Air freight is a safe and efficient way for immediate transportation. Air cargo always has high value-to-weight or have a severe timeline.

we want to choose the best air way for your supply chain solutions shipping from china by air. We do this by working in virtually every aspect of the logistics management, including shipping via air.

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Here this page will guide you to China air freight, including the advantages, cargo types, a sample airway bill, shipping process, china main airports list and more. Keep reading.


Air Freight Advantages

The best thing with air shipment is speed. In general, the transit time from China is no longer than 10 working days. Only 3~5 days in most cases. This is a vast reduction compared to ocean freight. Nowadays, the fast delivery time alone can make a huge impact on a business niche.

Besides, air shipment is safe and can be tracked online via the airline’s official website.

Please note that air freight is just to-airport delivery. You have to handle the customs clearance and inland transportation to your warehouse, while courier services such as DHL/FedEx/UPS/TNT can be the one stop to-door delivery supplier.

Air freight = airport-to-airport
Air courier /Airmail = door-to-door

That is the biggest difference between them.


Air Cargo Types

By cargo properties, they can be divided into

1. General cargo

Such as electronics, Jewelry, pharmaceuticals, wristwatches are high value. The electronics industry accounts for around 40% of the value of the entire international air cargo industry.

They need to be transported in a very good condition. The air shipping cost more than sea shipping, but means nothing compared to the value amount of products.

2. Special cargo

Including living animals, goods that are dangerous or need temperature control. For example, some chemicals are dangerous goods, and seafood that requires refrigeration and freezing during the whole-course cold chain transportation.

Perishable or hazardous goods are subject to different regulations, compared to general cargo. They have to pass through various inspections and need to meet numerous requirements, and not every airline can accept these items.

Make sure that you advise in detail about special goods you want to ship. Because leaving out any detail might lead to penalties/extra fees and denial of shipment.

3. One exception.

Sometimes you choose delivery by air no matter what the cargo type is. The manufacturing process delayed, or a market opportunity right now, or you are pushed by your customers, makes you have to choose air shipping.

You can plan ahead to avoid most cases, but there are always circumstances out of control.

4. Prohibited Items

There are additional restrictions on air cargo for items that may endanger the aircraft or passengers’ health or safety, or cause property damage, the main categories being:

  1. Explosives: fireworks and firecrackers, detonating fuses, etc.;
  2. Gases: such as compressed gas, dry ice, fire extinguisher, gas cartridge, inflated ball, respirator, explosive automotive airbag, aerosol, gas lighter, gas cylinder, and lamp bulb etc.;
  3. Flammable liquid: e.g. paint, gasoline, alcohol, engine oil, camphor oil, engine starting fluid, turpentine, thinner, mucilage, perfume, insect sprays, air freshener etc.
  4. Flammable solid, pyrophoric substances, and substances that emit flammable gases in contact with water: e.g. activated carbon, titanium powder, copra, castor products, rubber debris, safety matches, dry white phosphorus , dry yellow phosphorus, magnesium powder, and solid gum, etc.
  5. Toxic and infectious items: pesticides, lithium batteries
  6. Corrosive items: e.g. batteries, alkaline battery electrolyte
  7. Magnetic substances without degaussing packaging, magnetic steel and other strong magnetic products: e.g. currency detectors, speakers, magnets
  8. Items dangerous to public health: e.g. corpses & bones (inc. incinerated), untanned hides, animal bones not processed with chemicals
  9. Oxidizers, organic peroxides, radioactive materials & corrosive items: e.g. chemical medicines, lab chemicals (potassium permanganate, sulphuric acid)
  10. Powder, liquids, pastes, and other items with danger signs on their packaging
  11. Biochemical products and infectious materials of all kinds: e.g. bacillus anthracis, dangerous pathogens, medical wastes

Other restrictions will apply due to national laws and regulations of specific airlines.

Please note that most of the airlines are saying NO to the following names or descriptions of the commodity: Lithium Battery Toys, Scooter, Hoverboard, Power Supply, Power Bank, Air Bag, Electric Board, Electronic Board.


Air Waybill (AWB) Sample

If you have read our blog about Bill of Lading, you can understand the AWB above. AWB is almost the same structure as Ocean Bill of Lading (OBL).

An Air Waybill is a documentary proof of the contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier.

It also serves as:

Difference between AWB and OBL

The rule of AWB played in an international shipping is almost the same as OBL, but AWB doesn’t serve as a document of title. This is the most significant difference.

The words non-negotiable are printed at the top of the Air Waybill, and must not be changed or removed.

The AWB will be delivered with the air cargo. So as soon as the plane departs from the loading airport, the cargo rights will be transferred to the consignee. The consignee can only show their identification to claim the shipments. The AWB cannot be transferred. That’s why you have to pay freight costs before departure from China.

