5 Types of Air Cargo

What are the types of air cargo?

  1. General cargo
  2. Special cargo
  3. Express shipment
  4. Perishable goods
  5. Heavy cargo


  • Despite the inherent challenges, the transport of special cargo via air offers unparalleled advantages in terms of speed, reliability, and global reach.
  • Understanding the nuances of air cargo types is vital for businesses aiming to optimize their supply chain operations and meet the ever-growing demands of the market.
  • In the management of online businesses, fast and secure transportation is important.

Efficient and reliable transportation is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in today’s globalized marketplace. While various modes of transportation exist, air cargo is a crucial solution for businesses demanding fast and reliable delivery.

There are a diverse range of air cargo options available. That’s why understanding their complexities is essential for those seeking to optimize their supply chain operations and meet the ever-growing demand of the market. This article explores the types of air cargo and their unique characteristics and logistical requirements. Read on to learn more!

General Cargo

General cargo refers to any goods or products that can be safely transported by air without requiring special handling or storage conditions. This encompasses a wide variety of items, making it the backbone of the air freight industry.

It has common types: retail and consumer goods, which include everything from clothing and electronics to toys and furniture. These items are typically packaged in standard boxes or crates and can be easily loaded and unloaded onto airplanes.

Since it does not require any special handling, it is generally less expensive than other cargo. However, there are some restrictions on what can be shipped as general cargo. For example, dangerous goods, live animals, and perishable goods require special handling and documentation.

Special Cargo

Special cargo

Ranging from perishable goods like pharmaceuticals to electronics and artwork, special cargo caters to a diverse array of items. Its importance lies in its unique characteristics and requirements, such as meticulous attention to detail throughout the transportation process.

For instance, pharmaceuticals are temperature-sensitive, so they demand a controlled environment to maintain efficacy. On the other hand, fragile artwork mandates secure packaging and delicate handling procedures.

Express Shipment

Express shipments are prioritized for loading onto the quickest available flights. This often led to delivery within 24-48 hours even for international destinations. That’s why they also come at a significantly higher cost compared to standard air freight.

This type has stricter limitations on weight and sizes as they cater to smaller, time-sensitive shipments. Most express air cargo offers door-to-door pick-up delivery, adding convenience to the service.

Businesses that require urgent delivery such as medical supplies or launching new products and need to get them to market are the ones who choose this shipment.

Perishable Goods

Perishable goods

Perishable goods are items with a limited shelf life, such as fresh produce, flowers, and pharmaceuticals. They require special care during transportation since they are sensitive to temperature, humidity, and handling.

While slower and cheaper alternatives like ocean freight exist, air freight remains the preferred mode of transport for many perishable goods. Their speed minimizes spoilage and ensures the products reach their destination fresh and in optimal condition.

They also have specialized containers and temperature-controlled compartments that can maintain the ideal temperature for specific goods.

Furthermore, perishable goods present unique challenges and opportunities in air cargo. Understanding their characteristics, specific needs, and available options helps you choose an air freight forwarder who will ensure a safe and high-quality delivery of these valuable items.

Heavy Cargo

Heavy cargo shipments often include oversized machinery, industrial equipment, vehicles, or other bulky items that exceed the standard weight and size limit. Transporting them through air requires specialized aircraft, such as freighters equipped with heavy-duty loading equipment. That’s why the logistics of transporting heavy cargo involves meticulous planning to coordinate ground transportation.

However, one of the primary challenges here is ensuring the safety and security of both cargo and the aircraft. Proper handling and securing techniques are both essential to prevent shifting during flight.

Despite the higher costs associated with air transport compared to other modes, the time-sensitive nature of heavy cargo shipments often justifies the expenses—making air freight a crucial component of the global logistics network.

Key Takeaway

The diversity of these types of air cargo from perishable goods to heavy cargo covers a wide range of goods with specific requirements. Its ability to offer speed and accessibility makes it a vital component of global supply chains, serving the demands of a dynamic and interconnected world.

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