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Air Freight Shipping vs. Ground Shipping: Which Is Right for You?

July 17, 2018 Air CargoCourier

air freight shipping
air freight shipping

Air freight shipping accounts for 2 million tons of domestic freight shipping. While truck ground shipping totals 10,568 million tons.

You could be shipping personal items or freight is an integral part of your business. Either way, it can be tough determining which method is best and fits your needs and budget.

There are pros and cons to utilizing each method, and the one you choose will depend on a variety of factors. We’re going to show you how to decide which shipment method to use.

Factors to Consider

You need to take into account the speed, cost, reliability, security, and shipment type when deciding between air and ground freight shipping. You also need to think about what you are shipping, all freight methods can ship the same things, but will charge and handle them very differently.

Air Freight Shipping

With air shipping, you are not limited to where the roads go. This means you can ship internationally, which trucks alone cannot do. There is higher security with no stops, but you may end up paying more for these advantages.


Usually, air is faster and ideal if the product itself has an expiration date or the customer has a hard or short deadline. If you are shipping perishable or hazardous items your air shipment can be delayed due to additional requirements.

You are more likely to experience delays with air shipping as weather can totally shut down flights at any time. It can also take longer recovery when a delay does occur.

If you are really in a rush, same day delivery is a possibility. This is useful if you have a sudden last-minute shipment you need taken care of.


It can be quite expensive to ship via air freight due to the limited space, weight restrictions, airport fees, and fuel costs. The advantage is that airports are usually all-encompassing so you are not having to pay for warehousing and port fees.


Shipping via air freight can be affected by the weather in both the beginning and ending location. The weather is also influential year round making your shipments potentially delayed at any time.


There is a high level of security at airports that is translated over to your freight shipment giving air shipping an inherent increased level of security. Your items are put on the plane and the plane doesn’t stop or get opened until it lands.

This will protect your shipments from potential theft. There is an increased risk of damage if the items in the plane are not properly secured.

Shipment Type

Smaller shipments work well with air freight. Perishables such as produce also work better shipped via air since they have such limited expiration dates.

Ground Freight

This method of shipping utilizes a semi-truck to drive your items across the country. There are two major kinds of ground freight, LTL or less than truckload and FTL or full truckload.


Shipments by ground tend to take a lot more time than air shipments. Mainly because there are limits on how fast and how many hours a day a driver can work.

A truck also needs to drive around at the beginning and ending points, dropping off and delivering each customer’s shipment. Often ground shipments can vary days or weeks from the original shipment plan.


Usually, this is the cheaper method to go. Freight companies will strategically plan their routes so as to be most economical which translates savings to you.

Generally, ground freight can be more reliable than air. Daily weather across the country is not as influential. Bad weather such as rain will not stop a truck like it would a plane.

Costs can vary greatly depending on the locations that the item is coming from and going to. Places that are less popular and receive few shipments will have inflated pricing. Costs can also rapidly multiply when warehousing and port fees are included.


Winter can totally shut down ground shipping as it is very dangerous to drive large semi trucks in a snow or ice storm. The plus side of this is that winter weather is seasonal and regional.

You also have advanced warning when a major snowstorm is expected. This gives you the opportunity to plan ahead by shipping earlier or rerouting your shipments.


Ground shipping is not a secure method for shipping because your items are in a truck that will be stopping at points all along the route. Plus the truck will be opened up every time an item is picked up or dropped off.

There is a method of shipping where you can totally secure your items behind a locked wall. The downside is the increased cost and shipping time.

With this method, your shipment is loaded into the truck first, and a wall within the truck is installed and then locked. Then the rest of the truck is then filled. You must wait for the rest of the shipments to be delivered before you can receive yours.

Shipment Type

Items that are large or numerous enough to require a full truckload should be shipped ground. Furniture is better shipped via truck due to its large size and weight.

Ground Freight Shipping or Truck Freight Shipping

Take a look at your shipment and determine its size, weight, and time constraints for delivery. Once you have these answers you can determine if air freight shipping or ground freight is better suited to your needs and budget.

Remember large and heavy items are usually cheaper via ground. While produce, smaller items, and high-security items work best shipped by air freight.

Check the weather in the areas you will be shipping. Make adjustments to your shipping plan accordingly.

While no one wants anything bad to happen to their items, determine if security is needed. If you really need security, consider paying the extra money for a locked truck or air shipping.

Let us help you book your freight shipment today.