Instead of a flat rate (as in FCL shipping) or cargo dimensions (as in LCL shipping), the cost of shipping air freight is determined by weight. More specifically, the larger value between your cargo’s gross weight and its volumetric weight (weight equivalent). Whichever value is determined to be larger is considered to be what’s known as the chargeable weight. This weight is what the airline will use to calculate the freight cost.
For example, say you want to ship 3 cubic meters (CBM) worth of smartphones weighing 400kgs. Since the gross weight is the actual total weight of the cargo, the gross weight is going to be recorded as 400kgs, which leaves the volumetric weight to be determined for comparison.
Volumetric weight is calculated based on air freight density requirements and the volume (in CBM) of the cargo as follows:
In our example, we know that our volume is 3 CBM so we’ll calculate our volumetric weight as follows:
Since the volumetric weight of 500kgs is greater than the gross weight of 400kgs, the volumetric is determined to be the chargeable weight, so the airline will use this to calculate the freight cost.
To sum up:
Gross/total weight is the actual weight of the cargo including packaging and pallets.
Volumetric/dimensional weight is the volume of your cargo converted into a weight equivalent.
Chargeable weight is the greater of the previous two weights and is used to calculate the freight cost.
It is best to provide accurate cargo information as early as possible (i.e. on the quote request) so that costs can be estimated as accurately as possible. Having said that, in many cases we find that once the goods are picked up, the cargo turns out to be larger than expected due to the palletization. The more you know about how your product is packaged and palletized, the more accurate your quote will be.