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The benefits of air cargo charter: a complete guide

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18th May 2023

Hercules - Lynden Air Cargo

Welcome to the world of air cargo charter. Air cargo charter has seen rapid growth since 2020. The global COVID-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for this movement and accelerated the permanent altering of the landscape for essential business and trade around the globe.

Entire industries, especially aviation, were forced to adjust their operations, while adapting quickly to keeping supply chains moving during the global crisis. Air cargo charter provided complex project management expertise and the ability to access key destinations, delivering PPE, medicines, vaccine supplies, and test kits to multiple destinations — all with exceptional speed and logistical precision.

Air charter has quickly become the clear choice for governments, corporations, and global businesses that need urgent solutions for the transportation of essential cargo.

What is air cargo charter?

Air cargo charter is the exclusive rental of an entire aircraft to transport goods, as opposed to an air freight shipment that might contain cargo from multiple senders. Air charter is designed for organizations that require tailor-made air freight services and it’s an ideal solution for companies with variable-sized or sensitive goods cargo, or if delivering to a remote location with limited route schedules. This gives businesses, governments, or NGO’s more control over their air cargo and helps to avoid restrictions and delays.

For economies of scale, air carriers (companies responsible for transporting goods via air) typically use high-capacity freighter aircraft to transport air cargo. These aircraft are designed to carry the maximum amount of cargo safely and are stripped of passenger seats. However, the demand is so great today that empty passenger aircraft are also used for shipping where the goods being shipped are a good fit. Goods can be stacked on passenger seats, and these are aptly referred to as “preighters”.  More commonly though, brokers will aim to provide cargo-specific aircraft and should specify if they are planning anything to the contrary to ensure transparency.

What are the key benefits of air cargo charter?

sea freight vs air frieght resized

Air cargo charter is the go-to option over sea or road freight for many different industries, including interior design, construction, electronics, and the automotive industry. Air freight is also a popular choice for those organizations that need to transport high-value goods, live animals, oil, gas, and dangerous goods. Not only is it faster than sea or road freight, but it’s best used for shipments of high values, and low volume. Let’s take a closer look at the key benefits in detail.

  • Reliability: Shipping by sea is governed heavily by the weather and the tides, and transport by land is subject to traffic and laws regulating conditions for drivers. Air freight isn’t controlled so heavily by external factors, and airlines tend to stick to a strict schedule, which results in reliable departure and arrival times.
  • Speed: One of the biggest benefits of air cargo charters is speed. Dedicated cargo planes can fly directly to the destination, without the need for layovers or transfers, which significantly reduces the time needed for transport. This is particularly advantageous for time-sensitive cargo, such as perishable goods, urgent medical supplies, or emergency relief aid.
  • Flexibility: Air cargo charters offer greater flexibility as shippers can choose the departure and arrival times, as well as the routing and airports of their choice. This enables them to tailor the logistics to their specific requirements, which is especially useful when dealing with unusual or challenging cargo types.
  • More destinations: Many cargo-carrying airlines have worldwide networks, with the top airlines flying to more than 300 destinations worldwide. This means that if you’re looking to transport your cargo via air, almost every location is accessible. Air freight is a great option for landlocked destinations and even very remote places. While most freight options and many companies give their customers the flexibility to ship their products worldwide, it can take large amounts of time to transport cargo from/to some places via land or sea, but not by air.
  • Capacity: Cargo planes come in different sizes, with varying load capacities. This means that shippers can choose the most appropriate aircraft for their cargo, from smaller planes for urgent, time-sensitive cargo to larger planes for heavy, bulky, or oversized items.
  • Security: With air cargo charters, senders have greater control over their cargo’s security. This is because the aircraft is exclusively carrying their cargo, meaning there is less risk of theft, damage, or loss, compared to flights that contain cargo from various vendors.
  • Tracking: Air freight service providers offer web-based aircraft tracking, enabling you to check your cargo status in real time, from departure to arrival. Of course, this can be done with road and sea tracking but the accuracy and pace with air freight will be more definitive over shorter periods.
  • Less warehousing: Quicker transport times means less need for warehousing. It’s not as necessary to keep a huge amount of stock when you can have more products in as little as a day. Most cargo is cleared in a matter of hours, so you can cut down on your warehousing costs massively.
  • Less packaging required: Air cargo shipments generally use fewer packaging materials as they are shipped in very lightweight materials, especially when compared with sea freight. This saves both time and money on packaging materials and containers.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Air cargo charters can be more cost-effective than traditional air cargo services for certain types of cargo. Large, heavy, or high-value items, as well as those that require specialized handling or equipment. Whilst air freight services are typically more expensive than shipping by sea or transporting by land, the savings made in other areas including insurance, and logistics maintenance, can balance out the upfront cost.
  • Viability: Especially in times of crisis or urgent situations, many turn to charter as the only viable option for cargo transportation. Compared to other modes of transportation, air charter stands out as the best end-to-end solution that gives clients more control of their cargo shipment.

How to book an air cargo charter flight?

air cargo charter loading 747

Step one should be to put together accurate information about your requirements for the charter and include as many details as possible, including weight, volume, dates, departure location, and destination.

After you have detailed your requirements, send this out as an enquiry to a trusted broker ― ideally, you should receive a few options back. Serious brokers aim to respond to inbound enquiries as quickly as possible as it’s a sure-fire way of generating new business.

Once you have received your quotation, evaluate your options, and decide. Don’t lose sight of how important the human factor is in this industry either. Cost will be your primary driver but the service and customer experience you’ve had to that point should also be a key indicator. If any challenges arise, you want to have someone you can trust to ensure they clear any obstacles and do so with timely and helpful communication.

Once you have a freight partner in mind, the contracting process should then take place, hopefully as quickly as possible to ensure that you have everything confirmed, and the broker has everything in-hand.

Are you exploring air cargo charter service options?

air cargo charter an124

As experts in the meticulous logistics planning for part, full, or a series cargo air charter scheduling, Chapman Freeborn can ensure the full end-to-end management for air cargo shipments, including any special handling requirements.

This includes timely regulatory approvals, diplomatic clearance channels for international routes, permits, airport transfers, and ground transportation logistics, ensuring complete precision in the timely and efficient transport of cargo.

If you are looking to charter a cargo plane, get in touch with the dedicated Chapman Freeborn air freight charter team at [email protected]

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