight is put into special containers inside the cargo hold, some are put on pallets, and loose items are placed within the remaining space.

2.    Cargo Aircraft

This is the most common mode of transportation when shipping by air. From auto car transport to door-to-door motorcycle shipping, cargo aircraft can handle it all and are available in many sizes. Even though they look like regular passenger planes from the outside, they are modified to maximize their space to accommodate cargo of all sizes. When modified to be a cargo plane only, the Boeing 747-400 can carry up to 26,000 cubic ft of freight, about the same capacity as five semi-trucks.

In the case of the 747-400, there are 30 pallets available on the main level, each with a dimension of 96 x 125 inches or 2.4 X 3.2 m and a height of 120” or 3.05 m.

On the lower level, there are five pallets that can accommodate 14 specially-fitted containers of 64” height.

3.    Air Charter Service

Air Cargo charter services are helpful in critical times, like when you need to meet a shipping deadline. In those cases, you get exclusive use of a plane. That means direct service to the destination and no transfers during transit. This is one of the fastest methods of shipping, whether you are sending across the country or to some remote location across the globe. Air charter services are mostly engaged by the energy, mining, and automotive industries, as well as for sporting events, motion picture shoots, and product launches.

4.    Super Transporters

This type of plane is specifically designed to transport big and heavy shipments. It has a huge cargo area located right above the cockpit. This way, freight can fill the entire length of the plane without wasting space. The huge door on the front of the cargo hold can be opened wide enough to easily fit any huge item.

One of the specifications of this type of plane is that its nose opens to accommodate very large or irregularly-shaped cargo. However, there is not enough room for a forklift truck to load the pallets, so electric rollers are installed on the load floor instead to move pallets to the front or back of the cargo hold.

The Air Freight Shipping Process

Your freight forwarder will coordinate with a local carrier to arrange for pickup at the warehouse or holding facility. After your freight is loaded, it will be sent to the airline by truck.  From there, it will be loaded onto the aircraft, sent to its destination. After that, the shipment reaches the consignee through a local delivery center.

When you choose an air shipping service, make sure the company has a working relationship with all the major airlines. That way, they can track your shipment no matter where it is. And reputable shipping companies will be able to help you deal with customs and regulations. They will make your relocation or overseas shipping experience quick and stress-free.

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