China Air Freight Shipping

– Everything You Need to Know [2024]
While air transportation may account for a negligible portion of freight tonnage (only 0.2% of the total tonnage) compared to maritime transportation, its significance in terms of overall value is considerably higher, representing 15% of the total value of global trade.

International air freight holds a value approximately 70 times greater than its maritime equivalent and roughly 30 times higher than overland freight, largely due to the nature of the goods it transports, such as electronics.

At CFC, we want to be your single source for your supply chain solutions. We do this by working in virtually every aspect of the logistics management, including shipping via air.

Here this page will guide you to China air freight, including the advantages, cargo types, a sample airway bill, shipping process, china main airports list and more. Keep reading.


Air Supply Chain Elements

Several factors come together to shape the configuration of a supply chain:

  • Logistics costs. Consider the full cost of getting the product to the end consumer, i.e. transportation, warehousing and transshipment. The concept of cost is relative as its significance relates to the value of the goods being carried. Cost considerations tend to focus more on low-value containerized cargo, such as commodities (e.g., paper), rather than high-value cargo (e.g., electronics).
  • Transportation time. It is increasingly being considered as it strongly affects inventory holding costs and inventory cycle times in supply chain management. Therefore, for higher value (clothing) or perishable (finger) shipments, the fastest and/or shortest route option will be preferred.
  • Reliability. For many supply chains, time may be a secondary factor as long as the goods arrive at the distribution center within the expected time frame. If shipments are regular and this reliability remains consistent, the supply chain can be organized accordingly by increasing in-transit inventory.
  • Supply chain risks. Relates to generally imponderable factors involving the level of confidence that the shipment will reach its final destination within expected cost, time and reliability considerations. In some cases, the risk may also involve potential damage or theft of the goods. Low-risk routes are clearly better than high-risk routes.

Air Freight Terminology

AWB

Air Waybill, is a non-negotiable transport document issued by the carrier (Master AWB) or the agent (House AWB), which indicating that the carrier has accepted the goods listed therein and obligates itself to carry the consignment to the airport of destination according to specified conditions.

IATA

International Air Transport Association, which supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards of the world’s airlines. As of 2023 it represents 317 airlines, including major carriers, from over 120 countries.

ETD: Estimated Time of Departure
ATD: Actual Time of Departure
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival
ATA: Actual Time of Arrival

ETT

Estimated Transit Time is for estimation purposes only and commonly can NOT be guaranteed although most shipments will depart and arrive as scheduled.

Dangerous Goods

Commodities classified by IATA according to its nature and characteristic in terms of the effect of its danger to carrier’s flying safety.

Dimensional Weight

Aka Chargeable Weight or Billable Weight. Carrier charge for freight based on the dimensional weight or actual gross weight whichever is higher.

MOQ

The MOQ is 45 kgs. The rate class is +45kg, +100kg, +300kg, +500kg, +1000kg. The courier cost less if < 100kg for most destination countries.

ULD

A Unit Load Device (ULD) is either an aircraft pallet and pallet net combination, or an aircraft container.

Air containers come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different types of cargo and aircraft. They’re designed to fit seamlessly into the cargo holds of airplanes, allowing for efficient loading, unloading, and transportation of goods.

You can simply take it as air container just like sea container. Not much attention needs to pay.
* If the cargo exceeds below the weight and volume, the carrier can determine the allowable maximum limit and volume cargo base on the flight model, departure and destination airport handling equipment conditions.

air-freight-uld


Air Freight Advantages

The best thing with air shipment is speed.

Airmail was one of the earliest business-related applications of air transport, as it helped speed up monetary transactions and linked distant businesses together, facilitating the emergence of continental and intercontinental businesses.

In general, the transit time from China is no longer than 10 working days. Only 3~5 days in most cases. This is a vast reduction compared to ocean freight. Nowadays, the fast delivery time alone can make a huge impact on a business niche.

Please note that air freight is just to-airport delivery. You or the freight agent needs to handle the customs clearance and inland transportation to your warehouse, while courier services such as DHL/FedEx/UPS can be the one stop to-door delivery provider.

  • Air freight = airport-to-airport
  • Air courier = door-to-door
Air FreightAir Express/Courier
Weight100 - 3000 kgs0.5 - 150 kgs
Volume> 1 cbm< 1 cbm
Transit Time2 - 7 days2 - 5 days
Upon Arrival AirportNoneClearance and to-door delivery

Air Cargo Types

By cargo properties, they can be divided into

  • General cargo
  • Special cargo

1. General cargo

Such as electronics, Jewelry, pharmaceuticals, wristwatches are high value. The electronics industry accounts for around 40% of the value of the entire international air cargo industry.

They need to be transported in a very good condition. The air shipping cost more than sea shipping, but means nothing compared to the value amount of products.

