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

23 Nov 2022
Forwarder Kuehne + Nagel is receiving new freighter capacity as global demand wanes and rate levels tumble through a non-existent peak season.
11 Nov 2022
Soaring online orders for electronics and mobility devices are flooding the US postal services with undeclared lithium-ion batteries, posing a growing threat to the transport supply chain.
09 Nov 2022
The global air cargo industry is flying into bracing headwinds, but airline CEOs remain largely positive that demand will return early next year.
19 Oct 2022
The world’s long-haul airlines are celebrating a steady return of passenger traffic, but as planes fill with travelers, weakening freight demand means carriers are struggling to fill the surplus cargo capacity below their feet.
18 Oct 2022
A proposal to significantly reduce annual flights at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is rattling air cargo operators at the airport.
07 Oct 2022
Demand for air cargo declined through September, and analysts say there is nothing in their data to indicate a pickup in volume out of Asia through the balance of the year.
30 Sep 2022
Spot rates on some air cargo routes out of Asia have fallen below long-term contract levels, mirroring the development in ocean shipping.
26 Aug 2022
Average air cargo rates on east-west trade lanes have declined significantly since April as demand slows in line with the traditional slack summer season.
13 Jul 2022
Peak season has begun for air travel between Europe and North America, but forwarders making use of belly cargo capacity on passenger planes do not expect the below-deck boon to last.
08 Jul 2022
An ongoing shortage of capacity on the main trade lanes out of Asia and growing signs of declining demand are clouding the air cargo outlook for the remainder of the year.
21 Jun 2022
The air freight industry is seeing a welcome increase in the urgently needed long-haul belly cargo capacity available to the market as international travel starts picking up.
16 Jun 2022
CMA CGM Air Cargo will use its parent company’s extensive ocean forwarder network to drive new business as the airline readies for a rapid global expansion under its Air France-KLM partnership.
02 Jun 2022
Air cargo capacity is flooding back into the trans-Atlantic market via below deck belly space as travel increases and airlines ramp up their summer schedules.
09 May 2022
Shippers converting ocean consignments into air freight to avoid port bottlenecks along the US East Coast are filling all available air cargo capacity on the trans-Atlantic trade lane.
05 May 2022
Winding down operations in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine has come with a hefty price tag, but transport providers are mostly playing down the impact.
31 Mar 2022
Bonded trucking services in and out of Shanghai’s Pudong have been suspended and most flights have been canceled, bringing operations at China’s busiest cargo airport to a standstill.
24 Aug 2021
There is little clarity in Shanghai airport’s evolving COVID-19 lockdown situation, with forwarders in China asked not to deliver export cargo to the terminals and airlines suspending inbound shipments.
29 Dec 2020
Airlines are beginning to extend the validity of rates offered on some major trades after cutting price and space guarantees to one week or even less when passenger fleets were first grounded at the end of the first quarter of 2020.
21 Dec 2020
AIT Worldwide Logistics expands its e-commerce capabilities and geographical footprint through the acquisition of Fiege Freight Forwarding.
11 Jun 2020
Freighters and converted passenger craft are taking longer to unload than belly freight and some ground handlers are understaffed after furloughs and layoffs in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
01 May 2020
Traditionally low air freight margins are being further depressed by fierce competition among forwarders to secure limited capacity, with travel bans grounding most of the passenger fleet on east-west trades.
16 Mar 2020
The travails of crab shippers underscore the larger impact COVID-19 is having on North American exporters that face higher outbound air cargo rates because of the removal of belly cargo capacity on passenger jets due to cancellations tied to the disease.
12 Mar 2020
The sudden US travel ban imposed on 12 European countries will hurt an air freight industry still battling to overcome the loss of belly cargo capacity from the suspension of passenger flights to China.
PortMiami wins $44 million federal grant for perishables
14 Feb 2020
PortMiami won a $44 million federal grant which will be used to improve the cold chain cargo facilities to handle temperature-controlled food, and perishables such as flowers.
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 partners, 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.