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Air freight transport in Europe

Air freight is an essential component of the international logistics, considerably reducing the transit times, as a consequence, being the most rapid mode of transportation.
Air freight transportation, also referred to as air cargo, provides access to the global market and connects shipping agents from different corners of the world, faster and easier. Speed is the fundamental point of differentiation between air cargo services and the other types of freight, making the air freight costs higher than the ones associated with road and ocean freight.

International air transportation plays a significant role in linking the isolated communities with the global trade. Moreover, air cargo services are crucial for providing humanitarian aid in areas affected by human or natural disasters. However, it is also the mode of transport with the highest CO2 emissions.

Air freight transportation is commonly used for high value goods, livestock and time-sensitive shipments. If we take the numbers into consideration, in 2014, the value of air freight accounted for 35% of the global trade, but the total volume accounted for less than 1% of the global shipments. Thus, air freight carries a small volume of the highest value and lightest cargo.

    Air freight logistics provides the fastest mode of transport

    Air cargo services can handle the entire shipment lifecycle, but in order to optimize the costs, it is also used in combination with other modes of transport, known as multimodal transport.
    Express freight shipping refers to shipments that are solely handled by one carrier. In this case, the shipments are usually smaller.

    For the rest, the shipment can be sent through multiple modes of transport. Thus, the transit time will be longer.

    Except the transportation itself, what makes air freight a fast mode of transport:
    • CustomsCustoms procedures at the airport – the procedures at the airport are simplified and quicker;
    • InspectionInspection of the equipment – the inspection is usually done while the customs documentation is being checked;
    • WarehousingWarehousing facilities – air freight is not deposited at the airports’ warehouses for an extended time;
    • HandlingHandling procedures of the cargo – for instance, the export facilities are larger to allow a fast loading of cargo on truckloads.

    Air freight rates

    As in the case of road freight transport and sea freight, the basic price of transportation is calculated based on either the volumetric weight or actual weight of the shipment. Air cargo services are usually more expensive when it comes to larger shipments and it imposes limitations on the weight and dimensions of the shipments that can be carried.

    Other charges that influence the final price:
    • FuelFuel charges - in air freight logistics, the prices depend heavily on the fuel consumption. Any increase or decrease in the oil price will have a direct influence on the price of the air freight transportation;
    • Type of goodsThe type of goods to be transported;
    • TerminalTerminal clearance and handling – fees for providing custom clearance and handling at the origin point;
    • SecuritySecurity charges – for example if a surveillance system is available;

    When to choose air freight logistics

    • For fast moving and high valued goods, sensitive shipments and products with shorter shelf lives – documents, samples, electronics, seasonal products;
    • If the shipment has to arrive to a landlocked country – mostly if land transportation in the respective country is not well developed;
    • For businesses that need to ship samples of materials before exporting their manufactured products to a client located in another country;
    • In general, if the transportation cost is not higher than 20% of the total cost of the shipment.

    Air freight nowadays

    According to the analysis issued by IATA, following the high growth in the air passenger travel, the air operators have been concentrated their efforts into the expansion of the passenger fleet. This led to a shrinkage of the cargo space in the airplanes.

    Moreover, the transportation of some goods has switched from air freight to ocean freight, due to lower transportation rates. Thus, many shippers turn to international air freight transportation only for the most urgent shipments or for highly valued shipments.

    As a consequence, air cargo services have registered a lower efficiency in comparison with the previous years.

    Nonetheless, there are remarkable improvements made in digitalizing the processes (the start of the transition from paper air bills to electronic ones), increasing the safety and reducing the delays.

      The future of air freight transportation

      Air freight has already become a crucial part of the international transportation. Even if it implies the highest costs in the transportation industry, air freight logistics have changed the way goods move around the globe.

      Improvements are still to be made. The biggest concern is the big environmental impact the air transportation has. Air freight generates significantly higher carbon emission in comparison with ocean liners and road freight. This puts a pressure on air companies to take responsibility and be actively involved in taking sustainable measures to reduce the footprint.

      At the same time, because a higher fuel price instantly translates in higher expenses for international freight, it is expected that air cargo transport will become more a part of the multimodal transportation than a single mode of transportation. By combining different means of transport, the total costs of transportation can be better balanced.