How to move goods by air

Airfreight logistics


Buying airfreight and organising other requirements can be a complex process. If you prefer not to organise an airfreight shipment yourself, you can use a freight forwarder.

Airfreight and freight forwarders

Usually, the most economical way of shipping small- to medium-sized consignments is through a consolidation service. Freight forwarders buy and pre-book airline capacity in bulk, in advance, and sell this to exporters who want to ship consignments to the same airport of destination on the same day.

Make sure you know in advance the type of services you want, and choose a freight forwarder who suits your needs. To help you choose, ask the following questions:

  • Are they experienced in transporting your type of goods?
  • Are they experienced in shipping to the countries you're targeting?
  • Are they a member of a freight service industry body? Often members of such bodies are covered by limited liability insurance and apply standard trading conditions and best-practice procedures while non-members may not.
  • If applicable, are they confident using several different transport methods for a shipment?

For more information on forwarders, see our guide on using brokers and forwarders.

International courier and express parcel delivery services

Courier and express operators usually offer a complete door-to-door pick-up and delivery service at an all-inclusive price, excluding duties and taxes applicable in the country of destination. Although some operators have expanded their portfolio and are now offering similar services for larger consignments, eg 30 kilograms or more, they mostly market their services for smaller consignments.

In recent years, international airlines have recognised the need for such services, developing similar door-to-door-type products that are available through freight forwarders. Exporters should make enquiries and, based on service requirements, cost, and the type and weight of product being exported, decide which of these options suits their needs.

See the page in this guide on airfreight rates.

Airfreight and perishable goods

Airfreight is often used to transport perishable items, eg food. You can find information for food business operators on importing food into the UK on the Food Standards Agency.