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Five instances when you might need an air cargo charter

Should you ship your relief packs as belly cargo in a commercial passenger flight, via a freight forwarder, through an integrator, or via air cargo charter.

A deadly typhoon just hit Mexico, and your non-profit organization has aid ready to send. 

Should you ship your relief packs as belly cargo in a commercial passenger flight, via a freight forwarder, through an integrator, or via air cargo charter?

Your air freight options
Here is a detailed rundown of your most common air freight options.

1. Belly cargo
If cost is the only consideration, belly cargo transport is the obvious choice.

Offering belly cargo space is just an airline’s way of activating an additional revenue stream. It’s just one of the methods an airline employs to maximize its earnings from every flight. Hence, belly cargo transport is usually marginally priced and a cost-efficient air freight method.

However, price is often not the only consideration. For instance, in the example used above — i.e., aid and relief — there are many other considerations besides cost.

2. Freight forwarder
Another cost-efficient solution is air freight via freight forwarders. Freight forwarders are logistics companies that consolidate shipments from their customers.

To transport these shipments by air, they buy cargo space from dedicated all-cargo operators (they may also be subsidiaries of commercial airline companies) or belly cargo space from passenger airlines. They typically lease warehouses and outsource delivery to last-mile logistics providers.

Freight forwarders are good for transporting bulky items. Again, if the freight price is the only consideration, freight forwarders are an optimum solution.

3. Integrator
Freight integrators are shipment companies, like freight forwarders. However, they have their own cargo planes, delivery trucks, and last-mile-delivery infrastructure. Their air freight services are typically more expensive than freight forwarders, but they will take charge of your shipment from drop-off to delivery since they have ownership of the entire chain.

Integrators are a good option for transporting small consumer goods.

4. Air charter cargo
Air charter cargo involves renting (i.e., chartering) an entire cargo plane. This can obviously get very expensive. However, it can offer the greatest value for money given the right circumstances, such as those discussed in the next section.

When air cargo is the practical choice
The following are instances when chartering a cargo plane is the logical choice from among your air freight options. Specifically, an air cargo charter makes sense when transporting the following types of cargo.

1. Heavy and oversized cargo
Freight forwarders, door-to-door integrators, and passenger airlines have restrictions to ensure their services are not abused and maximize their earnings per square feet of cargo space. 

Such restrictions include dimension and weight limits, among others. While an air freight company might still allow you to transport oversized and overweight cargo, it might do so only for a sizable fee and only up to a certain extent.

What if you need to transport heavy equipment like steamrollers, bulldozers, trenchers, cranes, loaders, and graders? It is unlikely that any freight forwarding companies will accommodate your request. They, too, are subject to air cargo companies’ dimension and weight restrictions. Integrators are as unlikely to take your shipment because they must also allocate space for their regular, general cargo.

Chartering a cargo plane is your best option when transporting heavy and outsized cargo. Private cargo planes are available in many sizes and variants. You should be able to find one that has the room and capacity to carry your heavy and oversized shipment.

2. Aircraft on ground
Suppose you fly your private jet to France. Unfortunately, the plane malfunctions and is no longer airworthy. It has to remain grounded until it has been seen to and repaired.

Every day your airplane is grounded means an additional day of per diem fees for your flight crew. Even after sending your crew back on commercial flights, your aircraft will continue to incur airport storage fees.

To prevent further losses, you can charter a cargo plane to transport your jet back to its home base.

3. Aid and relief
How soon before aid and relief must be available to victims of natural and man-made disasters? 

A review of the existing literature will tell you the first 72 hours after a disaster strikes are crucial to a people’s ability to recover from that calamity. Without a response within 72 hours, panic and chaos could set in, leading to secondary consequences such as hunger, crime, and the spread of infection.

Therefore, when transporting aid and relief supplies (e.g., drinking water, medicines) and equipment (e.g., satcom equipment for emergency response) to disaster zones, time is of the essence. You cannot wait around for commercial flights to become available, mainly since it might take time to restore commercial flights. You also cannot wait around for all-cargo flights to get filled.

In contrast, private cargo planes can land in smaller airports. Thus, they also have more options when it comes to delivering aid and relief.

4. Temperature-sensitive cargo
Vaccines, like ones for COVID-19, have end-to-end supply cold chain requirements. They have to be transported at a particular temperature, or they will spoil and go to waste.

When transporting temperature-sensitive cargo like COVID-19 vaccines, an air cargo charter is the ideal option. Since you have exclusive use of the cargo plane, maintaining the temperature at the required range should be easier to enforce, control, and track.

5. Dangerous goods
Dangerous goods include explosives, gasses, flammable liquids and solids, corrosives, and radioactive materials, among others. Naturally, these types of cargo are banned from consolidated freight forwarders, belly cargo, and integrator shipments. Therefore, industries that need and must transport these for field operations (e.g., oil and gas industry, mining industry) must do so via air cargo charter.

By using an air cargo charter, you can ensure the dangerous goods can be flown in compliance with the existing International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other pertinent regulations. Moreover, transporting these dangerous goods separate from general cargo also protects other cargo from untoward incidents.

Air cargo charter: Fast and custom transport solution
You have many freight options when you need to send cargo via air freight. 

However, air cargo charter is particularly suitable when transporting heavy and outsized cargo, grounded aircraft, time-sensitive aid and relief supplies, temperature-sensitive items, and dangerous goods.

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

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TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific editorial team has an experience of over 35 years in B2B travel journalism as well as in tourism & hospitality marketing and communications.