2. Special cargo

Including living animals, goods that are dangerous or need temperature control. For example, some chemicals are dangerous goods, and seafood that requires refrigeration and freezing during the whole-course cold chain transportation.

Perishable or hazardous goods are subject to different regulations, compared to general cargo. They have to pass through various inspections and need to meet numerous requirements, and not every airline can accept these items.

Make sure that you advise in detail about special goods you want to ship. Because leaving out any detail might lead to penalties/extra fees and denial of shipment.

Most of the special cargo can be classified as general after tested by the authority. And there should be a report – Identification and Classification Report for Air Transport of Goods shown to the carrier before loading.

2.1 Powder
2.2 Chemical
2.3 With oil or liquid
2.4 With battery
2.5 With magnet (needs magnet test)
2.5.1 Audio accessory and equipment
2.5.2 With motor inside

Other restrictions will apply due to national laws and regulations of specific airlines.

Please note that most of the airlines are saying NO to the following names or descriptions of the commodity: Lithium Battery Toys, Scooter, Hoverboard, Power Supply, Power Bank, Air Bag, Electric Board, Electronic Board.


Dimensional Weight

Air cargo rate is calculated by chargeable weight, measurement unit is kilogram. The measurement unit of valuable cargo is 0.1 kg. Chargeable weight is the heavier one between gross weight and dimensional weight.

Volume UnitDimensional Weight
By air freightcm³Volume/6000
By express couriercm³Volume/5000

* If the weight is less than 21 kg, then the minimum chargeable unit is 0.5 kg; If more than 21 kg, then 1 kg.
* To calculate air goods volume L x W x H in inches divided by 366 = weight in kilograms

We have detailed this topic via here.


Air Waybill (AWB) Sample

AWB Sample

If you have read our guide about Bill of Lading, you can also understand the AWB. AWB is almost the same structure as Ocean Bill of Lading (OBL).

An Air Waybill is a documentary proof of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier.

It also serves as:

  • a delivery receipt
  • a receipt of goods for shipment
  • a document required for Customs clearance
  • a form of invoice for the carriage of the goods
  • an insurance certificate (if the insurance cover was arranged through the airline)
  • a dispatch note, bearing a list of all accompanying documents, and any special instructions given by the shipper

Difference between AWB and OBL

The rule of AWB played in an international shipping is almost the same as OBL, but AWB doesn’t serve as a document of title. This is the most significant difference.

The words non-negotiable are printed at the top of the Air Waybill, and must not be changed or removed.

The AWB will be delivered with the air cargo. So as soon as the plane departs from the loading airport, the cargo rights will be transferred to the consignee. The consignee can only show their identification to claim the shipments. The AWB cannot be transferred. That’s why you have to pay freight costs before departure from China.

“Rate Charge”

There’s a column called “Rate Charge” in the middle of an AWB. This rate will be automatically generated by the airlines according to IATA, and can NOT be modified. The charge shown is higher than you really paid.

This is the all-in billable weight rate, calculated by:

  • GCR (General Cargo Rate)
  • SCR (Specific Commodity Rate)
  • CCR (Commodity Classification Rate or Class Rate)
  • BUC (Bulk Unitization Charge)

Air cargo tracking

Each AWB has its unique number. You can find this number on the head section. By submitting the number on the tracking page of the airline’s official website, all updated tracking information will be available.

The bill format is 2 airline code + 3 numbers as prefix + several numbers. Example, Air China Cargo, CA as the airline code, 999 as prefix.

Tracking & Tracing from Air China Cargoair-freight-tracking

Some carriers will provide a free service called email alert. When the goods moved, the updated status will be sent to you shortly. Take advantage of that.


Top 30 International Airports in China with Airport Code

The airport code, is designated with a code (three letters) by the IATA. Nearly every aspect of international flight operations, including airline name, currency, aircraft type, cargo standards, Hazmat regulations, and regional delineations, is standardized with an IATA code.

Airport codes are identifiers that make international and domestic trade and transport work. These codes hold the key to efficiently navigating the complex web of global logistics. It is mandatory on many key freight documents, to specify the main transit’s airport of origin and airport of destination by their codes.

In fact, every airport, seaport, and inland transfer port has its unique code. These codes are nearly universally used by air cargo carriers and freight forwarders.

