5 Factors when Considering Air Freight vs. Sea Freight

5 Factors when Considering Air Freight vs. Sea Freight

More intense than deciding what to have for lunch, is the dilemma of choosing the right kind of freight forwarder. Most businesses and individuals will often come to a junction of choosing between air or sea freight. This comes along with a few factors to consider.

Whether it’s to cut cost or getting your parcels delivered faster, most people have a hard time making the right decision.

But do not freight, we have narrowed down your decision-making process to 5 core factors:


Perhaps the most important element to consider, every business and individual wants to keep shipping costs low so as to maintain a higher profit margin. It is no secret that sea freight is cheaper than air. However, one have to consider the type of goods and shipping duration in order to make sense of the cost that you’re paying for.

The first step is to understand how carriers charge for international shipping. As airplanes have a smaller space than ocean liners, they tend to charge by chargeable weight. Chargeable weight is calculated from the combination of size and weight of a shipment. Engaging freight forwarding by air can cost a premium. This is due to the inclusion of other services such as getting your paperwork taken care of by the freight services company.

Sea carriers on the other hand, bill at per container rates and volume in cubic meter. This means that shipping larger and heavier shipments is going to cost significantly lesser. The only drawback of this is longer shipping time. Shippers should also note that regardless of sea or air freight, there will be custom and destination fees to factor in.


There is no question that air freight ships much faster than at sea – And by faster we mean 1 or 2 days of arrival as opposed to weeks and even months via ocean freight. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re shipping and the urgency of you needing it to arrive. For most businesses, delivery by air is often a better option to get goods to your customers, unless of course, you’re transporting vehicles abroad.

For individuals moving household items to a new country per se, the extra time from shipping by sea could be advantageous. This helps you prepare your place before it reaches the right time to receive your furniture. You should also not disregard moving cargo by sea just because it takes a longer time. With technology in place and canals creating shorter routes, shipping across oceans can now go as fast as 7 days!


In most situations, it is critical to get your shipment over on time. The one that takes the win on reliability is no doubt, air freight forwarding. Flights tend to go at a faster rate and prioritize being on schedule. Ocean liners on the other hand, are notorious for delays, especially when having to deal with rigorous sailing conditions.

Moreover, airplanes have daily flights that go to and fro countries. This means that even if your shipment were to miss a flight, it can go en route as soon as the next flight in a just few hours. Sea carriers on the other hand, goes at a weekly schedule. Missing the cutoff at seaport means a much longer delay.

Environmental Impact

With more eyeballs of the public looking on, it is more important than ever for companies to uphold their reputation. This also means reducing ecological footprints. In this case, air flights have much higher carbon emissions. One could also argue that ships do face occasional oil spills and will pollute the water that it travels on.

At the end of the day, this is a personal factor for businesses to weigh in on, along with the other categories.

Charges for Goods

Of all the factors discussed above, the one that takes the cake for businesses are their profit margins. The cost of shipping that you will be dishing out, must make sense to your overall operations. If your total revenue can afford premium shipping prices, then by all means, opt for something guaranteed to be fast and reliable. If your shipment can afford a longer time frame, then conservative ocean liner rates just makes sense.

To summarize, here’s a general guide to follow when choosing the right freight forwarder:

Consider air freight when:

    ● There’s no time to lose and you need your shipment to arrive as soon as possible

    ● You need to be assured that your cargo will arrive on time

    ● You need a streamlined process to handle all the administrative matters

    ● Your shipment is much less than a container load

    ● The products you are shipping aren’t heavy

    ● You need supplies to arrive in days, not weeks or months

Consider sea freight when:

    ● Your shipment is large and heavy

    ● The timeline for arrival isn’t as tight

    ● Budget constraints over-rule any urgency

    ● A potential delay won’t have an adverse impact on your mission

    ● You want to use the more environmentally friendly option

    ● It’s ok if transportation takes a few weeks or longer

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  • Gotthard
    Posted at 17:14h, 23 April Reply

    As its significant contribution, this study emphasizes the hub port selection criteria for two types of liner networks, the hub and spoke and relay networks, as illustrated by Ducruet and Notteboom ( 2012 ), and considers the natures of the individual networks (e.g., criteria related to feeder links are expected to be especially significant for hub and spoke networks). A hub and spoke network is characterized by combining the advantages of both mainline and feeder services, which are operated in an integrated manner by incorporating network configuration to ensure transportation between the ultimate origin and destination ports. A relay network is an integration of multiple mainline services to enhance service coverage with the minimum ports of call. Transshipment operations in relay networks are undertaken between two mainline vessels with different ports of call patterns when one vessel receives cargo destined for a port not directly served by the vessel. Hub and spoke and relay networks are illustrated in Fig.  1 .

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