Air Cargo vs. Air Freight: What's the Difference?


  • This article explores the differences between air cargo and air freight, clarifying their distinct roles in logistics and transportation.
  • It highlights key aspects like shipment size, transit time, cost, reliability, and partnering with a reliable air freight forwarder, providing insights to help businesses choose the best option for their shipping needs.

In logistics and transportation, air cargo and air freight are often used interchangeably. However, they hold distinct meanings crucial for businesses involved in shipping goods. Understanding air cargo vs air freight can impact your shipping strategy, costs, and overall efficiency.

This article highlights their differences, enabling you to have a clearer understanding of which option best suits your shipping needs. Read on to learn more.

What is an Air Freight?

What is an Air Freight?

Air freight refers to the commercial transportation of goods by air. This service encompasses the cargo movement on dedicated airplanes or within the cargo hold of passenger airplanes.

Their services can include additional logistics support such as packaging, customs clearance, documentation, and even door-to-door delivery, depending on the customer’s specific needs. It is the fastest mode of international freight transportation, making it ideal for time-sensitive shipments or perishable goods.

What is Air Cargo?

Air cargo is the transportation of goods and products via aircraft. It plays a vital role in global trade, enabling businesses to move goods quickly and efficiently over long distances.

While it offers significant speed advantages compared to sea freight, it also comes with limitations. It can be more expensive due to the higher operating costs of airplanes compared to ships. Additionally, the weight and size restrictions on aircraft limit the types and quantities of goods that can be transported by air.

What is the Difference between Air Cargo and Air Freight?

What is the Difference between Air Cargo and Air Freight?

The key difference between air cargo and air freight lies in their scope and the services they offer.

Shipment Size

Air cargo focuses on the goods themselves. These include individual packages, pallets, or bulk materials, though airlines might have minimum weight requirements for passenger planes.

Air freight, however, offers greater flexibility. It handles a wider range of sizes from small packages to large industrial equipment. It can also consolidate smaller shipments from different sources to maximize space and reduce costs.

Transit Time

When it comes to speed, both air cargo and air freight are the unrivaled leaders in international shipping. However, air cargo on passenger planes takes longer due to passenger boarding and priority.

Additionally, dedicated cargo flights offer the fastest option while air freight provides a range of speeds depending on your needs. Expedited air freight prioritizes swift deliveries, while cost-effective options might involve consolidation or waiting times to optimize efficiency.


Air cargo costs primarily depend on weight and dimensions, with passenger planes often charging more for packages compared to dedicated cargo flights.

Air freight services, on the other hand, offer a more comprehensive pricing structure that factors not just in weight and size, but also the value-added services you choose. These can include packaging, customs clearance, documentation, and even door-to-door delivery, resulting in a higher overall cost than basic air cargo transport.


Using passenger planes for air cargo can be convenient due to their frequency and availability. However, these flights prioritize passenger activities, leading to potential schedule disruptions for the cargo. In contrast, dedicated cargo flights offer greater reliability as they operate on fixed schedules solely for transporting goods, ensuring fewer delays and more consistent service.

The reliability of air freight services can be influenced by factors like service level choices and customs clearance processes. Partnering with a reliable air freight forwarder helps mitigate these issues by prioritizing timely deliveries and providing real-time tracking information, giving you peace of mind and ensuring your shipments arrive on schedule.

How to Choose the Right Option?

Choosing between air cargo and air freight depends on your specific requirements. If you need to deliver valuable or time-sensitive goods urgently, air cargo offers the fastest option. However, for most commercial shipments, air freight is a more comprehensive and cost-effective solution.

When deciding, consider factors like the size of your shipment, your budget, and the desired transit time. Partnering with a reliable air freight forwarder like CargoBoss, which specializes in shipping from China to the Philippines, can help you make the best choice and ensure a smooth and efficient international shipping experience.

Key Takeaway

Understanding air cargo vs air freight empowers you to make an informed decision for your transportation needs. Selecting a reliable air freight forwarder can unlock a world of benefits for your business. At CargoBoss, we provide customized air freight solutions that meet your specific requirements, ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Contact us today to discuss your shipping requirements and discover how a streamlined solution can elevate your business operations.