International Air Freight

International Air Freight

Trade disruption caused by tariff wars — such as the dispute between the US and China — or the UK’s exit from the European Union, extreme weather, and unpredictable consumer demand are all factors that have increased the need for emergency shipments that can only be sent via air, rather than by slow-moving maritime containers. Another factor is the surge in sales of time-sensitive e-commerce parcels that must be delivered by air to meet the needs of ever more demanding customers.

Driven by greater uncertainty and the growing popular of electronic commerce, global air cargo shipments increased by 9.7 in 2017. And yet air cargo tonnage growth slipped to less than half that pace [3.5 percent] in 2018, measured in freight tonnage [not value], according to the International Air Transport Association. In North America, growth has slowed to a similar level [3.2 percent last year.]

Although e-commerce shipments are robust, they also generate challenges for the air cargo sector: Products ordered online take up more space when shipped in their individual packaging than other products that are more often packed onto pallets. Other uncertainties are sudden flare-ups in congestion, rising fuel prices and higher trucking rates. Moreover, only 30 to 40 percent of air freight is planned and shipped by choice, say air cargo executives. The rest is shipped by accident, when the market changes suddenly, machines have broken down, or other emergencies force shippers to bear the extra cost.


To avoid the dreaded stockouts while meeting customer expectations for fast delivery and product variety, shippers are steadily consuming more air freight capacity.

News & Analysis

24 Dec 2019
After a disappointing peak season in 2019, the outlook for international air freight in 2020 will depend on an acceleration in global trade demand and an easing of tensions between the United States and its trading parters, particularly China.
10 Dec 2019
Long-term contracted volume is crucial for airlines setting budgets and forecasts, but in the face of weak demand and a bleak 2020 outlook, forwarders are reluctant to commit.
08 Oct 2019
Canadian forwarder Manitoulin adds to its US holdings, expanding its global logistics network.
10 Sep 2019
Shippers worry “unreasonable” air freight fees, tighter cargo screening regulations, and the region’s dependence on transshipment could cause Hong Kong to cede more cargo to air and sea ports in southern China.
03 Sep 2019
Freight operations are suspended in much of Florida as Hurricane Dorian passes on its way toward the Georgia and Carolina coasts.
UPS targets low-cost, e-commerce shippers with deferred delivery
24 Jul 2019
UPS is targeting cross-border e-commerce sellers with a deferred-delivery shipping product that would cost less than tighter delivery windows, a sign of integrators wanting to tap into forecast growth in international online sales.
03 Jun 2019
The outlook for air cargo is turning negative as carriers face headwinds in the form of trade upheaval and falling demand.
21 May 2019
Shipper interest in a free trade zone in Zhuhai, China, is being driven by a shortage of logistics space and rocketing rental prices across the Pearl River in Hong Kong.
17 May 2019
The escalating trade dispute between the US and China is driving keen interest in air freight on the busy trans-Pacific trade routes.
04 Mar 2019
As US airports, terminal operators, and ground handlers are taking heat for rampant truck congestion and cargo delays, two software firms are looking to bring digitization and automation to airport freight handling operations.
01 Mar 2019
The Airforwarders Association’s mission to put an end to congestion at major US airports is already bearing fruit, but forwarders in New York and Boston worry airport efforts won’t address underlying issues.
01 Mar 2019
O'Hare tops New York’s JFK as even more congested, with trucks trying to get their loads in and out of the airport thwarted by vehicular traffic, handling, and operational delays.
12 Feb 2019
The promise of digitization and real-time pricing is forcing the air freight industry to rethink longstanding booking practices.
07 Feb 2019
The action, which involves both private and public sector union workers, will affect all transport providers in Europe's second-largest container port as well as Brussels Airport.
05 Feb 2019
Speakers at the Cargo Facts EMEA conference in Frankfurt say trade disruptions and booming e-commerce will continue to drive increased global air cargo volume.