When a company needs to get goods from one region to another they are presented with two choices. If the country of origin (or its neighbours) can provide access to a port there is the option of having goods transported by ship. However, this can be costly due to the fact that that goods may have to travel significant distances in order to reach a suitable port. Then, aside from the reams of red tape that must be negotiated, the process of getting a consignment from one port to another is time-consuming. And regulatory hurdles have to be negotiated at the arrival port (another process that can affect transit time and where mistakes can be incredibly costly) – and then, most often road or rail transport needs to be used to get the goods to their final destination.

For many companies the sheer time and effort it takes to get from port to port is simply unacceptable – they need their goods to get to market or to an end-user as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is the reason that many turn to air freight. A good example is importing from China. Freight shipping time from 20-30 days by sea, and only around three days by air.

However, what are the factors that influence the costs of air freight?

A good starting point (which is more of a rule of thumb as costs can vary wildly) is that air freight should cost between £2.50-£5.00 per kilogram. However, this is dependant on the type of cargo (some goods may require special handling) and the available space. It should also be noted that very large shipments can require several aircraft – even the largest cargo aircraft in the world, the Anatov 225 with its six turbofan engines can ‘only’ handle up to 250 tonnes of cargo. And that aircraft is used for short and medium-haul routes. This may mean that a company will have to use several carriers during shipment.

Estimating air freight costs is also complicated by the fact that they are not only dependant on the straight weight of the cargo, the volume of the goods is also taken into account. A carrier will charge by ‘volumetric weight’ or the actual weight – and that calculation will take into account which is the most costly. Those who want to get an estimation of costs can normally use the formula that multiplies the item’s volume in cubic meters by 167. If that ‘volumetric weight’ is more than the actual weight of the product – that will be the amount charged.

In short, the easiest way to calculate the costs of air freight is to get in touch with a professional freight forwarder. That will take the guesswork out of the entire exercise. Professional advice is the only proven way to keep costs under control and avoid unwelcome bottom-line expenses.