Airport CodeAirport NameAirport City
PEKBeijing Capital International AirportBeijing
PVGShanghai Pudong International AirportShanghai
CANGuangzhou Baiyun International AirportGuangzhou, Guangdong
XMNXiamen Gaoqi International AirportXiamen, Fujian
HGHHangzhou Xiaoshan International AirportHangzhou, Zhejiang
CKGChongqing Jiangbei International AirportChongqing
CTUChengdu Shuangliu International AirportChengdu, Sichuan
KMGKunming Changshui International AirportKunming, Yunnan
CSXChangsha Huanghua International AirportChangsha, Hunan
XIYXi'an Xianyang International AirportXi'an, Shanxi
NKGNanjing Lukou International AirportNanjing, Jiangsu
SZXShenzhen Bao'an International AirportShenzhen
WUHWuhan Tianhe International AirportWuhan, Hubei
SHEShenyang Taoxian International AirportShenyang, Liaoning
TSNTianjin Binhai International AirportTianjin
KWLGuilin Liangjiang International AirportGuilin, Guangxi
NGBNingbo Lishe International AirportNingbo, Zhejiang
HRBHarbin Taiping International AirportHarbin, Heilongjiang
FOCFuzhou Changle International AirportFuzhou, Fujian
SHAShanghai Hongqiao International AirportShanghai
URCÜrümqi Diwopu International AirportÜrümqi, Xinjiang
DLCDalian Zhoushuizi International AirportDalian, Liaoning
NNGNanning Wuxu International AirportNanning, Guangxi
SYXSanya Phoenix International AirportSanya, Hainan
CGOZhengzhou Xinzheng International AirportZhengzhou, Hunan
HAKHaikou Meilan International AirportHaikou, Hainan
KWEGuiyang Longdongbao International AirportGuiyang, Guizhou
TNAJinan Yaoqiang International AirportJinan, Shandong
TYNTaiyuan Wusu International AirportTaiyuan, Shanxi
HETHohhot Baita International AirportHohhot, Neimenggu

Main Airlines’ Shipping Routes

Among the world’s largest cargo airlines, two specialist airlines dominate the market: UPS and FedEx. Their fleet is entirely dedicated to cargo operations and provides cargo consolidation capabilities through dedicated hubs. Asian cargo airlines also play an important role (Air China), benefiting from the growth of high-tech exports from Asian economies to European and North American markets.

Air freight activity is usually related to airports servicing important consumption markets, manufacturers of high-value goods, or distribution hubs. Global air freight activity is clustered around East Asia, North America, and Western Europe. Other clusters are around the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

1. Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand
BR, CA, CZ, FM, GA, KE, MH, SQ, MU, BI, NX, NZ, PR, QF, TG, UO, 5X, ZH, AI, VN, 9W

AirlineDirectDestinations
MHKULPEN CMB DAC DEL HYD SYD MLE BEY DXB JED JNB
SQSINSYD MEL AKL BNE
VNSGN/HANDAD RGN PNH
QFSYD/MEL/DRW

2. South Asia, Middle East and Africa
EK, EY, ZP, MU, SU, PR, CA, UW, CX, QR, MH, CZ, SV, TG, TK, BI, SQ, AI, GA, BA, HU, 9W, W5, ZH, ET

AirlineDirectDestinations
EYMAA/AUH/DEL/BOMAMM BAH BEY DMM DOH DXB KWI JED IKA SHJ LCA LOS ACC ADD JNB CAI
EKDXBAUH SHJ DWC IST IZM ADA ANK DAR EBB KRT NBO CAI BOM DEL CMB MLE DAC ISB
SVRUHLOS JNB KRT ADD TUN ALG DKR

3. Europe
CZ, MU, CA, BA, KL(MP), UPS, RU, Y8, GD, EK, SV, CX, EY, KE, OZ, JL, TK, AY, SU, LX, TG, ZP, QR, BI, HU, MH, ZH, 6U

AirlineDirectDestinations
UPSCGNAMS BER BOD BRE BRU CDG DTM DUS FRA FMO HAJ HAM HHN LUX MUC SNN CPH ZRH
SUSVO/HHNATH BUD LCA WAW PRG AMS BER BRE BRU BSL CGN DTM DUS FMO FRA HAJ HAM BCN CPH LON MIL NCE ROM VCE VIE
CACPH/VIE/MXP/FRAAMS ANR ATH BCN BRE BRU BSL BIO CGN HAM LUX MAD NUE ROM RTM

4. America
MU, F4, BR, QF, Y8, UPS, PO, SQ, CX, KE, OZ, JL, UA, AA, CO, AC, AM, HU, BA, LX, EK, PR, CZ

AirlineDirectDestinations
AAORD/LAXJFK DFW MIA YYZ YUL ATL CLT PHX BNA CVG CLE DTW IND MCI MKE SDF MSP STL SFO SEA SDQ STI
AMLAX/MEXGDL GUA SCL MTY SCL SJO LIM BOG EZE
COEWRYYZ MEX MTY GDL GIG GRU EZE
POLAX/CVGAUS DEN DFW IAH MIA SEA SFO SLC YVR ABE ABQ ALB ATL BOS CLT DFW MCI LAS JFK JAX EWR
UPSANCORD JFK EWR GDL MEX MTY SAP SJO SJU TGU CCS EZE