“Rate Charge”

There’s a column called “Rate Charge” in the middle of an AWB. This rate will be automatically generated by the airlines according to IATA, and can NOT be modified. The charge shown is higher than you really paid.

This is the all-in billable weight rate, calculated by:

Air cargo tracking

Each AWB has its unique number. You can find this number on the head section. By submitting the number on the tracking page of the airline’s official website, all updated tracking information will be available.

The bill format is 2 airline code + 3 numbers as prefix + several numbers. Example, Air China Cargo, CA as the airline code, 999 as prefix.

Tracking & Tracing from Air China Cargo

Some carriers will provide a free service called email alert. When the goods moved, the updated status will be sent to you shortly. Take advantage of that.

There are also specialized tools online from third parties for flexible tracking. You can google and find them easily.


Top 10 International Airports in China

In international air transport, there are standard short name of each airport created by IATA. The airport short name is formed by three capitalized letters for easy recognition.

PEK – Beijing Capital International Airport
HKG – Hongkong International Airport
CAN – Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CA/QR/TK/EY/MS/NH to Middle East and Africa)
PVG – Shanghai Pudong International Airport
SHA – Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport
CTU – Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
SZX – Shenzhen Baoan International Airport (CA/HU/CZ/MU to Europe and North America)
KMG – Kunming Changshui International Airport
XIY – Xian Xianyang International Airport
HGH – Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport

Based on the status of the cargo shipping in 2015, Shanghai PVG is the 1st busiest logistics center with 3.27 million tons, followed by Beijing PEK 2.814 million tons, Guangzhou CAN 1.53 million tons and Shenzhen SZX 1.0131 million tons.

Attention: A city can have more than one airport. Make sure there will be no misunderstanding when you request an air quote.

The -est facts worldwide

Biggest airport

King Fahd International Airport in Damman, Saudi Arabia. It takes up some 780 square kilometers – roughly the same size as New York City.

Busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport


Main Airlines’ Shipping Routes

1. Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand
BR, CA, CZ, FM, GA, KE, MH, SQ, MU, BI, NX, NZ, PR, QF, TG, UO, 5X, ZH, AI, VN, 9W

Airline Direct Destinations
MH KUL PEN CMB DAC DEL HYD SYD MLE BEY DXB JED JNB
SQ SIN SYD MEL AKL BNE
VN SGN/HAN DAD RGN PNH
QF SYD/MEL/DRW

2. South Asia, Middle East and Africa
EK, EY, ZP, MU, SU, PR, CA, UW, CX, QR, MH, CZ, SV, TG, TK, BI, SQ, AI, GA, BA, HU, 9W, W5, ZH, ET

Airline Direct Destinations
EY MAA/AUH/DEL/BOM AMM BAH BEY DMM DOH DXB KWI JED IKA SHJ LCA LOS ACC ADD JNB CAI
EK DXB AUH SHJ DWC IST IZM ADA ANK DAR EBB KRT NBO CAI BOM DEL CMB MLE DAC ISB
SV RUH LOS JNB KRT ADD TUN ALG DKR

3. Europe
CZ, MU, CA, BA, KL(MP), UPS, RU, Y8, GD, EK, SV, CX, EY, KE, OZ, JL, TK, AY, SU, LX, TG, ZP, QR, BI, HU, MH, ZH, 6U

Airline Direct Destinations
UPS CGN AMS BER BOD BRE BRU CDG DTM DUS FRA FMO HAJ HAM HHN LUX MUC SNN CPH ZRH
SU SVO/HHN ATH BUD LCA WAW PRG AMS BER BRE BRU BSL CGN DTM DUS FMO FRA HAJ HAM BCN CPH LON MIL NCE ROM VCE VIE
CA CPH/VIE/MXP/FRA AMS ANR ATH BCN BRE BRU BSL BIO CGN HAM LUX MAD NUE ROM RTM

4. America
MU, F4, BR, QF, Y8, UPS, PO, SQ, CX, KE, OZ, JL, UA, AA, CO, AC, AM, HU, BA, LX, EK, PR, CZ

Airline Direct Destinations
AA ORD/LAX JFK DFW MIA YYZ YUL ATL CLT PHX BNA CVG CLE DTW IND MCI MKE SDF MSP STL SFO SEA SDQ STI
AM LAX/MEX GDL GUA SCL MTY SCL SJO LIM BOG EZE
CO EWR YYZ MEX MTY GDL GIG GRU EZE
PO LAX/CVG AUS DEN DFW IAH MIA SEA SFO SLC YVR ABE ABQ ALB ATL BOS CLT DFW MCI LAS JFK JAX EWR
UPS ANC ORD JFK EWR GDL MEX MTY SAP SJO SJU TGU CCS EZE