What Are Airport Transfer Fees for Cargo?

Shipping cargo by air can be an expensive but necessary endeavor for many businesses. When using air freight, there are a variety of fees involved beyond just the cost of transporting the goods. One of these additional charges is known as the airport transfer fee. This article will explain what exactly airport transfer fees are, what they cover, how they are calculated, and provide some tips for managing these costs.

Defining Airport Transfer Fees

An airport transfer fee, also sometimes called a cargo handling fee, is a charge assessed by the airport for moving cargo between the aircraft and the cargo warehouse or other facility. It compensates the airport for providing the infrastructure and manpower needed to transfer the cargo on and off the plane and get it where it needs to go once it arrives.

Airport transfer fees are separate from and in addition to the air freight rate charged by the airline. The freight rate covers just the transportation of the cargo during the flight itself. The transfer fee covers the logistics of getting the cargo to and from the plane at each airport.

Some key things to understand about airport transfer fees:

  • They are charged per shipment, not per pound, so heavier cargo does not necessarily mean higher fees.
  • Rates vary significantly by airport based on differences in facilities, labor costs, efficiency, and other factors.
  • Fees apply at both origin and destination airports, and often also at any intermediate stopovers.
  • Transfer charges apply regardless of whether it is import or export cargo.
  • Airlines can include transfer fees within their overall quote, or charge them separately – so it’s important to clarify this when getting a freight quote.

What Do Airport Transfer Fees Cover?

Airport transfer fees are intended to cover all the steps needed to physically move cargo shipments between the aircraft and cargo facilities. This includes:

  • Unloading from the airplane and moving to the warehouse area.
  • Storage in the warehouse for short periods before clearance and pickup.
  • Documentation processing like checking paperwork and inventory.
  • Inspection by customs authorities if required.
  • Breakdown of pallets and cargo handling units.
  • Loading onto ground transport like trucks or vans.
  • Cargo tracking and administration.
  • Equipment costs like forklifts, pallets, and dollies.
  • Labor expenses to handle and process the cargo.
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So in summary, the transfer fee covers all the intermediate steps and services required to transfer cargo between the plane and the shipper’s ground transport. It does not cover the actual air freight cost, long-term storage fees, or fees charged by customs brokers, freight forwarders, truckers, and others.

How Are Airport Transfer Fees Calculated?

Airports use a few different methods to calculate cargo transfer fees. These include:

Per Shipment

Many airports charge a flat rate per shipment, regardless of weight. Often this fee level is based on the type of aircraft, like narrow-body vs. wide-body. Charging by shipment simplifies billing and encourages consolidation. But it penalizes small-volume shippers.

Per Pound

Some airports apply a fee per pound of cargo transferred. This model more closely aligns charges with resource usage. But it requires accurate weighing and extensive documentation. Minimum fees often apply to avoid processing many tiny shipments.

Per Aircraft Type

Transfer fees are sometimes based on the type of aircraft – for example, regional jets, narrow-body, and wide-bodies. This accounts for differences in unloading requirements by aircraft size and type. But it can penalize efficient packing.

Sliding Scale

Airports with a sliding scale system charge reduced transfer fees for larger weight shipments, up to a point. This rewards consolidation while still accounting for additional resources needed for big shipments. Discounts may also apply to regular shippers.

Blend of Methods

Many airports use a blended fee structure. For example, a per shipment minimum charge up to 500 kgs, then a per kg rate thereafter. There may also be aircraft-type fees. Combining fee models allows for capturing differences in resource usage.

No matter how they are calculated, airport transfer fees ultimately aim to recover the costs of the cargo handling infrastructure and labor. How this is billed to shippers can vary greatly.

