Air freight has become an increasingly popular shipping method as businesses expand globally. The air freight shipping process can be complex and confusing, especially for unfamiliar ones.

In this guide, we’ll break down the air freight shipping process flow chart into seven easy-to-understand steps, each with its essential considerations.

1. Choosing a Carrier

Choosing the right air freight carrier is a crucial step in the shipping process. This decision can significantly impact your supply chain’s efficiency, cost, and reliability.

Considerations for Selecting the Right Carrier

When selecting a carrier, it’s crucial to ensure they fully comply with industry regulations. Check for accreditations like BIFA, which guarantees they adhere to all regulations. The carrier’s ability to deliver your freight quickly and efficiently is another vital factor. Speed in the air freight industry requires flawless operation and agility. Any paperwork must be in order, and errors should be rectified promptly.

Comparing Rates and Services

Comparing rates and services between different carriers can help you find the most cost-effective solution for your needs. Some carriers may offer competitive rates for all times, and others may provide fixed schedules on all main routes. It’s also worth considering the additional services that carriers offer.

For example, some carriers provide temperature-controlled transportation, hazardous goods transportation, and warehousing picking, packing and labelling.

Understanding Carrier Restrictions and Limitations

Understanding the carrier’s restrictions and limitations is essential to avoid potential issues.

Some carriers may have specific restrictions on the size and weight of shipments they can handle. Others may offer services for larger shipments or even charter services for cargo too large for regular loading and offloading.

In conclusion, choosing the right air freight carrier requires careful consideration of several factors, including compliance with regulations, speed and efficiency, cost, and potential restrictions or limitations.

By taking the time to research and compare different carriers, you can ensure that you select the best carrier for your specific needs.

2. Booking Your Shipment

Air freight shipping is vital to any international logistics network. It offers flexibility and a range of services that can be tailored to your specific needs.

This section will guide you through booking your shipment, providing insights into the required information and highlighting the importance of deadlines and cut-off times.

Understanding the Booking Process

The booking process for air freight shipping is a crucial first step in ensuring your goods reach their destination safely and on time. It begins with choosing a reliable air freight company.

Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services is a reputable choice in the U.K., offering excellent logistic solutions for worldwide cargo movements. Established in 1996, we are an independent freight forwarder based in the South West of England. We specialise in U.S.A. and Far East inbound and outbound movements, but also offer services to and from most other worldwide origins.

The booking process involves providing the necessary details about your shipment. This includes the type of goods, their weight and dimensions, and the destination. Accuracy is paramount in this process as it determines the cost and feasibility of your shipment.

Required Information for Booking

When booking your shipment, you’ll need to provide specific information. This includes:

  • The nature of the goods: This refers to what you’re shipping. It’s important to be precise as certain goods may have specific shipping requirements or restrictions.
  • The weight of the goods: This is crucial for determining the cost of your shipment. If your cargo is bulky, you’ll need to convert its size using a volumetric conversion to get the weight it will be rated against. Remember, air freight costs are calculated based on weight.
  • The destination: This is where your goods are shipped. Ensure you have the correct address to avoid any complications.

Deadlines and Cut-Off Times

Understanding deadlines and cut-off times is crucial in the air freight shipping process. These times are set to ensure that your shipment reaches its destination on time. Adherence to these deadlines can result in delays and additional costs.

For instance, if you’re shipping from China to the U.K., it’s important to note that air freight can be expensive and subject to delays due to high demand. Therefore, booking your shipment well in advance is advisable to secure a spot for your cargo.

In conclusion, booking your air freight shipment involves:

  • understanding the booking process,
  • providing the required information accurately, and
  • adhering to deadlines and cut-off times.

By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth and efficient shipping process.

3. Preparing Your Shipment for Transport

Preparing your shipment for transport is a critical step in the air freight shipping process. It involves several key aspects, including proper packaging and labelling, documentation requirements, and security measures.

Proper Packaging and Labelling Requirements

The first step in preparing your shipment for transport is ensuring that your goods are properly packaged. This is crucial to protect your goods from damage during transit. Labelling your shipment correctly is equally important. According to P4D, a UK-based courier booking service, it’s important to use high-quality packaging materials and securely pack your goods.

