Air freight can offer your company several advantages over ocean freight. In addition to subjecting your shipments to less handling, which can translate to a lower possibility of damage, air freight can also get your goods to their destination faster—and on a more precise timeline.

However, air freight has its own shipping requirements, ones that may be new to you. To help you take full advantage of all that air freight has to offer, we’ve put together a list of best practices for preparing your shipments. These tips will help ensure your package arrives at its destination safely, cost-efficiently and on time.

1. Label Your Shipment Clearly

The most common challenge we see with air freight shipments occurs when they’re not clearly marked. This can cause your package to get misrouted, left behind or accidentally included with someone else’s shipment, ultimately derailing that prompt timeline that air shipping is known for. For international shipments, unclear labeling can also cause a delay in clearing customs, which can create significant headaches.

Best Practice:

Make sure to mark your shipment clearly on two adjoining sides with the name, address and telephone number for both the shipper and the receiving party. Also, remember to remove or mark out any old labels and markings to eliminate any confusion.

2. Include a Commercial Invoice for International Shipments

If your shipment is going internationally, make sure to put together a commercial invoice. Without one, your goods could be delayed by customs. In the worst case scenario, you may even be levied fines or storage charges while the package awaits correct documentation.

Best Practice:

Prepare a commercial invoice for any international shipments, and double-check that it clearly defines the contents and the value assigned to them. This will ensure that your shipment clears customs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

3. Don’t Re-Use Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes

As one of the most common types of shipping containers, corrugated fiberboard boxes (CFBs) can offer strong, lightweight protection for your goods. (That is, as long as you pack them properly! We’ll get to that in #4.)

If a box arrives in excellent condition from its last shipment, it can be tempting to reuse it. However, this presents a bit of a risk. These boxes don’t always have the strength to withstand a second use without crushing. Additionally, they’re extremely vulnerable to humidity and moisture, which can weaken their structure significantly.

Best Practice:

In addition to making sure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maximum weight, only use your corrugated fiberboard boxes for a single air freight shipment. That way, you can ship with confidence, knowing that your container has the full strength it needs to protect your goods during their journey.

4. Prep and Pack Your Boxes Properly. . .

Although cardboard fiberboard boxes offer an excellent solution for air freight shipments, they can be vulnerable to crushing—especially if you leave large pockets of air around your goods.

After all, although air freight subjects your shipments to less handling than ocean freight, some impact may occur along the way. Most often, this happens as your package is transferred from truck to plane and back again. Proper packing that eliminates air pockets will reduce the possibility of damage.

One place you shouldn’t skimp is the tape! One of the most common culprits behind shipping problems is poor tape application, which can cause your shipment to pop open in transit. Make sure all the seams are sealed—and remember that one strip is rarely enough when you’re sealing an opening.

Best Practice:

Surround your goods with lightweight materials like packing peanuts and bubble wrap to pack your box full. This will also help protect your items from any bumps from handling along the way.

5. . . . But Don’t Over-Pack

Weight is an important factor in the cost of your air freight shipment. The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) regulations require shipping companies to measure the volume and weight of each shipment. Your cost is based on whichever one is greater. So it’s in your best interest to keep your shipments as light as possible.

As a result, although you want to protect your shipment with packing materials, you don’t want to overdo it. Otherwise, you could end up costing yourself in the end. Something simple like flexible paper or air pillow films will keep your goods safe without tipping the scales.

Best Practice:

While you’re preparing your shipment, use only as much material as you need to fill the box and protect your shipment.

6. Consider the Size

One additional advantage air freight offers over ocean freight is the opportunity to access landlocked areas that are far from ports. However, you also have to keep in mind that some of the airports may not accommodate wide-body aircraft. As a result, the size of your shipment may be restricted.

Best Practice:

If you have a large shipment, make sure you talk with your agent to understand the maximum size that can be accommodated. From there, you’ll have all the information you need to plan—and pack—accordingly.

Leverage the Air Freight Advantage

With fast shipping times, less handling and highly predictable arrival times, air freight can offer your company a powerful alternative to ocean freight. By utilizing these advantages to move goods where they need to go quickly, you can offer your customers access to the products they want—when they need them.

Plus, by following these six best practices, you’ll position yourself perfectly to get the maximum benefits that air freight has to offer.

Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our experts. They’d be happy to help you understand the shipping method that’s right for your business.

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