Airfreight Services

Our global worldwide airfreight service connects over 190 countries and 1700 airports, so you can be assured of a truly global direct service. As one of the UK’s largest independent freight forwards we are confident that we can provide you with a competitive quote for any size airfreight import or export shipments you have.

Our most popular services are:

:: Box & Parcels
:: Pallets & Crates
:: Commercial Cargo
:: Documents & Paperwork
:: Personal and Household Effects

We offer a full professional export wrapping and packing service our trained staff use the best in packing materials to ensure that your goods are fully protected for our airfreight service.

Call Now for a free quote: 0800 772 3539


Air freight carriers, fleet type, size of cargo, capacity

At any time, according to Flight Aware 1, there are around 9,700 commercial planes in the air worldwide, and on average they are carrying approximately 1.3 million people. In addition to its complement of passengers, many passenger planes carry cargo too which is stowed in the belly hold along with passenger’s luggage. Cargo is also carried by dedicated air freighters; planes that have been specially designed for cargo or passenger planes that have been converted to do so. Underpinning all this is a highly complex logistic planning operation that ensures everybody, and everything gets to the right destination. It is incredible how it all works. Here we will look at some of the basics including air freight carriers, the various types of fleet, cargo size and capacity.

Types of carriers

There are three principal types of air freight carriers:

  • Passenger airliners that carry belly-hold freight as well as passengers
  • Combination airlines that operate both passenger and cargo services using both dedicated freighters and belly-hold freight
  • Cargo airlines that use dedicated freighters exclusively

Types of airfreight

And there are two distinct forms of airfreight services:

  • Freight forwarding businesses organise the logistics of moving the freight between origin and destination. In addition to dealing with the airline carrier, often they also integrate the road transport for getting the freight to the airport and delivering it from its destination airport to its final destination. They also take care of customs and storage. They don’t own any planes. Usually, these are the best option for larger loads. They also have access to far more flights than flight integrators. Also, if you are looking for next day delivery worldwide, then you will likely choose an airfreight
  • Flight Integrators also organise the entire journey from origin to destination, but they also own many of the assets needed for the trip. For instance, FedEx and UPS are integrators who own aircraft and road haulage assets. Flight integrators typically deal with relatively small parcels and boxes. They “integrate” or combine the airfreight from multiple customers. Usually, they don’t offer next day delivery worldwide.

Cargo airlines and their fleet

Worldwide the largest cargo airlines are:

  • FedEx Express – the worlds largest cargo airline regarding tonnage, in 2015 it carried 16,020 million tonne-kilometres. Based in Memphis US, its main European hub is Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. The airline boasts an extensive fleet including of 388 aircraft including 119 Boeing 757-200SF narrow-body twin-engine aircraft, 68 Airbus A300-600RF wide-body twin-engine aircraft, 57 McDonnell Douglas MD-11F three engine wide-body There is also an extensive feeder fleet of propeller powered aircraft that transports parcels, boxes, and pallets to and from airports with larger jets.
  • Emirates SkyCargo – transporting 11,240 million tonne-kilometers in 2015, this is the world’s second-largest cargo carrier. Mainly it flies Boeing 777F wide-body twin-engine
  • UPS Airlines – with a 2015 cargo of 10,936 tonne-kilometers, this third largest cargo airline serves more destinations (779) than any other cargo airline. Its central European hub is Cologne Bonn Airport in Cologne, Germany from which it serves over 200 more countries and handles 190,000 parcels, boxes and other packages per hour.
  • Cathay Pacific Cargo 3 – with 9,464 million tonne-kilometers carried in 2015, this fourth largest cargo airline serves 60 counties and flies to 190 destinations. Its cargo fleet consists of wide-body twin-engine Airbus A330 and Airbus A350 and wide-bodied twin-engine Boeing 777 aircraft.
  • Korean Air Cargo carried 8,079 million tonne-kilometers in 2015. It serves 50 countries and 123 destinations. Its cargo aircraft include wide-bodied twin-engine Boeing 747 400ERF(4), Boeing 747 8F (7) and four-engine Boeing 747 400F (12). Aircraft.
  • Lufthansa Cargo carried 7,054 million tonne-kilometres. It is based at Frankfurt Airport and serves 57 destinations. Its fleet includes 12 three engine wide bodied McDonnell Douglas MD-114 and five wide-bodied twin-engine Boeing 77F aircraft.
  • Singapore Airlines Cargo transported 6,019 million tonne-kilometers in its fleet of 7 Boeing 747 400F wide-bodied four-engine It serves 13 counties and 19 destinations.
  • Qatar Airways Cargo transported 5,997 million tonne-kilometers in 2015. It flies wide-bodied Boeing 777F aircraft.
  • Cargolux, the ninth largest cargo carrier, transported 5,753 million tonne-kilometers in 2015. Based in Luxembourg, it serves 67 destinations with its fleet of 28 Boeing 747s.
  • China Airlines Cargo carried 5,266 million tonne-kilometers in 2015. Its fleet consists of 18 Boeing 747 400F aircraft.

Belly cargo airfreight

While the above are dedicated cargo aircraft, as we have said, many passenger flights also carry cargo. It is all a matter of economics, and many carriers chose to configure their fleet to carry an optimum mixture of passengers and cargo.

The Boeing 747 range 4 is a popular choice for this type of operation. When fitted out as a dedicated freighter, the 747 400 can carry 736 cubic meters of cargo. This includes 30 pallets on the main level and an additional five pallets plus fourteen 1.6-meter-tall containers on the lower level. Loading and unloading are carried out through hatches on the side of the aircraft. The aircraft can also open its nose for loading large cargo. To ease loading, the plane is usually equipped with electric rollers to move cargo from the front to the rear of the aircraft.

Alternatively, the plane can be configured to carry 416 passengers plus 150 cubic meters of cargo. Often there is a trade-off, for instance, part of the passenger area may also be allocated to airfreight. Typically, when configured this way it will carry 266 passengers and 283 cubic meters of cargo. The economics can be complicated; altogether airlines make around 10% of their revenue from freight.

Super-transporter planes

When transporting even larger loads, super-transporters may be used. Here the cargo area is extended over the cockpit to allow almost the total length of the aircraft to be used for cargo. Some super-transporters can carry up to 250 tonnes which is the equivalent of four army tanks.

The largest super-transporter in the world is the Russian built Antonov An-225 5. Purpose built to transport rocket boosters, as a commercial cargo plane it can carry a payload of over 250 tonnes.




Freight Service Spain

Really pleased with the service Air Freight gave us. Over goods got to air freight to Spain very quickly.

Air Freight to USA

The team were very helpful and gave me up-to-date information throughout the whole process. A+ Service.

Freight Forwarding Australia

Just a quick email to thank you for all your help in air freight to Australia this month.

Air Cargo France

A big thank you to the staff at Air Freight, you guys really helped us moving our good via air freight to France, thank you!