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A Shipper’s Guide to Finding the Right Air Cargo Partner

When Partners Ship Equals Partnership

You’re ready to ship your goods around the world by air, which means there’s much more to think about than just scheduling transportation. Having the right partner by your side is your assurance of individualized solutions and a collaborative, consultative approach – partnership in every sense of the word.

This article by our Freight Forwarding Experts highlights the key benefits of the right partnership – extra flexibility when you need it, essential compliance, network breadth, and economies of scale. 


The most obvious benefit of working in partnership with a freight forwarder is the flexibility this gives you, the shipper. Select a tailored transportation solution that matches your specific shipping needs and business priorities:

Sending as quickly as possible? No problem

Perhaps a same-day shipment, instead of having to wait overnight to catch the next scheduled flight.

Explore the pros and cons of changing your normal routing

Can we consider using a shorter lane, a safer lane, maybe both?

Select the services that suit you best

Let your partner to take care of everything door to door, or handle some aspects of the shipment yourself, like trucking from the manufacturing site to your local port. 

Design a Multimodal solution with your partner

In consultation with you, a freight forwarder can illustrate the potential transit time, cost, and carbon emissions reductions if you use more than one mode of transportation for your shipment.

What happens when things go wrong?

Some examples include port strikes, truck driver shortages, volcanic eruptions, and civil unrest. Your trusted freight forwarder can reroute your shipment to prevent it being stuck in port and can shift your road cargo to rail when needed.

If aircraft are grounded or when it’s unsafe to fly over a particular territory, this partner can immediately find and secure alternative transportation on the shortest possible routes. So you can expect ‘business as usual’ even when the unexpected happens!


Requirements for compliance vary from country to country, and you partner is likely to have all the up-to-date knowledge and expertise required. Documentation is critical to managing compliance – you can read more about air cargo documentation in our dedicated article.

Getting things right first time saves a lot of time and money - it’s indeed difficult to overstate the importance of compliance in air cargo transportation. Failure to comply with legal and regulatory standards is likely to cause:

Delays in shipment arrival
  • A disaster if your goods are perishable or you’re working to a mission-critical delivery schedule
Hefty additional expenses
  • And possibly severe fines.
Bans on certain lanes
  • For future shipments, in case of an extreme breach.

Not all freight forwarders offer a certified customs broker service

So check with your preferred forwarder if you intend to export or import goods across borders. 

A good broker will ensure your correctly declared goods move smoothly through customs, as swiftly and economically as possible. Achieving and maintaining compliance is a big plus of partnering with a trusted freight forwarder.   

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Network Breadth

Your partner will likely liaise with and arrange your shipments with multiple carriers, operating in every corner of the globe…

With a robust and broad logistics network, freight forwarders can help you overcome capacity shortages. Unlike integrators who have finite capacity on their own fleets, a forwarder can make block space agreements with many different airlines and ocean carriers to ensure available capacity whenever and wherever needed.

…However, working with many carriers does come with the drawback of reduced visibility

 For example, when shipping with an integrator you are likely to see the progress of your goods in real time from start to finish. But when you ship with a freight forwarder, overall visibility will depend on the digital maturity of each party involved in the journey. Bear in mind, though, that most freight forwarders are working to improve visibility across their networks. For example, DHL Global Forwarding has developed the myDHLi platform to help customers closely follow their shipments online.

Economies of Scale

While integrators typically move only smaller size parcels and packages, with volumes limited to the capacity of their own fleets, freight forwarders handle all types of cargo from small items all the way up to large and oversized items – from earthworms to elephants, oil paintings to oil rigs. 

And because of the enormous volumes of cargo that freight forwarders coordinate for customers each year, the forwarder is usually in a very strong position to negotiate the best freight rates with carriers. You benefit directly from these lower costs.

Final thoughts...

The advantages of working with a reliable, experienced freight forwarder – extra flexibility when you need it, essential compliance, network breadth, and economies of scale – explain why successful shippers have strong air cargo partnerships. 

Ask us what we can do for you.