Import From China Guide: Air Courier VS Air Freight – How to Choose?

screenshot 20220317 161403

Table of Contents


If you want to ship products with high value or the goods should be delivered urgently, then shipping them by air is a better choice compared to sea freight. Air Courier and Air freight are two modes of shipping by air. And in this article, I will introduce the differences between Air Courier and Air Freight and how to choose between these two transportation modes.

Air Courier

Air Courier is a shipping method with door-to-door service provided by companies like UPS, FedEx, DHL and so on. These companies have their own personnel, airplane, trunk to pick up your products from your supplier’s site to your door in a few days.

screenshot 20220317 150947

Air Freight

Air freight, also known as air cargo, is to use a passenger airline’s cargo space for luggage to transport your product.

screenshot 20220317 151304

What’s the Differences Between Air Courier And Air Freight?

1. Booking Method

Air Courier: Either you and your supplier can make a booking directly online.

Air Freight: You have to find a freight forwarder to help you book a passenger airplane to transport your product.

2. Service Scope

Air Courier: It provides door-to door service. The company is responsible for the whole process of transporting the product to you including customs clearance, delivery and etc. All you have to do is to wait for your product at home.

Air Freight: In general, it provides port-to-port service. It is mainly delivered to the airport by the consignor, and the guests or their agents at the destination port pick up the goods themselves at the airport warehouse. That is to say customs clearance, delivery and customs duty are not included.

3. Transport Time

Air Courier: Under normal circumstances (the flight is normal, the customs clearance in the destination country is smooth, and the delivery is no problem), it takes 3-4 days to receive your product.

Air Freight: It usually takes 1-2 days to arrive at the destination airport. But since you are responsible for customs clearance and delivery, this process usually takes several days. Overall, the whole process could take you 5-7 days if everything goes well.

4. Cost

Air Courier: In general, the price of shipping by Air Courier is twice that of shipping by air freight. However, the quote includes custom clearance and delivery, which is very transparent.

Air Freight: Although the per kilogram price is cheaper, there are many hidden costs and you may be surprised at the final amount.

screenshot 20220317 151725

How to Choose?

There is no absolute answer to tell which is better between Air Courier and Air Freight. I can only give 3 tips here.

1. Quote

Different companies have different price structures, so if you want to find the best price, ask around. If you choose Air Courier, you can go directly to the company’s website to get quotes. The price of Air Freight is not that transparent, so you have to find several freight forwarders to get quotes. Finally, compare the provided quotes and choose the most appropriate price.

2. Product Weight

If you want to ship by Air Courier, the minimum charge for the parcel weight is 0.5kg. That is to say, less than 0.5kg, you will be charged by 0.5kg. For Air Freight, the usual minimum charge weight is 45 kg. If the weight is less than 45 kg, it shall be calculated as 45 kg. Generally speaking, it is better to use Air Courier if the product is less than 30kg. But for products over 200kg, air Freight is appropriate.

3. Product Type

If your product is a seasonal item, you’d better choose air courier since you need to complete the subsequent custom clearance and deliver it after the products are delivered to the destination airport ,which may take time because there are so many uncertainties in the process.

screenshot 20220317 152258


Air Courier and Air Freight are two transportation modes that both have pros and cons. You need to choose a right one based on the actual situation. You can contact us for help if you still feel confused about this topic.

Related Articles
Need to conduct Due Diligence on a company in Mainland China?