How to calculate air freight rates

People move cargo all across the world daily. Depending on its destination, the cargo travels by trucks, ship, planes, and other means of transportation. And even though cargo export by plane might be the most expensive, it is also the fastest and safest way of transporting your goods. For example, a standard shipment which takes 20-30 days by ship will arrive at its destination in 3 days if shipped by plane. This is why knowing how to calculate air freight rates is important. That way, you can decide whether it pays more to ship your goods by the ocean or by air. And in this article, we tell you how to do it.

Why ship by air?

There are multiple factors to take into consideration when deciding whether to ship by air or the ocean. There are, however, three clear advantages of air freight shipping to the ocean freight. These are:

  • the speed of the whole process,
  • reliability – knowing the air freight rates are high for a reason and
  • protection and safety of your items.


We have already talked a little bit about the speed of air shipping. This is one of the reasons why air freight rates can be a bit higher. According to the World Bank, air freight shipping is around 15 times more expensive than ocean one. However, shipping your goods by air means they will arrive about 30 times faster than shipping them over the ocean.

Shipping by air with planes such as this one is much faster than by ocean.
Shipping by air is much faster than by ocean.


This is why air freight shipping is good for certain items, while not for the others. If you are a start-up company that needs their goods on the shelves as soon as possible, it might be a smart idea to calculate your air freight costs and ship them by plane. Another type of goods that are shipped by planes are the light items, such as clothing. Companies often send seasonal goods this way too, because they need them in the shops as soon as possible.


Any domestic and international Japan mover will tell you that reliability is one of the key factors when moving or shipping any goods. This is where air shipping, with its air freight rates, comes into play. Shipping your goods by air is far more reliable than shipping them by the ocean. This is because of the various tracking systems you can have nowadays. The advent of technology has brought forward better tracking services – many of which you cannot apply to ocean freight. Thanks to these, you will be able to know exactly where your goods are at any point during the shipping process.


Finally, the safety of your goods is of utmost importance. Even though it has dwindled in the recent years, ocean piracy still exists. But that’s not the only factor that endangers the safety of your goods when shipping them over the ocean. During the lengthy travels, there is a higher risk of your goods being exposed to the weather conditions, as well as something compromising the crates and boxes. Basically, goods are more likely to be damaged in ocean freight than in air freight.

Key factors in calculating air freight rates

The two most important factors that define air freight expenses are the weight and the volume of the packageInternational air freight forwarders charge by either the volumetric (or dimensional) weight or the actual weight. Which one they pick depends on what will be more expensive. For example, if the volumetric weight of the package exceeds the actual one, they will charge you based on the volumetric weight. What this means is that sometimes your pool noodles might cost more than a smaller but heavier box, just because they take up more volume in the cargo of the plane. You need to measure your package carefully before agreeing on a shipping method.

How to calculate the volumetric weight for air freight estimate

A measuring tape to help measure your package to calculate air freight rates.
Measure your package to calculate air freight rates.

There is a general rule for calculating the volumetric weight of your package. The first thing you need to do is measure the volume of your package. This is done by measuring the length, width and the height of the package and multiplying those numbers. After that, you need to convert the number into the appropriate unit – meters cubes. Finally, to approximate the volumetric weight for your air freight rates, you will need to multiply the volume by 167.

For example, let’s say your package is 30cm x 40cm x 50cm. You multiply this number and divide it by 1,000,000 (to convert it from centimeters cubed into meters cubed). The actual volume of your package is 0.06 meters. By multiplying this number by 167 we get 10.02 kg of volumetric weight. Now you compare this to the actual weight of your package, and you will know what the freight company will take into consideration when shipping your item.

Why not ship by plane

There are a couple of reasons why people go against shipping cargo by plane. These are the air freight rates, the CO2 emission as well as the size of the shipments.

When it comes to the air freight quotes, shipping huge containers – like big companies do – doesn’t come cheap. For example, a shipping from Asia to the USA might cost $1,200 by the ocean, but $4,000 by plane. This is because of the weight of the shipment, which can raise the air freight rates pretty high the heavier it gets. Another thing companies do is send big shipments in shipping containers. The containers themselves are pretty big and heavy, and they add to the shipping cost. This is why a lot of the companies will decide for the ocean freight instead of the air freight shipping.

There are a few reasons why ocean freight carriers such as this one might be for you.
There are a few reasons why ocean freight might be for you.


Finally, the Guardian published a UK government research that states that air freight shipping is far more dangerous to the atmosphere than its ocean counterpart. They state that if you are shipping 2 tons of goods for 5,000 kilometers, you will have a staggering difference of CO2 emissions. By the ocean, this leads to 150kg of CO2, while by air, this leads to 6,605kg of CO2. This might not affect the air freight rates, but might be a dealbreaker for some people.

©2024 Kokusai Express - All Rights Are Reserved · Powered by Movers Development