For instance, fragile items should be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a sturdy box with sufficient padding. The labels should be clear and visible, containing all the necessary information, such as the sender’s and recipient’s addresses. Including a duplicate label inside the package is also recommended if the outer label gets damaged.

Documentation Requirements

The documentation required for shipping goods via air freight can be complex. Per the U.K. government’s guidelines, you must plan your route, make an export declaration, and prepare a transit declaration. The export declaration should include details about the goods you’re shipping, while the transit declaration should include the export declaration reference number.

Security Measures

Security measures are crucial in the air freight shipping process. The goods should be sealed appropriately, and the seal number should be noted on the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS). You should wait for clearance from Border Force before your goods can leave your premises. If the goods are not cleared, they must remain at your premises until Border Force arrives for inspection.

In conclusion, preparing your shipment for transport is a multi-step process that requires careful attention to detail. You can ensure that your goods reach their destination safely and efficiently by ensuring proper packaging and labelling, adhering to documentation requirements, and implementing necessary security measures.

4. Drop-Off and Transportation

The first step in the air freight shipping process is the drop-off and transportation of your shipment to the airport. This process involves several key stages, each with its considerations.

Transporting Your Shipment to the Airport

Transporting your shipment to the airport is a crucial step that requires careful planning.

In the U.K., transporting goods commercially to any international destination, including airports, is governed by specific rules and regulations. The U.K. government provides a step-by-step guide on transporting goods commercially, including applying for operator licences and permits, registering and getting approval for your vehicle, ensuring your driver is eligible to drive abroad, and checking the rules for the goods you carry.

Checking Your Shipment In

Once your shipment arrives at the airport, the next step is to check it in. This process involves verifying the shipment details, ensuring all necessary documentation is in order, and confirming that the shipment is ready for air transport.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority provides a comprehensive check-in and airport security guide. This guide covers everything from check-in times and online procedures to security measures and tips for a smooth check-in process.

Tracking Your Shipment in Transit

After your shipment has been checked in and loaded onto the aircraft, tracking its progress is essential. This lets you keep your customers informed and promptly manage any potential issues.

In the U.K., several couriers offer package tracking services. These tracking services typically require a tracking number or reference number provided by the sender. For example, the U.K. Couriers: Track Your Package guide lists tracking URLs for various U.K. couriers, including Royal Mail, FedEx, Parcelforce, D.P.D., Yodel, U.P.S., Hermes (now known as Evri), DHL, and more.

In summary, the drop-off and transportation stage of the air freight shipping process involves transporting your shipment to the airport, checking it in, and tracking it in transit. Each step requires careful planning and adherence to specific rules and regulations to ensure a smooth and efficient shipping process.

5. Customs Clearance

Navigating the labyrinth of customs clearance can be daunting, especially for those new to the air freight shipping process. This section aims to demystify the process, focusing on understanding customs procedures and requirements, providing accurate documentation, and dealing with customs delays and issues.

Understanding Customs Procedures and Requirements

Customs procedures and requirements are a crucial part of the air freight shipping process.

In the U.K., these procedures are governed by the H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The U.K. government’s official website provides comprehensive information on importing goods into the U.K., including details on how to classify your goods, calculate the value of your goods for customs, and pay any duty and V.A.T. due.

Providing Accurate Documentation

Accurate documentation is essential for a smooth customs clearance process. The Customs declarations, duties and tariffs (import and export) page on the U.K. government’s website provides a wealth of information on the documentation required for importing and exporting goods. This includes details on how to get an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which is necessary for moving goods between Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and other countries.

Dealing with Customs Delays and Issues

Despite best efforts, customs delays and issues can occur.

The U.K. government guides delaying declarations for goods brought into Great Britain from Northern Ireland or Ireland. This guidance includes details on when you can delay declarations, the steps you must take before the deadline, and the actions you must take if you choose to delay declarations and have yet to make a supplementary declaration for those goods.

It’s important to note that you must contact HMRC about late declarations as soon as possible. If you voluntarily inform HMRC about declarations not submitted on time, they can assist you in rectifying the situation and ensuring you adhere to the correct procedures in the future.