Air Transport vs. Sea Transport

FactorAir TransportSea Transport
DistanceAir is most preferred for a direct city to city transport and on the most direct routes between countries.Sea is preferred for shipments that need to travel great distances spanning the vast oceans.
Type of CargoUnless special aircraft chartered, there are limited dimension and weight for loading.Apart from the traditional parcel or box freight, sea is also used to transport heavy equipment, cranes, project cargoes, etc.
Time SensitivityThis mode is chosen mostly due to its quick transit time and their usually reliable scheduled arrival and departure times. Benefits may be lower inventory carrying costs and the opportunity to capture market share.A transit time of a month from point to point is quite normal for a sea freight shipment.
CostAir cost higher mainly due to the capacity available on a plane, the higher fuel consumption and operational costs of a plane.A cargo ship can carry much more at once.
Safety of CargoAirport regulations are controlled quite strictly and these regulations include the storage, handling and securing of your cargo.If the cargo inside the container is not packed properly, or LCL, there is a risk of cargo getting damaged.
AccessibilityAshandled quicker, there may not be congestion at the airports as compared to the long queues at the sea ports. Even had, it could be solved in days.Periods of severe congestion in sea ports could happen, which brings with it its own problems of additional costs like demurrage and detention.

A shipment may have various requirements regarding the mode of transport to be used, but essentially, it comes down to the nature of the freight, the time frame and how much budget.

You’d better seek a good balance between the service quality offered, cost component, the reliability of the service provider and time frame.

Also, it’s important to always keep an eye on both the air and ocean markets as both are extremely volatile. In many cases, depending on how market rates are moving and other market dynamics, one mode of transport can be chosen over the other.


Air Shipping Process with CFC

We suggest you buy FOB, and let your supplier handle the inland trucking to the airport. If the incoterm is EXW, we can also pick up for you.

Quote → Book → Pay, job done from your side. Let us do all the rest heavy job without disturbing you.

  1. You fill and submit our quote form with your shipping details. (Quote)
  2. You can expect the response within 12 hours.
  3. We discuss more, and come to an agreement.
  4. You simply provide the supplier contact details.
  5. We contact your supplier and recheck everything needed, then book the space from the carrier.
  6. We or your supplier arrange inland delivery to the airport.
  7. We confirm the chargeable weight.
  8. You pay the shipping cost as we agreed. (Pay)
  9. We arrange customs declaration and forwarding the goods.

We’ll keep tracking your shipment and keep you updated till received.

As a valued partner we want to deliver more than just savings, we deliver peace-of-mind.


What CFC Can Do for You?

air-freight-loading

You have goods that quickly needs to be moved. You have the dimensions, the weight, the timeline and you find CFC as your China air freight forwarder.

We understand that the products we are going to forward are urgent, high-value, time-sensitive or perishable.

What we are trying to do is deliver your shipments as early as possible, and make the process smoothly with a competitive air shipment quote. Whether airport to airport, or airport to door, you can rely on us.

  • Cargo insurance
  • Door to Door service
  • Fumigation and inspection
  • Direct flight to worldwide
  • Single-source quoting
  • Competitive air freight rates
  • Customs clearance service at origin or destination

CFC covers all major airports in China with cheap prices. Depends on where’s your shipment located, and the available schedules to your destination, we’ll choose the best suitable one for you as your loading airport. We rely on qualified partner carriers that are committed to providing safe, efficient and on-time service to importers across the world.

Low cost, time definite services, and proof of delivery, that’s we are doing and we are good at it. We are always interested in new opportunities and supporting your business.

CFC improves profitability for customers by allowing them to focus on their core competencies while we manage their logistics, providing great air freight solutions.


If you choose delivery by air, we’ll understand that you can’t afford customs issues or any hang-ups, and you certainly don’t have time to deal with them. You can just leave the rest to us, once we come to an agreement about the freight charges and the ETA.

CFC help customers gain more control over their supply chain, become more cost effective and increase transportation management efficiency. Thank you to all our customers for allowing us to be your one-stop logistics provider and helping deliver peace of mind.

Get a free quote now for air freight from China to USA, UK, Australia, Canada and all over the world. We are always ready for your time-critical supply chain management.

Learn more about shipping solutions via ocean or express courier.

CFC News - May 22, 2024

Additional rate increases set for June show the carriers do not expect conditions to improve in the short term.

Only $19.99

The ultimate step-by-step ebook about sourcing and importing from China, for Worldwide Importers and Ecommerce Businesses [2024]

Supplier Verification

Check your potential suppliers in China – get the verification report in 24 hours. Protect your business, avoid scams and frauds.

My machine arrived in good order and I am happy with CFC's shipping arrangements. I received quotes from other forwarding companies but they kept changing the amounts. Your quote was exact and there were no hidden charges. I would be happy to recommend CFC to other importers of goods from China.

--- Chris G., Canada
Click for more reviews