Tips for Reducing Airport Transfer Fees

Because airport transfer fees are a significant cost factor in air cargo shipping, it pays to look for ways to minimize them. Here are some tips:

  • Consolidate shipments whenever possible so that you are paying one transfer fee for a larger consolidated load.
  • Select airports strategically by comparing transfer fee schedules across regions – routing through lower-cost airports can make a big difference.
  • Work with experienced freight forwarders who understand how to optimize loads and routes to take advantage of lower transfer charges.
  • Look for discounts for regular or large volume shippers – negotiate with both airlines and airports.
  • Understand any minimum charges so you can adjust shipment sizes accordingly.
  • Weigh shipments precisely to avoid overpaying if charged per pound fees.
  • Pack efficiently to maximize cargo within aircraft volume and weight limits.
  • Consider nearby alternate airports if one airport has significantly higher transfer fees.
  • Discuss fees openly with your airline to identify any ways to reduce airport transfer costs.
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With air cargo volumes projected to grow substantially in the coming years, managing transfer fees will only become more crucial. Understanding these charges is the first step to devising effective strategies to minimize their impact on the bottom line.

Applying Airport Transfer Fee Strategies

Let’s look at a few examples of how shippers can apply strategies to reduce airport transfer fees:

Consolidating Cargo

ABC Corp has 3 separate 30 kg shipments of electronic components to send from Chicago to Tokyo. The airport transfer fee is $75 per shipment. By consolidating into one 90 kg shipment, they reduce transfer fees from $225 to just $75 – a $150 saving.

Comparing Airport Fees

JLK Imports needs to ship a 150 kg crate of textiles from Dubai to New York. The transfer fee for this size shipment at Dubai Intl Airport is $225. But at nearby Sharjah Airport it is only $175. By routing through the lower-cost Sharjah airport, they save $50 in fees.

Negotiating Discounts

KLM Shipping sends multiple large cargo shipments daily through Memphis Intl Airport. They negotiate a 20% volume discount on transfer fees, saving thousands per month. The airport benefits by reducing admin costs for their regular customer.

Adjusting Shipment Sizes

DCX Company is sending valuables that weigh 43 kg. The airport minimum transfer fee is 50 kg. By adding 7 kg more cargo to push the shipment over 50 kg, they effectively reduce the cost per kg and avoid the minimum charge.

With creative strategies and a solid understanding of fee structures, many shippers can find ways to significantly reduce airport cargo transfer costs over time.

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Future Outlook for Airport Transfer Fees

Looking ahead, several factors could impact airport transfer fees for air cargo:

  • Increasing volumes – More cargo will likely mean higher fees overall to expand capacity.
  • New aircraft designs – Larger planes like the Airbus A380 could increase per shipment fees.
  • Technology upgrades – More automation may reduce labor costs but require equipment investment.
  • Fuel cost fluctuations – Since transfers are energy intensive, fees may rise with fuel prices.
  • Security requirements – Stricter screening needs more staff and facilities.
  • Competitive pressure – Some airports trying to attract more air cargo may lower fees.
  • Environmental initiatives – Sustainability upgrades like electrified equipment could increase costs.

Shippers should stay abreast of trends influencing transfer fees and consider their impact on long-term logistics budgets when planning air cargo operations.

Key Takeaways on Airport Transfer Fees

A few key points to remember about airport transfer fees for air cargo:

  • They are distinct from air freight carrier costs.
  • Charges cover moving cargo between planes and facilities.
  • Fee structures vary greatly by airport.
  • Consolidating shipments can help reduce costs.
  • Route planning and negotiations also present savings opportunities.
  • Volumes, new planes, and other trends will impact future fees.

Understanding the intricacies of airport transfer fees allows shippers to make smart budgeting decisions and potentially realize substantial savings. With air cargo expanding globally, effectively managing these charges is becoming an increasingly crucial part of optimizing supply chains for speed and efficiency.

Careful analysis of airport fee structures, creative routing options, shipment consolidation, and negotiating leverage can help contain transfer costs amid rising cargo volumes. Put time into closely managing this budget item and companies can flourish using air transport, even with high fuel prices and other climbing costs.

Sunil Vaishnav

Sunil Vaishnav

Sunil Vaishnav, at just 25 years old, is a remarkable author at Apkdragon, where he shares his profound insights into the complex world of shipping, logistics, freight, and supply chain management. With five years of industry experience under his belt.

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