Discover How Your Merchandise Travels To Its Destination

how cargo moves in air

Over the course of one calendar year, airline transports report over 52 million metric tons of goods being shipped through their airlines annually. Cargo averages about 9% of airline revenue.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) deduces that, in 2018, the value of merchandise carried by air transport will exceed over $6.2 trillion. As a whole, this represents about 35% of global trade by value, though it still accounts for less than 1% of world trade by volume. Overall, this equals around $6.8 trillion worth of merchandise being shipped in the sky every year. That’s $18.6 billion being shipped via air freight a day!

Cargo Units of Measurement

To understand how your cargo moves once it leaves your facility, you must also understand the terminology freight forwarders use. When moving cargo in the air, the shipment is measured and transferred using a “unit load device,” more commonly known as just a ULD. This is just a pallet or container that can be used to physically move cargo onto either a wide-body or narrow-body aircraft. It is a tool used to help move large amounts of luggage, freight, or mail and consolidate it into one easily transportable unit.

As of today, there are roughly 900,000 ULDs in play that makes numerous trips all over the world every year. With just under a million of these moving from one end of the globe to another at any given time, it’s no wonder that fast delivery services are becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

Since ULDs are removable parts, they are subject to strict civil aviation requirements from authorities in the areas of operations, design, production, testing, repair, and maintenance. For a ULD to be considered airworthy, it must pass many tests that determine whether it is capable of safely restraining the cargo loads without damaging the interior or exterior of the aircraft during flight. Many unregulated hands handle the ULD, as well, as they are often outsourced to 3PLs. Because of this, there have been increasing challenges with how airlines supervise and keep control over ULD operations.

The Process of Moving Cargo By Air

As a whole, the concept of airline transport is self-explanatory; airfreight refers to cargo that is transported by aircraft. It is by far the fastest shipping option, in addition to being more reliable and more flexible than other shipping options. Because you can get your merchandise to its destination in just a few days, versus a few weeks or months as with ground or sea transport, you can reduce the possibility of something going wrong. Even more so, you can offer your customers and clientele an option that reduces the amount of time between making a payment and receiving their goods. It’s an excellent option for anyone who needs to send time-sensitive materials, such as foods or pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, it also happens to be the most expensive method of transport for goods. You can expect to pay for things like fuel surcharge, container freight station fees, airline terminal handling fees, and more – all on top of the base cost. However, with a little care and effort, you can maximize this shipping option and reduce extra costs. The trick is to incorporate airfreight as an intermodal shipping option.

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Typically, the process works like this:

  1. Your warehouse/company/online shop fulfills an order for a client.
  2. A trucking company is sent to your warehouse to pick up the merchandise you scheduled for shipment.
  3. It is taken to an airfreight location, typically local to the area, where it is then fitted onto the appropriate ULD and loaded on the freight plane.
  4. It flies to its destination, where it usually arrives at a sorting facility or warehouse. Then, someone sorts the merchandise for immediate pick-up and delivery, or it is deferred for later delivery.
  5. Once more the item is loaded onto a truck, then delivered to the consumer’s home, business, storefront, etc.

At some point, if the merchandise is coming from overseas, it may be subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection agents. To avoid any delays or additional fees, be sure to have all the necessary paperwork and duties taken care of ahead of time.

Types of ULD Used

A few different ULDs are used every day to facilitate air freight transport. Here is a brief overview of the container types and what their most common uses are:

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  • Demi: A half pallet contoured container that is ideal for use on the main deck.
  • HMA stall: A typical flat pallet configured into a stall for horses. Can be used on the main deck.
  • LD-1: Similar to the demi, this is a half pallet with lower hold capabilities and one angled side.
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  • LD-11: This full-sized pallet container is intended for lower hold and has a canvas door. Also comes in refrigerated version (with a sold door).
  • LD-2: A half-sized pallet with an angled side. The door can be canvas or solid, depending on your needs. This container is intended for lower hold.
  • LD-26: Full-sized lower hold pallet with two angled sides and a canvas door, secured with net door straps.
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  • LD-29: This container is similar to the LD-26, just larger.
  • LD-29 Reefer: This container has the same spec as the LD-29, but it sports a solid door.
  • LD-3: This square, half-sized pallet has a canvas door and an angled side. It is intended for lower deck storage.
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  • LD-3 Reefer: Much like the LD-3 model, this container is half-sized with the difference of a solid door.
  • LD-39: This container looks very much like the LD-29, with similar specs. It is ideal for lower hold on a 747.
  • LD-4: This is a full-sized lower hold rectangular container with canvas doors, secured with built-in door straps.
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  • LD-6: Full-sized pallet with two angled ends and a canvas door with built-in straps. Intended for lower hold storage.
  • LD-7: All-purpose pallet with a net to hold in place. It is flat and can be used with lower holds or on the main deck.
  • LD-7 with Angled Wings: The same as the LD-7, except with two angled wings that extend from either side to hold the cargo in place.
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  • LD-7 with Folding Wings: Another flat, full-sized pallet with wings on either side that fold to compensate for overhang. Can be used with lower holds.
  • LD-8: A full-sized container with a canvas door, built-in door straps, and two angled sides. Intended for lower hold storage.
  • LD-9: A simple, rectangular container for general use storage, fitted to a P1P base. The door can either be solid or canvas with built-in straps. Lower hold use.
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  • LD-9 Reefer: This container is insulated for items that are temperature-sensitive. It has a solid door and is intended for lower hold storage.
  • M-1: This rectangular pallet has a canvas door with built-in straps, and is intended for center loading on the main deck only.
  • M-1H: Similar specs to the M-1 with an angled top.
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  • M-2: This box container looks very similar to traditional freight containers, with a solid door. Main-deck center load only.
  • M-6: 20-foot-long flat pallet with a net attached for secure holding. Main-deck use.
  • M-6 (118” H): Exactly like the M-6, but slightly taller at 118” high.
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  • M-6 Twin Car Rack: This particular flat pallet is set up to support a twin carrack attachment. Intended for main-deck storage.
  • MDP: Simple, 16-foot-long flat pallet with a net to secure goods. Main-deck use.
  • PLA Half Pallet: A half-sized contoured pallet suitable for both lower hold and main deck use.
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  • PMC/P6P Pallet: 10-foot-long flat pallet with a built-in net for general use. Can be used in lower holds and on the main deck.
  • PNA Half Pallet: Half-sized square flat pallet with a built-in net. Recommended for 767 lower hold use.
  • Type A Pen: A pen used to house farm animals, typically sheep and goat. Has a built-in net on the top and sits on a P1P base. Main deck use.

Promptus LLC Can Help You Get the Best Deal

Not sure how to start implementing airfreight services without breaking the bank? Don’t worry – Promptus LLC has you covered! We offer full-scale freight forwarding services, including Customs Brokerage, and a variety of transportation options. Contact us at 1-877-776-6799 for a free quote today!