A Complete Guide to Air Freight Shipping from the UK to the USA

12 June 2023
by Sam Cullen

The route between the UK and the USA is one of the most popular and largest air freight routes in the world — both in terms of the amount and value of goods sent.

It’s fast and flexible, and a better option when shipping higher value goods. Like with any route, there are hurdles to overcome. You’ve got to deal with USA customs, for one. But you’ve also got to navigate carriers and find ways to minimise costs.

That’s where this guide and our service comes in. We’ll offer a comprehensive guide to air freight shipping between the UK and the USA, covering everything from the pros and cons, common shipping routes, to the shipping process, required documentation, costs, and customs regulations. By reading this article, you’ll gain a clear understanding of how air freight shipping works between these two countries, helping you make informed decisions whether you’re an experienced import-exporter or it’s your first time sending goods across the pond.

Why Ship via Air Freight from the UK to the USA?

As with any shipping solution, sending goods via air freight between the United Kingdom and the United States carries its own set of benefits, such as:

  • Speed: Air freight is the fastest way to ship goods internationally. It significantly reduces shipping time compared to ocean freight, making it ideal for time-sensitive shipments.
  • Extensive Coverage: Air freight lets you ship to and from multiple landlocked cities both in the UK and the USA. This can help to reduce costs and decrease timescales.
  • Reliability: Air freight carriers maintain highly reliable departure and arrival times. The frequency of flights between the UK and the USA also provides flexibility and regularity, reducing the risk of delays.
  • Safety: Enhanced security is a hallmark of air freight. The regulations around aviation security reduce the risk of theft and damage, and sophisticated tracking systems provide visibility throughout the journey.

It must be noted that you have to be mindful of size and weight limitations when considering air freight. You will have to consider the nature of the goods that you are shipping and whether they will be better suited to another mode of transport. If you are shipping time sensitive or higher value goods then air freight is the way to go. If you are shipping a greater quantity or bulk goods then check out our Sea Freight service offering.

Common UK to USA Air Freight Routes

When it comes to air freight, the routes from the United Kingdom to the United States are plentiful. There are a wealth of major airports in both countries, allowing you to pick and choose your routes. These airports include Manchester, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and East Midlands Airport in the UK, and JFK, LAX, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Atlanta in the USA.

DG International currently operate regular shipments between the following routes:

London Heathrow (LHR) to New York (JFK)

This route is one of the busiest air corridors in the world. Given the importance of both London and New York as global economic powerhouses, it’s no surprise that Heathrow to JFK is a favoured route for many freight carriers.

London Heathrow (LHR) to Chicago (ORD)

Chicago O’Hare is a key gateway to North America, serving as a crucial logistics hub.

London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Los Angeles International Airport is the primary airport that serves Los Angeles and California, and famously one of the busiest airports in the world.

How Long Does it Take to Send Goods to the USA by Air and What Does the Process Look Like?

Depending on your chosen carrier it can take as little as two days to transport goods by air from the UK to the USA. Because there are so many flights between the UK and the USA, these kinds of expedited services can be arranged at relatively short notice. Slower and more cost-effective options can take up to one week.

Regardless of how long your shipment takes, it will largely follow the process outlined below:

  1. Quote and Book: The first step involves obtaining a quote from your chosen freight forwarder or carrier, considering your cargo’s size, weight, and nature. Once agreed, you’ll book the service.
  2. Packaging and Labelling: Pack your goods securely to endure handling, loading, and unloading. Label each package correctly to ensure it reaches the right destination and adheres to international shipping regulations.
  3. Collection: Your chosen freight forwarder will collect the cargo from your premises or designated location and transport it to the originating airport.
  4. Customs Clearance (Export): All goods leaving the UK need to clear export customs. Your freight forwarder or a customs broker can assist with this process.
  5. Air Transport: Your cargo is loaded onto the aircraft and flies to the destination airport in the USA.
  6. Customs Clearance (Import): Upon arrival in the USA, your goods need to clear USA customs. Again, your freight forwarder or a customs broker can assist with this process.
  7. Delivery: Once cleared, your goods are then transported to the final destination.

