10 Things to Know About International Air Freight - Ascent Global Logistics

10 Things to Know About International Air Freight

Air freight being loaded onto white and blue plane by workers

One-third of all international trade value is transported by air, accounting for $6.8 trillion of goods annually. Speed remains as aviation’s competitive advantage, creating expedited solutions for shippers around the globe. International air freight allows businesses to react to inventory stock-outs and sudden increases in demand quickly. To help shippers uncomplicate this premium mode of transportation, our experts have compiled the top 10 things to know about international air freight.

1. Faster Transit Time

Transporting cargo via air transportation can drastically cut transit timeframes. Typical transit times for air cargo is 1-2 days for priority air shipments and 5-6 days for economy air service. Please note this estimate does not include the lead time associated with preliminary quoting, the time it takes to clear export customs in the origin country, the import customs clearance time or the time for inland delivery.

2. Commercial Documentation

To clear U.S. Customs on inbound air freight, mandatory documentation includes:

  • Master Airway Bill of Lading
  • House Airway Bill of Lading
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List

Additionally, some commodities require further paperwork. Examples include Textile Documentation, Aquatics Certificates or a Country of Origin Declaration.

3. Rate Calculations

International air freight is priced per kilogram or dimensional weight, whichever value is greater. Dimensional weight is assessed when the cargo takes up a larger space. Additionally, most air transportation rates are valid for only a few days due to the dynamic nature of the market.

4. Inland Transportation

Some shipments may require an Immediate Transportation Entry (IT) number to enable the cargo to travel in-bond to a final destination port, if different than the arrival port. The IT must be filed at the first port of arrival and the party transporting or holding the goods must be bonded.

5. Commodity Restrictions

Certain commodities are not permitted to travel via air freight or are heavily restricted. For example, some hazardous materials are not permitted to fly on passenger flights but are permitted on cargo-only flights.

6. Customs Entry Procedures

Once the international air freight has left on a conveyance bound for the first airport in the U.S., the Licensed Customs Broker can submit the customs entry to clear the shipment. This pre-customs clearance is often called “wheels up.”

7. Warehouse Charges

Every air import shipment will enter a warehouse before it is available for delivery. The warehouse or handling agent will also assess a handling fee before pick-up is available by a trucker. This is typically referred to as the Terminal Fee. 

8. Bond Compliance

As with ocean import shipments, the importer must have a single entry or continuous bond on file to import cargo into the United States successfully.

9. Filing and Reporting Requirements

Filing AES is mandatory on every export shipment valued over $2,500, or if the commodity requires an export license. Unlike ocean import shipments, Importer Security Filings (ISF-10) submission is NOT required on air import shipments. It is possible that in the future, ISF will be a requirement for air import cargo.

10. Cargo Insurance

As always, it is imperative to secure cargo insurance on any shipment. Cargo insurance protects shippers’ financial investments from natural disasters, theft, fire, damage or mishandling by carriers.

Who says logistics has to be complicated? We certainly didn’t. Contact our team to learn more about our air freight solutions.


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