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International Forwarding Association Blog » International freight services » Pros and Cons of Air Freight
European freight forwarders

Pros and Cons of Air Freight

European freight forwarders face multiple risks and challenges when shipping cargo by air, including weight and size limitations and cost. At the same time, there are many advantages to air transport, including quick transit times, shipment tracking, and low risk of damage, loss, and theft.

Pros for Forwarders

One of the main benefits for logistics services providers is the high level of safety and security associated with air transport. The obvious reason is the tight safety controls over air freight. As per EU standards, all cargo shipped by air must either be delivered through a secure supply chain or screened at airports.

Air Freight


The goal is to ensure that cargo does not include prohibited items such as semi-precious and precious stones, explosive devices, and alcoholic beverages. Another benefit of air freight is the quick transit times that help reduce the risk of goods being damaged, stolen, or spoiled. Fast shipping also allows forwarders to deliver valuable items and perishable goods in a timely manner and with a minimal risk of damage. In fact, forwarders using air transport pay insurance premiums that are between 10 and 30 percent lower compared to sea freight. For these reasons and because of the large pool of destinations, IFA members use air transport to ship cargo across Europe, whether small parcels or odd-size items.

Finally, another benefit of air freight is that additional packaging is usually not required due to the fast transit times. This means that forwarders save money and time on packaging associated with sea transport.

Cons and Risks to Consider

A major disadvantage for services providers is the fact that there are weight and seize limitations. Given the relatively limited space compared to ships, there are limitations to the weight and seize of cargo that can be processed and shipped. While cargo planes carry goods only, passenger planes also ship luggage which has a higher priority compared to cargo. Another disadvantage is the higher cost of air freight relative to ocean and land transport. In some cases, air transport can cost 10 times more than sea transport for the same distance. Estimates by the World Bank show that sea transport is 16 times less expensive than air transport.

This can be explained by the fact that the cost of land and sea transport is calculated by volume while the cost of air freight is based on weight. Another disadvantage for logistics services providers is that bad weather conditions can cause flight cancellations and delays.

This is due to factors associated with navigation, visibility, and aerodynamics. Air transport also contributes to environmental pollution, and it has a higher negative impact compared to land and sea transport. The reason is that airlines usually use older cargo planes to ship loads which are more polluting compared to new models. Lastly, air transport is not the best mode for oversized cargo such as vehicles, machinery, and equipment which are usually shipped by sea.