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Air cargo is another term for air freight. It is the carriage or the transportation of goods through an air carrier. Transport services via air are the most valuable when it comes to moving express shipments around the globe and it consists of air mail, air freight and air express.



As the backbone of the air freight service industry, general cargo is a versatile and vital category. It covers a wide range of goods and products. This cargo can handle anything to do with electronics, clothing, machinery parts, medical supplies, and more. General cargo encompasses items that do not require specific handling or storage conditions during transportation.

Manufacturers, retailers, and businesses across numerous sectors depend on general cargo air freight services to transport their goods quickly and efficiently.

While specific restrictions and regulations may apply depending on the nature of the items, general cargo is typically more straightforward in terms of packaging and handling requirements. This category allows for streamlined operations, contributing to its substantial air cargo market share.


Special cargo refers to goods that have unique requirements for handling, storage, or transportation. This category covers a diverse range of items, such as fine art, pharmaceuticals, sensitive equipment, or even live stage props for entertainment events.

The unique nature of these goods necessitates specialized care and attention, often involving additional security measures, temperature controls, or custom-designed containers.

Companies whose cargo includes museums and galleries, pharmaceutical companies, and event organizers rely on special cargo services to transport their valuable and delicate items safely and securely.

Air cargo providers offering special cargo services are well-equipped to handle the stringent regulations and standards associated with these goods. This ensures compliance and minimizes risks during transportation.


This type of cargo transports our furry, feathered, or four-legged friends through the skies. The specialized sector handles various creatures, from pets and farm animals to rare species destined for zoos and conservation centers. This way, they all receive the utmost care during their journey.

The live animal air cargo sector is essential in fostering connections across the globe and providing a reliable, humane way to transport the planet’s diverse inhabitants. Pet owners, breeders, farmers, and wildlife conservationists in the United States entrust live air freight with more than 2 million animals annually.

To guarantee the welfare and safety of every living passenger, air cargo providers follow strict guidelines laid out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Live Animal Regulations.


The hazardous cargo category includes goods that pose a potential health, safety, or property risk during transportation. These items require special attention and handling to ensure the safety of air cargo personnel and cargo aircraft.

Air freight shipping of such items is subject to stringent oversight. The IATA provides the Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR), the global standards for transporting hazardous materials by air. These types of cargo fall into nine categories, each with its own set of regulations stipulating packaging, labeling, documentation requirements, and guidelines for handling and storage:


When it comes to perishable cargo, time is of the essence. Because they have a limited shelf life, these goods require specialized air cargo transport. It is essential for perishable cargo to reach its destination quickly and in the best possible condition. Fresh fruits, flowers, meats, seafood, and even temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals are delicate items that fall under this category.

Perishable Cargo Regulations are in place to ensure the safe transportation of perishable cargo. Guidelines cover everything from proper packaging and temperature control to transit times.

Although perishable cargo is a smaller slice of the air cargo shipping pie, it’s essential for industries that rely on the prompt and efficient transportation of goods with a limited lifespan. For example, Africa’s burgeoning floriculture industry relies on specialized air cargo services to ensure the quality of its products.


Temperature-controlled cargo is a game-changer for businesses that rely on precise temperature conditions during transportation. This specialized category is designed to maintain a consistent environment for goods sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The goal is that the goods arrive at their destination in perfect condition.

Industries that deal with temperature-sensitive goods, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and food processing, rely heavily on temperature-controlled air freight services. These services employ advanced temperature-controlled containers and monitoring systems to maintain a consistent climate throughout the journey. By doing so, the cargo is protected from potential damage.

The IATA Temperature Control Regulations provide guidelines for packaging, temperature management, and handling procedures.


The mail cargo segment plays a pivotal role in the worldwide postal and parcel delivery network. It guarantees the prompt delivery of letters, documents, and packages to their intended destinations. Air freight handles approximately 328 billion letters and 7.4 billion packages annually, making mail cargo the most significant percentage of air shipment loads.

This air cargo category comprises personal correspondence and e-commerce purchases as well as essential business paperwork and small parcels, all requiring efficient transportation to bridge the global gap between people and businesses.

Users of mail cargo air freight services primarily include postal authorities, online retailers, and courier firms. These services collaborate closely with customs agencies to ensure compliance with international shipping regulations, which cover restrictions on specific items, weight constraints, and proper documentation.


Air transport is mission-critical in the delicate realm of human remains, tissue, and organ cargo. This category deals with transporting human remains for repatriation or funeral purposes. It also ships life-saving tissues and organs for transplants. Given the sensitive nature of these items, it is of the utmost importance that they are transported securely, respectfully, and efficiently.

The primary users of this specialized air cargo service include funeral homes, medical institutions, and organ transplant organizations. These services adhere to strict regulations and guidelines to ensure the ethical and safe transport of human remains, tissues, and organs. Relevant authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and IATA, provide comprehensive guidelines regarding the packaging, documentation, and handling procedures required for this type of cargo.


Speed and reliability

The biggest advantage shippers gain when shipping air cargo is speed, which can be as fast as same-day delivery. This mode of transportation offers the fastest shipping times, as well as reliable arrival and departure times. For shippers who have time-sensitive cargo, such as perishables, an air-only or an ocean-to-air service (a Crowley program that combines ocean and air transport of perishable products from Central America to Asia and Europe via South Florida) might offer the best options.


While airport security can be a hassle for those of us who fly, strict regulations and screenings benefit air freight shippers. Cargo receiving areas and air terminals are highly monitored and secure, limiting the risk of theft or damage. Additionally, there is minimal handling and less time required for transit.

Locations served

Even the most remote locations can be serviced by air. With a large operating footprint, airlines can provide air cargo services to nearly any location on the planet. Additionally, air cargo consolidators can provide bi-directional links between among many locations. This helps cargo move quickly and frequently.


Most air freight service providers offer web-based tracking that allows you to check the real-time status of your cargo, from destination to arrival. 5.

Cost of packaging

Because cargo is shipped in very lightweight packaging, there is reduced need for the packing materials and containers.