fbpx

Air Express Vs Air Freight- How to choose when shipping from India?

Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads, trying to decide between “Air Express” and “Air Freight” while trying to ship goods from India?

In this blog, we’ll unravel the complexities of these two shipping methods and help you determine which option best aligns with your sourcing needs when sourcing products from India..

Air Express: Swift and Seamless

Air express, also referred to as Air Courier service, is a familiar term for many of us, as we’ve likely sent or received personal parcels even outside of business transactions. Provided by leading Express courier companies such as DHL, FedEx, and UPS, this service offers seamless door-to-door delivery. Booking a courier can be effortlessly done online or in person by paying a nominal fee.

These companies manage the entire shipping process, boasting their own aircraft, ground transportation, and dedicated personnel. From pickup at the origin to delivery at the recipient’s doorstep, every aspect is meticulously handled, including export and import clearance, air transport, and inland transportation in the destination country. Their pricing structure is all-inclusive, covering all costs from the exporter’s factory to the importer’s final location, ensuring a hassle-free experience for the sender.

Typically, deliveries can be expected within 3 to 7 days, depending on the destination. With every step of the process expertly managed, you can rest assured that your package will be swiftly and securely delivered to its destination

Air Freight: More to Manage, More to Gain

Air Freight, in contrast to Air Express, primarily operates from airport to airport rather than offering door-to-door service. While goods are still transported by air, the process involves additional steps. With Air Freight, you’ll enlist the services of a freight forwarder to oversee the entire journey from origin pickup to final delivery.

The freight forwarder will coordinate the pickup of goods from the factory and their transportation to the airport. They’ll handle customs clearance in the export country, arrange for airline booking, manage import customs clearance, and then transport the goods to your specified destination. Essentially, Air Freight provides airport-to-airport service, with the freight forwarder taking care of all other aspects to ensure door-to-door delivery. The total cost provided by the forwarder will encompass air transport charges along with fees for all other associated services.

There’s a plethora of options and routes available for Air Freight, allowing you to choose from various airlines offering this service. Much like booking a personal flight, you’ll compare quotes and services offered by different airlines, considering factors such as route, transit time, and cost. Nowadays, numerous online platforms offer integrated services where you can obtain quotes, make comparisons, book shipments, and track their progress.

Additionally, you’ll need to organize various commercial documents such as certificates of origin, commercial invoices, and packing lists for customs clearance. Regarding the time frame, Air Freight typically takes around 7 days, although in some instances, especially with transshipments and depending on flight availability and routing, it can extend up to 15 days.

Calculating Costs: Weight Matters

When it comes to Air shipping on a global scale, the cost is typically determined based on the weight in kilograms, calculated as cents per kilogram. Therefore, the total cost is derived by multiplying the rate per kilogram by the chargeable weight. The chargeable weight is determined by either the actual gross weight or the volumetric weight, whichever is greater.

The actual gross weight represents the total weight of the cargo, while the volumetric weight is an estimated weight obtained by converting the volume of the cargo into an equivalent weight. If the volumetric weight exceeds the gross weight, then the air shipping cost will be based on the volumetric weight, and vice versa.

Airlines employ the concept of chargeable weight because certain high-density cargoes may be lightweight but occupy significant space in the aircraft, while low-density, heavy cargoes may not occupy much space but utilize a substantial weight capacity. Therefore, calculating the chargeable weight ensures that both the volume and weight of the cargo are given equal consideration in the shipping process.

Choosing the Right Service: A Balancing Act

First and foremost, the suitability of your shipping method hinges on the nature of your product—its size and weight. For instance, if you’re importing small, lightweight items like delicate jewelry pieces in small quantities, opting for an air courier service would be more advantageous. Conversely, if you’re dealing with larger, denser products such as filled cushions or a bulk shipment consisting of 15 boxes weighing approximately 150 kilograms, Airfreight would be the more suitable option.

Additionally, the urgency of delivery plays a crucial role in determining the ideal shipping method. For time-sensitive shipments like product samples or goods needed for a product launch, air courier services are typically preferred. In cases where urgency is paramount, a combination of air and sea shipping might be considered, with a portion of the quantity transported by air to meet immediate needs.

As a rough estimate, shipments weighing up to 60 kilograms can usually be accommodated by air courier services. Beyond this threshold, obtaining an airfreight quote becomes necessary to conduct a comprehensive comparison.

Therefore, when time is of the essence and you require expedited delivery but still have sizable volumes to transport economically, Air freight becomes a viable option. While it may entail a bit more effort and potentially longer transit times compared to courier services, it offers the advantage of lower costs due to reduced per-kilogram rates. However, it’s important to note that airfreight may not always be the most economical choice compared to air express, and minimum charges may apply.


In the tussle between Air Express and Air Freight, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each comes with its set of advantages and considerations. It’s essential to recognize that costs can vary depending on factors such as product type, volume, and weight. Therefore, obtaining quotes and conducting thorough comparisons is crucial in making the most informed decision for your shipping needs.

Kirti Sehrawat

Kirti Sehrawat

I help E-commerce Entrepreneurs Source Products from India effectively and efficiently, so they can bring their brilliant Product ideas to life and Build an Online Business of their dreams.

hi! I'm Kirti!

I help E-commerce Entrepreneurs Source Products from India effectively and efficiently, so they can bring their brilliant Product ideas to life and Build an Online Business of their dreams.

Let's Connect!

Blog Categories

The Ultimate India Sourcing Checklist