In conclusion, understanding the customs clearance process is vital to air freight shipping. By familiarising yourself with customs procedures and requirements, ensuring accurate documentation, and knowing how to handle customs delays and issues, you can help ensure a smoother, more efficient shipping process.

6. Receiving Your Shipment

Receiving your shipment is a crucial step in the air freight shipping process. It involves inspecting your shipment upon arrival, reporting any damage or issues, and dealing with lost or missing items.

Inspecting Your Shipment on Arrival

Upon the arrival of your shipment, it’s essential to conduct a thorough inspection. This involves checking the condition of the goods and ensuring that all items listed on the shipping manifest are present.

According to the U.K. government’s guide on the arrival of your goods in the U.K., you should verify the details of your shipment, including the quantity and description of the goods. It’s also important to check for any visible damage or signs of mishandling.

Reporting Any Damage or Issues

If you discover any damage or issues with your shipment, it’s crucial to report them promptly.

The U.K. consumer rights organisation, Which?, provides a comprehensive guide on handling such situations. According to their advice, you should contact the retailer with evidence of damage as soon as possible. This could involve taking photos of the damage and documenting any discrepancies.

Remember, your contract is with the retailer, not the courier service, so any issues should be addressed to them.

Dealing with Lost or Missing Items

In the unfortunate event that items from your shipment are lost or missing, there are steps you can take to address the situation.

The Citizens Advice Bureau provides a detailed guide on what to do if something you’ve ordered hasn’t arrived. According to their guide, the seller’s responsible for ensuring the item is delivered to you. If the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order. If the seller claims they’ve delivered it or doesn’t know where it is, you can ask for redelivery or a refund in some circumstances.

In conclusion, receiving your shipment involves the following:

  • careful inspection
  • prompt reporting of any issues
  • appropriate action in case of lost or missing items

By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth and efficient air freight shipping process.

7. Post-Shipment Analysis

Post-shipment analysis is a critical component of the air freight shipping process. It involves thoroughly reviewing your shipping process, identifying areas for improvement, collecting feedback from customers and carriers, and implementing changes for future shipments.

This section will delve into these aspects, providing insights into how you can optimise your shipping process and enhance customer satisfaction.

Reviewing Your Shipping Process and Identifying Areas for Improvement

The first step in the post-shipment analysis is comprehensively reviewing your shipping process.

This involves examining each process stage, from packaging and documentation to transportation and delivery. Look for inefficiencies or bottlenecks that may slow your shipments or increase costs. For instance:

  • Are your goods being packaged efficiently?
  • Are there any delays in documentation or customs clearance?
  • Are your carriers delivering your shipments on time?

By identifying these areas for improvement, you can streamline your shipping process and improve your overall efficiency.

Collecting Feedback from Customers and Carriers

Feedback is a valuable tool for improving your shipping process. By collecting feedback from your customers and carriers, you can gain insights into their experiences and identify any issues affecting their satisfaction. For example:

  • Are your customers satisfied with the speed and reliability of your shipments?
  • Are your carriers experiencing any problems with your shipping process?

Addressing these issues can enhance service quality and build stronger relationships with customers and carriers.

Implementing Changes for Future Shipments

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement and collected feedback, the next step is to implement changes for future shipments. This could involve changing your packaging process, improving documentation procedures, or switching to more reliable carriers. Remember, the goal is to enhance your shipping process and deliver better customer service.

By making these changes, you can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

A study by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (O.N.S.) provides valuable insights into the use of shipping data for improving government understanding of trade flows. The study demonstrates how shipping instructions data can be used to map trade routes, understand the reliance on global ports for specific products, and draw insights into the impact of important events such as strikes.

This data-driven approach can be applied to your post-shipment analysis, helping you to make more informed decisions and improve your shipping process.


Air freight shipping can be a highly effective way to transport goods, but it’s essential to understand the process thoroughly to avoid unnecessary delays and costs. By following the seven steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your air freight shipments are handled smoothly and efficiently.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about air freight shipping, please don’t hesitate to contact us.