This content was updated in June 2019

Most shippers who use air freight want to move high-value or high-tech items, get their goods out quickly, keep their inventories lean, or some combination of all three. Approaching your air freight strategically can help you keep costs as low as possible while still utilizing air’s quickness.

In this post, we will outline how an approach that mixes consolidated and expedited air freight shipping services from a qualified provider, like C.H. Robinson, can help you achieve better outcomes using our unique information advantage.


What is consolidated air freight shipping?

One way to keep your air freight costs down is to strategically use consolidation to help secure the reliable service and quality capacity you need. This can help mitigate the significant cost differences over other options, like expedited service. Air freight pricing is calculated on a per kilo basis and is charged based on whichever is the greater of the gross weight or the volume weight.

Shippers use consolidated air when they need a faster option than ocean consolidation, but don’t need expedited service. View this infographic for a closer look at the consolidation process on a global level.

When consolidating air freight, shipments from multiple shippers share space on an aircraft. Every shipment on the plane is listed on the same master way bill, but each shipment also has its own house way bill to keep cargo organized. Compared to ocean and ground shipping, air freight consolidation is still extremely quick and will get your shipment to its destination sooner.


When to use consolidated air freight shipping

There are three key outcomes shippers choosing air freight consolidation are hoping to achieve:

  1. Reliable timing: When shippers choose to consolidate, carriers commit to specific flight times. When paired with advanced TMS technology, like C.H. Robinson’s proprietary Navisphere® platform, it’s easy to track and trace all your modal activity in one place and know exactly when their freight will arrive at its destination.


  1. Flexibility: With consolidation air freight—and the help of an experienced forwarder—shippers can change how they want their goods to move up to 24 hours before the plane is loaded. This can be an extremely valuable feature for accommodating unexpected demand or scheduling alternations.


  1. Safety: Damage is always a concern, as it can be costly and time-consuming. Air freight consolidation forwarders know best practices to block and brace effectively and build containers to minimize damage. Since air freight consolidation almost always involves freight forwarders, shippers can rest easy knowing experienced professionals who are invested in the shipper’s success will be coordinating the picking up, warehousing, and loading of products.


Ideal freight for consolidated air service

There are certain types of freight that hold up well being consolidated on an airplane, including:

  • Packaged or crated merchandise on pallets and skids
  • General merchandise
  • Textiles, garments, technology, cell phones, cell phone accessories, and automotive parts
  • Freight whose inventory carrying costs may outweigh the cost of transportation


What is expedited air freight shipping?

Expedited air service is the fastest shipping option available. Expedited service may also be referred to as next flight out. As this implies, it puts your freight on the next available flight.

When to use expedited air freight shipping

There are certain times when expedited air shipments are unavoidable. These times are often dictated by conditions that have created a truncated timetable—unexpected manufacturing delays, pressure from customers due to seasonal demands, or similar situations.

And yet, consolidation may still be a viable option for your freight even in these situations. If there is a delay in production, look at your entire supply chain before you jump to the conclusion that expedited air is your only option.


Special considerations for expedited air service

All too often, companies choose to expedite without knowing the situation at the delivery location.

For example, an expedited air freight shipment arrives at a location on a Friday, it may sit untouched until Monday morning when the location reopens after the weekend. This defeats the purpose of paying a higher rate to expedite the shipment.

Rather than having freight sit at the destination for two days, consolidating the freight with other shipments and planning the delivery for Monday saves money without extending the actual received date. These types of situations are exactly what trained air forwarders can help you identify and avoid, which is why it’s critical to work with a company and people you can rely on.


How to maximize the benefits of your air shipping options

Utilizing an air freight shipping expert is the most effective way for shippers to ensure your business uses consolidated and expedited services optimally. Experienced forwarders and consolidators are especially important for consolidation, as most airlines only accept freight from freight forwarders or consolidators.

It’s the freight forwarder’s job to consolidate freight from multiple companies and tender it as a single unit to the airlines. Air forwarders often offer consolidated air freight at a reduced cost because they are able to leverage multiple customers, thereby improving both load factor and pallet utilization.

This saves you time and resources by taking consolidation logistics out of your hands and into the hands of experts. Forwarders can also screen cargo if they have a screening machine and certified individuals, saving you from having to pay additional fees for third-party screening.

An air freight shipping expert can also advise your business on when expediting your air freight is worthwhile based on an analysis of market conditions and their logistics expertise. With an expert’s help, you can confidently choose whether it makes sense to expedite a shipment or not.


Final thoughts

The best way to approach air freight shipping takes strategic planning rather than reactive decisions made under pressure. Make informed decisions. It’s important to make decisions knowing both sides of the equation.

Air freight is the single fastest and most expensive mode of transportation, but you can maximize air freight’s benefits while minimizing its costs by utilizing a balanced approach to expedited and consolidated air freight methods.


Looking for the right air cargo service provider? Learn more about the benefits your business can receive by leveraging C.H. Robinson’s full suite of global logistics and technology services. Connect with one of our air shipping experts today.