At DG International, we’ve designed out UK to USA air freight service to be as streamlined as possible. Our door-to-door service takes care of everything and ensures your goods are delivered as quickly as possible.

What Does it Cost to Ship Air Freight from the UK to USA?

The cost of shipping air freight from the UK to the USA is variable and depends on a number of factors. These include the size and weight of your cargo, the nature of the goods, and any specific handling requirements. While it’s challenging to provide a definitive cost without these specific details, we can explore the components that make up the overall cost to give you a better understanding.

  • Base Freight Rate: The base freight rate is determined by the weight and volume of your shipment. The airlines use a metric called “chargeable weight,” which considers both the actual weight and the space the shipment occupies on the aircraft.
  • Fuel Surcharge: Fuel prices fluctuate, and airlines typically add a fuel surcharge that varies based on current rates.
  • Security Surcharge: Given the importance of safety and security in air freight, a security surcharge often applies to cover associated costs.
  • Handling Charges: These fees cover the costs related to the loading, unloading, and general handling of your cargo at both the originating and destination airports.
  • Customs Charges: Both at export (in the UK) and import (in the USA), there will be customs related charges. These can include the cost of a customs broker and any duties or taxes levied by customs authorities.
  • Additional Services: If your cargo requires special handling, like temperature-controlled transport for perishable goods, or if it’s oversized or hazardous, additional charges will apply.
  • Insurance: Cargo insurance is generally recommended to protect against loss or damage during transit. The cost typically depends on the cargo’s value.

The most accurate way to determine the cost of your specific shipment is to obtain a quote from a reliable freight forwarder or air cargo carrier. We can provide a comprehensive breakdown based on your specific shipping needs.

Customs Regulations Concerns When Shipping from the UK to USA

In order to pass USA customs, you’ll need to ensure every shipment is complete with correct and accurate paperwork. For air freight between the UK and USA, that will include:

  • Airway Bill (AWB): This is the most critical document in air freight shipping. It serves as a contract between the shipper and the airline, contains consignment details, and acts as a receipt of goods.
  • Commercial Invoice: The commercial invoice details the transaction between the exporter and importer, including product details, total cost, and terms of sale. It’s required for customs clearance and duty calculations.
  • Packing List: This document provides detailed information about the cargo’s packaging, such as the number of items, their dimensions, and weight. It aids in customs, logistics, and warehouse management.
  • Export Licence: Certain goods may require an export licence from the UK authorities, such as military or dual-use items.
  • Import Licence/Documentation: Similarly, some goods may need specific licences or permits to import into the USA, depending on the nature of the goods.
  • Certificate of Origin (COO): This certificate confirms the country in which the goods were produced or manufactured and may impact duty rates.

Depending on the value of your goods, you may need to pay duty. There is a generous duty threshold in the USA of $800. Any goods valued at that amount or less are exempt from duty. There are also items you are prohibited from shipping to the USA, including:

  • Gold
  • Firearms
  • Soil and other certain organic materials
  • Game and hunting trophies

You can find a full list of prohibited items on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

How Can Horizon help?

Horizon is your one-stop-shop for comprehensive analytics, and seamless document management, providing your team with instant access to crucial data and documents from a single, unified source.

Horizon even comes equipped with features designed to maximise efficiency, including a VAT calculator and a haulage booking system for managing onward transportation.

Our all-in-one supply chain management solution is a great addition to our service offering, giving you peace of mind when shipping via air freight.

Ship by Air From the UK to USA with DG International

If you want to get your goods from the UK to the USA as fast as possible, you need to work with an experienced freight forwarder that can navigate customs and get you the best deal.

When it comes to sending goods air freight from the UK to the USA, you can trust DG International as your partner of choice. We combine competitive rates, obsessive customer service and cutting-edge technology to ensure you get an unparalleled air freight experience.

Don’t hesitate to speak to one of our consultants today.

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