Social media

International Forwarding Association Blog » Air freight in Europe » Safety Risks When Shipping Cargo by Plane

Safety Risks When Shipping Cargo by Plane

Shipping cargo by plane can be an efficient, safe, and quick way to move goods but there are some risks to be aware of, including human error, extreme weather, turbulence, cargo fires, and shipping hazardous materials. In some cases, a combination of factors may influence outcomes, such as extreme weather, communication problems between the crew and the airport, and pilot error.


Extreme weather  

Bad weather such as heavy snowfall, high winds, and thunderstorms can cause cancellations and delays. Thunderstorms, in particular, can produce heavy rain, hail, high winds, and lighting, all of which can cause damage to cargo and aircraft. Frost, ice, dust storms, and changes in weather conditions can cause postponed takeoff and long delays. Extreme temperatures, whether cold or hot, can cause perishable and temperature-sensitive goods to spoil or be damaged.



Turbulence can be a safety hazard, especially if crew members are injured due to improperly secured or unsecured cargo. It can also cause cargo to move around and shift, resulting in breakage, scratches, and dents in fragile items.


Human error

Mistakes by maintenance personnel, ground crew, and pilots are the most common cause of accidents and cargo damage. These occur due to errors of judgment, the distraction of attention, and fatigue, resulting in wrong decisions. Human error also occurs due to failure to abide by commands and indiscipline. In addition, documentation errors, mislabeling, and improper loading and unloading can cause delays and accidents. Errors in documentation, for example, such as incomplete or incorrect information on declarations, customs documents, and labels may prevent air freight from being delivered or cause significant delays.


Hazardous Materials

Despite increased enforcement and oversight, undetected and undeclared cargo still puts safety at risk. In addition, a wide range of hazardous goods is permitted on both cargo and passenger aircraft when handled properly.


Cargo Crime

Cargo crime, including shipping of pirated goods, smuggling, and theft, occurs due to a number of reasons. These include weaknesses in persecution and transportation crime laws, ineffective theft reporting systems, and a lack of knowledge of cargo crime on the part of industry players and governments. Another reason is that more effective technology is needed, including high-speed screening devices, tamper-resistant and tamper-evident seals, and cargo tracking systems.



Fire can occur due to a number of reasons such as storage conditions, packaging used, and the nature of the goods being shipped. Lithium batteries, for instance, are often used to power devices, including scooters, hoverboards, tools, electric toothbrushes, tablets and mobile phones. They can catch fire when transported in large quantities and in case of damage or overheating. Also, some chemicals, including flammable gases and liquids can pose a fire hazard, making proper storage and handling key to preventing air freight accidents.  Lastly, some types of cargo packaging can be a fire hazard, including paper-based and paper materials, Styrofoam, plastic containers, wooden pallets and crates, and cardboard boxes. Proper handling and labelling are important to prevent fire.