The Importance of Air Freight When Dealing with Perishables

13 September 2023
by Sam Cullen

Perishable goods have a short life span and can quickly spoil if not shipped properly. To ensure your customers receive the best quality goods, you’ll need a shipping method that is both dependable and fast.

The solution? Air freight. In this article, we will explain the main benefits of cargo plane delivery and how it compares to other popular methods like sea and rail freight. You’ll learn the benefit of working with a freight forwarder, and how a specialised logistics company can ensure the speedy and safe delivery of your perishable goods.

What Is a Perishable Good?

Perishable goods refer to items with a limited shelf life as they are sensitive to changes in the environment, like high temperatures and moisture levels. They often require refrigeration and can spoil over time — hence the need for fast shipment methods.

Due to the possibility of spoilage, you must ship perishable goods with proper care to decrease bacterial growth and ensure that the goods are safe to consume. It’s best to store refrigerated items under 5℃ and heated goods above 60℃.

Here are some examples of regularly shipped perishable items.

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Some fruits and vegetables
  • Flowers
  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Frozen food

The Benefits of Air Freight Compared to Other Shipping Solutions

It's essential to have a reliable shipping method that will ensure safe and timely delivery to customers when importing perishable goods. There are several good reasons why air freight is one of the most popular methods for shipping products that are time and temperature-sensitive.


The main benefit of air freight delivery is that it is the fastest shipping method available. Compared to sea freight shipments that often take several weeks, air freight deliveries can be with a customer in a matter of days.

Furthermore, road freight often goes hand in hand with sea transportation and may likely be affected by traffic congestion, ultimately slowing down the delivery speed.

To put these delivery methods into perspective, a sea cargo shipment that takes 28 days would take around 13 hours on a cargo plane. When dealing with time-sensitive perishables, this difference is hard to ignore.


Factors like unfavourable sea conditions can disrupt sea shipments, while traffic can disrupt road freight. When it comes to aircraft, although weather can cause disruption, it is unlikely for external factors to hinder travel, ultimately making air freight delivery a more reliable option. Aircraft also have fewer stops along the way, lowering the chances of mishandling goods. If your sea or road shipment is disrupted by delays or cancellations, air freight is a viable option to get transit times back on track as there are more flights and departures readily available.

Furthermore, cargo planes have a much higher departure rate than shipment methods like sea or rail freight. Even if a delay happens, your delivery will get moving quickly, making it a reliable option with quick recovery times when disruptions arise.

Specialised Services

DG International can offer specialised services for perishable goods. Special services include refrigerated and temperature-controlled compartments (that are constantly monitored) and other special packaging like coolers, insulated containers and materials like dry ice and gel ice packs.

The best shipping companies will provide temperature-controlled services every step of the way, ensuring your goods stay at the right temperature from the moment they are packed and loaded to when they are delivered into your customer's hands.


Access to an accurate tracking service is crucial when shipping perishable goods, as the process will be much less stressful. Air freight tracking is easy, as most companies provide real-time updates and allow you to view your cargo through every supply chain step.

Consignees can access information like the shipment's current location, updates on issues or delays and an accurate arrival time.

What Are the Regulations of Shipping Perishable Goods by Air?

Organisations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) implement certain standards and regulations when shipping perishable goods. The carrier and shipper must uphold these standards to ensure a safe transport that reduces waste.

Most standards include directions on packaging and label requirements, handling procedures, temperature control and the required documents; these factors ultimately uphold the integrity and efficiency of cold chain management.

Depending on your shipping location, you must comply with government import and customs regulations. Choosing an experienced and IATA certified logistics partner like DG International will help guarantee the effective management and transport of your goods that follow proper regulations, lessening the headache on your end!

Shipper Responsibilities

The shipper is responsible for ensuring that each perishable package is easily identifiable. Shippers must label packages with the following information: the consignee's name and address, phone number and emergency contact information.

All perishable shipments must have a standard perishable label that follows IATA regulations. The package label must also contain special information about the content, such as if your goods contain dry ice.

Furthermore, shippers must ensure that all product packaging meets the IATA standards for perishable goods cargo regulations (PCR). The PCR manual will provide guidelines, including container types, package and storage requirements, design principles and other recommendations.

Finally, the shipper must comply with any added government and carrier regulations, including rules of all countries the shipment arrives at, leaves from or passes through.

Carrier Responsibilities

Carriers must ensure that perishable shipments are labelled and packed in leak-proof containers. The labels must be visible, legible and durable.

While much of the responsibility lies in the shipper's hands, carriers must also oversee the entire shipping process and ensure that regulations, customs and security measures have been followed. Carriers should also be aware if special storage or handling is required and if there is sufficient space on the aircraft.

What Else Do You Need to Know and Do When Transporting Perishable Goods by Air

When working with perishable goods, it’s essential to have transparent and accurate tracing and tracking. Tracing the product from its original location to its distribution and delivery location will help if contamination occurs and make it easier to stay on top of bacterial breakouts like E. coli.

With DG International, you can track shipments across the globe from a single dashboard. Our Horizon platform offers a complete overview of the supply chain, including order status, shipment references, estimated delivery time, container number, shipper information, delivery routes and more.

Not only can you be at ease and know that your shipment will arrive safely to your customers, but with DG International, you will know when disruptions occur and, thus, be able to respond quickly, saving time and money.

Packing Perishable Goods for Air

While working with a logistics company like DG International will make shipping perishable items a lot easier, there are some things you can do on your end to ensure a secure shipment.

  • Choose the right packaging. To help keep your goods fresh, you must use the right packaging depending on what you’re shipping; it will be good practice to familiarise yourself with different packaging options. For instance, frozen goods will require insulated containers, while items like fruit and vegetables will need to be wrapped in foil or plastic. You can transport items with cardboard boxes, steel containers, or wooden crates.
  • Use ice packs. You can pack your goods with ice packs or dry ice to prevent spoilage. If you prefer ice packs, use gel packs as a reusable option. Dry ice is best for packages that need long-lasting temperatures with low moisture content.
  • Plan optimal delivery routes. Since perishable goods have a low shelf life, you must plan optimal delivery routes to decrease the chances of spoilage and bacterial growth. Work with a freight forwarding company like DG International to make planning easier.
  • Make sure goods are secure. Another factor that is easy to overlook is ensuring that your goods are physically secure. Products that move around during transport can quickly become damaged and spoil. To avoid this, make sure the palette or container bindings are secure and strapped tightly.


Air freight delivery is the best option for perishable goods as this shipment method is timely, reliable, versatile, easy to track and can carry specialised containers to keep your products fresh. When sending perishable goods by air, you must follow IATA regulations by ensuring that all packages are labelled correctly and equipped with proper packaging in line with PCR regulations.

While following regulations may seem overwhelming, we can help make the process seamless. At DG International, we have experience shipping perishable goods across multiple routes. To find out more or receive a quote, speak to a member of our team today.

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