How are Air Freight Costs Calculated?

The choice for companies when choosing between air or sea freight as their freight forwarding shipment of choice – typically leans towards sea freight, as “generally” the more cost-effective solution to choose. However, this is not always the case as it doesn’t include reliability and time (if impacted by delays) and differs depending on what is needing to be transported.  

Air freight services globally are currently under extreme pressure due to numerous factors including:

    • Ongoing sea freight delays are causing shippers to turn to air freight services to ensure products are arriving on time.
    • Huge reduction in commercial flights worldwide are pushing rates higher.
    • Delays in manufacturing are forcing shippers to send via air which would otherwise have been sent by sea.

Below we’ve highlighted how air freight costs are calculated, from the weight, size, route & distance travelled.

 Weight of Air Freight Cargo

The shipment cost of air freight can be calculated based on the ‘chargeable weight.’ This refers to either the actual weight of your package or the volumetric weight, typically this depends on which amount is greater. 

When calculating volumetric weight, you need to keep in mind that these are calculated at 6000 (cubic centimetres per kilograms). It means that you will find your volumetric weight by dividing the cubic centimetre volume (L x W x H) by this value.

For Example 

Volume of the shipment = 60 x 100 x 100 = 600,000 cubic centimetres. 

Volumetric weight = 600,000/6000 = 100 kg.

Therefore, in this case, the chargeable weight of the package becomes 100kg. 

One more thing to remember is that all measurements are per the metric system. If your shipping department uses pounds and feet, you can request them to convert it to avoid misunderstandings.

Distance between the Origin and Destination

One of the key factors that determine air freight costs is the distance between the origin & destination airports. The longer distance the aircraft has to travel the more expensive the costs. For example Brisbane to Auckland NZ would be much cheaper than Brisbane to Los Angeles.  Routing can also affect transit times & costs, a cheaper air freight rate could mean the cargo goes via many countries before it arrives at its final destination.

Rate Calculation

The most important component of air freight cost calculation is the per kg rate. Once you have the per kg (per kilogram) & the chargeable weight you simply multiply them together to get the air freight rate.

For Example

The airfreight rate is $5.00 per KG & the charge weight is 245 KG

5 X 245= $1225

Be sure to remember this is the air freight component only (airport to airport), your freight forwarder will be able to provide you with a comprehensive quote including origin & destination charges, customs clearance & final delivery costs. 

Tip – when getting air freight quotes always confirm the currency the rate is being quoted in.


The fact is that despite boasting terminology similar to ocean freight shipping, air freight has some evident and critical differences related to charges and shipment fees. 

Once the costs based on the actual or cubic weight have been established, all you have to do is perform simple multiplication to determine the actual cost of shipment. If you’re still unsure how to read your airfreight costs, it’s best to talk to our industry specialised team – if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to provide our assistance,  please call (07) 3207 9537 today and we’ll be happy to help you any way we can.

Personalised Freight Solutions is an international freight forwarding company, simplifying the movement of cargo globally. Our services include import and export, sea and air freight, border clearances, and on ground trucking at both origin and destination.
165-171 Broadwater Terrace, Suite 8
Redland Bay
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