When you need goods or supplies ASAP, then sending them by air is your fastest, most reliable method to get your shipment to its destination. For some shipments, it might feel easy to call UPS, FedEx, or DHL. However, these types of carriers have their limitations—especially when you’re shipping items to Hawaii.


In this article, we’ll show you why you might want to expand your list of Hawaii air freight options to include indirect air carriers. IACs, like freight forwarders, can often offer you cheaper, faster, and more flexible options for moving air cargo. They might also be the right choice for your next international air shipment. We’ll show you why.

First, let’s explain exactly what an indirect air carrier is, and why their unique status can give you an advantage.

What Is an Indirect Air Carrier?

First, let’s start by defining the term air carrier. Air carriers are organizations that move passengers and cargo via air. Or, as the Federal Aviation Administration puts it:

Air Carrier

A person who undertakes directly by lease, or other arrangement, to engage in air transportation.

Source: FAA

Direct Air Carrier

An air carrier or foreign air carrier directly engaged in the operation of aircraft under a certificate, regulation, order, exemption, or permit issued by the Department or its predecessor, the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Source: 14 CFR § 292.2

Commercial airlines like American Airlines, Delta, United, etc., are all direct air carriers. FedEx, UPS, and DHL are also direct air carriers.


Indirect air carriers do “engage in air transportation” by moving items via air cargo. However, they don’t have an FAA air carrier operating certificate, so they don’t operate their own planes. Instead, they contract with a direct air carrier to move goods.


Here’s the official definition from the Code of Federal Regulations:

Indirect Air Carrier

Indirect air carrier (IAC) means any person or entity within the United States not in possession of an FAA air carrier operating certificate, that undertakes to engage indirectly in air transportation of property, and uses for all or any part of such transportation the services of an air carrier.

Source: 49 CFR § 1540.5

For example, a freight forwarder like Approved Freight Forwarders is an indirect air carrier. We do not have an FAA air carrier operating certificate, and we don’t own or operate our own planes. However, after being accepted into the Transportation Security Administration’s Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) program, we can work with direct air carriers to move air cargo on behalf of our customers.


Finally, not every freight forwarder is an indirect air carrier (IAC). To ensure the continued security of air transportation, TSA has strict requirements for IACs, including implementing an approved security program and renewing their status annually.


Working with a freight forwarder that’s also an IAC could offer you some significant advantages for Hawaii air freight. We’ll discuss that next.

Why an Indirect Air Carrier Could Be the Right Choice for Your Next Hawaii Shipment

If you’re looking to ship goods to Hawaii—fast—you might consider a direct air carrier like FedEx, UPS, or DHL.


Before you decide to call any of these three companies, you might consider reaching out to an indirect air carrier like a freight forwarder. Here’s why:


If you decide to move forward with an indirect air carrier/freight forwarder to move your air cargo, there are two things to be aware of:

  1. Some indirect air carriers only provide airport-to-airport service. If you’re used to dealing with FedEx or UPS, where door service is standard, this might come as a surprise. If you need door delivery and/or pickup, a freight forwarder can often accommodate this request for an extra fee.
  2. If you’ve never seen an air cargo invoice before, the additional line items may initially seem complex. Many forwarders will create a simplified, all-in-one quote for you so you can easily see the total cost, similar to a quote you might see from FedEx or UPS.

Finally, if your shipping needs go beyond Hawaii…

Freight Forwarders Can Also Be a Good Choice for International Shipments

When you’re sending shipments abroad, a freight forwarder can be a smart choice, since they offer access to air freight consolidations, also called consols.


Consolidated air freight offers you the opportunity to bundle your shipment with several others headed for the same destination. In other words, your freight forwarder will gather several other shipments, combine them, and send them all together as one big shipment. The forwarder spreads the cost among all the shippers, which means lower prices for all parties in the consol.


The one downside? Consolidations can take longer, since your shipment will have to wait for the forwarder to complete the load. However, it can mean a significantly lower cost for you, so it’s worth discussing with your forwarder.


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Shipping Internationally?

Make Sure You Know Your Incoterms®

The Incoterms rules define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers around the delivery of goods—who pays for what. Before agreeing to a contract to ship goods internationally, make sure you understand the Incoterms you’re agreeing to, so you don’t get stuck with unexpected costs. We’ll show you what you need to know.

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Consider an IAC/Freight Forwarder for Your Next Hawaii Air Freight Shipment

The next time you need to move goods or supplies to Hawaii—fast—an indirect air carrier like a freight forwarder may be the right move. With access to more routes, more scheduled flights, and cheaper rates, it’s certainly worth quoting out for your next shipment to the Aloha State.


Looking for a freight forwarder for Hawaii cargo? We’ve been moving goods and supplies to Hawaii since 2006. With access to air and ocean options—plus trucking on all four major islands—we can help you get your shipment where it needs to go quickly—and at the best rates. Just request a quote from one of our experts to get started.

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