Transportation Modes Revealed: Air

Explore the Pros and Cons of Shipping by Plane

Original | TR Cover Air Pros and Cons

Take an in-depth look at why shipping via the friendly skies might be the best transportation option for you. 

Trying to navigate the world of freight transportation can be tricky. With so many moving parts (literally!), sometimes it can be tough to know if the shipping mode you have chosen is really the best option for your business. Or maybe, there is another mode or two you had not even thought to consider.

In our series, “Transportation Modes Revealed,” explore the pros and cons of the most popular shipping modes — truck, rail, ship/barge and plane — and see how they stack up against each other across a variety of factors, including cost, speed, capacity, reliability and environmental impact.

Let’s take an in-depth look at why shipping by plane just might be for you.

Original | TR Air Infographic

Shipping by Plane

Shipping by plane. It’s fast, easy to track and is accessible to just about any location with an airport nearby – but it comes with a high price tag. Is it right for you?


  • Fastest shipping mode, especially for long distances
  • Accessible to most locations and doesn’t require infrastructure like trucks and railroads
  • Allows you to place orders on demand, reducing lead time, inventory and storage costs
  • Easy to track your shipment while in transit


  • Typically the most expensive shipping mode
  • Easily impacted by inclement weather and susceptible to delays
  • Low carrying capacity
  • No door-to-door capability
  • Airport infrastructure required
  • Not as environmentally responsible as other shipping modes

The biggest drawback for shipping by air is the cost. Air freight can cost up to 20 times the cost of other modes. Key cost drivers include the plane’s jet fuel, maintenance, labor and landing fees – adding up to one hefty price tag.

While road transport may be the quickest way to deliver goods short distances, air transportation is the fastest option for freight traveling long distances — especially for perishable goods, like flowers, food and pharmaceuticals. Transit time is typically between 24 and 48 hours. Automotive and retail industries also utilize air freight to achieve “just-in-time” (JIT) inventory replenishment. JIT allows you to place orders based on demand, providing more flexibility and reducing inventory and storage costs.

When you ship by air, you will have to meet size and weight requirements since planes usually have less cargo space than other modes. If you are looking to ship bulk, oversized and/or very heavy items, shipping by plane may not be the best choice for you.

Shipping by plane allows you to reach just about any location on the globe as long as there is an airport nearby. Plus, planes fly freely, so there is no obstruction of land, mountains, water, etc. to hinder the movement of your shipment. However, once your shipment arrives at the airport, you most likely will need to coordinate a pickup by truck to get your goods to their final destination.

Shipment Visibility
The ability to track your air freight is typically an easy thing to do. Most carriers will notify you at its point of departure and arrival at the destination airport.

While airplanes are speedy and keep fairly frequent schedules, they can easily be affected by any type of inclement weather, computer glitches and traffic congestion. Keep in mind that even short delays can turn into a big headache if you are relying on air to get your shipment delivered by a certain date and time.

Environmental Impact
Planes are one of the most fuel-intensive transportation modes, which means emissions are significantly higher in air freight transport compared to truck, rail and water.

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