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Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Which is Right for Your Business?

Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Which is Right for Your Business?

February 21, 2023
Last Updated:
July 23, 2023
5 min read

✔️If you're choosing between air freight vs. ocean freight, here is the breakdown of all the important factors that can influence your decision.

Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight: Which is Right for Your Business?

Table of Contents

When shipping goods, there are three primary methods for getting them from point A to point B: sea, land, or air.

Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, which must be taken into consideration.

In this article, we will look at the differences between air and ocean shipping across a variety of metrics.

What Is Air Freight?

Air freight shipping works by transporting goods in an airplane or helicopter from one place to another. The products are placed into boxes, crates, or pallets and loaded onto a plane.

This type of shipping typically involves ground transport on either end of the flight in order to get the goods from their origin point to the airport and vice versa at their destination.

The speed of air freight makes it ideal for businesses that require urgent delivery or when time is of the essence. It is also less susceptible to weather delays than other methods, such as ocean cargo, making it more reliable in certain circumstances.

Pros of air freight: convenience, speed, reliability. Cons of air freight: expensiveness, limited capacity, pollution

Pros of Air Freight

There are three main advantages of air freight as compared to sea freight: convenience, speed, and reliability.

Air freight is widely recognized as the most convenient and speedy way to transport cargo. Additionally, it is incredibly reliable — particularly when moving smaller shipments and those with time-sensitive deadlines.

This stands in stark contrast to ocean freight, which may ultimately be cheaper but tends to be subject to far greater delays and risks of damage to goods. Thanks to its trifecta of advantages, air freight provides businesses with an invaluable option for quickly moving goods from one part of the globe to another.

Cons of Air Freight

By its very nature, air freight is more expensive than other transportation methods, such as shipping via sea or land. This can make it prohibitively expensive for large shipments of bulky items.

Additionally, space limitation is another concern. In the same way that passengers aboard an airplane have only limited room in their carry-on items, air freight containers often come with many restrictions on size and shape of cargo.

Finally, air freight contributes significantly to air pollution. In fact, a plane creates 44 times more CO2 than a ship carrying the same weight over the same distance.

What Is Ocean Freight?

Ocean freight is a form of shipping that involves the transportation of cargo by sea. It typically involves loading the goods onto a container ship, which is transported by ocean.

The majority of ocean shipping takes place on commercial ships that move large amounts of cargo from one port to another. Cargo can also be shipped via smaller vessels such as tugboats and barges.

It's a reliable form of transportation that has been used for centuries, making it a proven method of transporting goods from one side of the world to the other. With over 80% of the world's cargo being transported by sea, it is a crucial component in international trade, providing a reliable and cost-effective means of transporting bulk cargo across long distances.

Pros of ocean freight: cost efficiency, sustainability, larger capacity. Cons of ocean freight: unrealiable, delivery speed, more handling

Pros of Ocean Freight

Ocean freight offers numerous advantages over other modes of cargo transportation.

Cost efficiency is among the most notable, offering shippers the ability to move their goods from one place to another at a fraction of what air or land shipment may cost. In fact

At the same time, ocean freight makes for a more sustainable means for transporting loads due to the reduced emissions and pollution that it produces compared to other alternatives.

Finally, ocean freight provides a larger capacity for moving goods in bulkier loads, meaning shippers are able to efficiently navigate large-scale shipments with relative ease.

Cons of Ocean Freight

Compared to air freight, ocean shipping tends to be slower and more unreliable. Weather-related delays can cause considerable disruptions in shipment schedules, as can port congestion. In turn, this can lead to lower ocean freight visibility and difficulties with container tracking.

Furthermore, ocean freight may not be suitable for smaller shipments due to the cost of transport. Moving a small package by sea is often seen as uneconomical and inefficient unless you have enough cargo to ship less than container load.

Additionally, goods transported via ocean freight are generally handled many times before reaching their destination, which increases the chance of damage or breakage. Ocean freight is also more prone to theft and damage as containers remain unprotected for extended periods of time during transit.

Ocean Freight vs. Air Freight Comparison

Ocean freight vs. air freight comparison in terms of cost, delivery speed, capacity, convenience, environmental impact, reliability, and risk of damage and thefta


Ocean freight tends to be 12 to 16 times cheaper than air freight since it utilizes large-scale vessels that can transport larger loads for greater distances for less expense. Air cargo, on the other hand, is typically more expensive due to higher fuel costs and the need for faster delivery times.

Delivery Speed

Typically, air freight will get your goods to their destination faster than ocean freight as it is a much more direct option. Air freight can deliver in days or weeks. In contrast, ocean freights take longer, often requiring 4-6 weeks of transit time, making it more difficult to cater to tight schedules.


Comparing the capacity of ocean freight and air freight is an important part of figuring out which transport method to use for your shipments. In terms of sheer volume, ocean freights have the capacity to carry significantly larger items and loads than their airborne counterparts. This makes ocean freights a better option when looking to transport great amounts in one single shipment. What’s more, the global capacity of container ships is almost triple that of air cargo.


When it comes to convenience, air freight is generally the more favorable option. Air freight offers a direct and time-efficient means of transport for goods that cannot wait weeks or months in transit. Additionally, ocean freight requires more paperwork, documentation, and permits than air freight, making it a far less convenient option.

Environmental Impact

In terms of environmental impact, ocean freight is a much more ecological form of transport than air cargo due to the lower emissions it produces. Airfreight releases significantly more greenhouse gasses during transport and is not as efficient in energy consumption. For sustainability-focused businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint, ocean freight is the better choice.


Air freight offers far more certainty than ocean freight. Delays and other issues can arise when shipping by sea which makes it difficult to guarantee an exact delivery date. Air freight is much more reliable in this respect as it is a far faster form of transport, with fewer variables that could affect the delivery time.

Risks of Damage and Theft

Ocean freight carries a higher risk of theft or damage due to the multiple handlings that goods must endure before reaching their final destination. Air freight does not suffer from this issue as the cargo is much more closely monitored and less likely to be mishandled.

When to Use Ocean Freight vs. Air Freight?

When it comes to delivery speed, the primary comparison between ocean freight and air freight lies in how you prioritize cost-effectiveness versus time efficiency.

If your business requires a speedy delivery, choosing air freight is the logical option — even though it may be more expensive. On the other hand, opting for ocean freight allows for lower costs with slower transit times over longer distances.

The concept of economies of scale also applies here; if your shipment weighs 50 tons or more, then there are significant savings that can be realized through ocean freights’ larger capacity cargo vessels.

Ultimately, the selection of ocean freight vs. air freight is governed by a combination of overall delivery needs and budgetary constraints.

Cargoflip is the perfect solution for businesses looking to transport goods quickly and cost-effectively. By providing real-time tracking and up-to-date information, regardless of the mode of transport, businesses can rest assured that their goods are in good hands.

Whether shipping by ocean or air, Cargoflip takes the hassle out of freight management, enabling a seamless and secure shipment process for all types of businesses.

Air Freight vs. Ocean Freight FAQ

Why is air freight so expensive?

Air freight is generally more expensive than ocean freights due to the higher cost of fuel and the cost of hiring specialized personnel, as well as other infrastructure costs associated with air cargo transport.

Is sea freight cheaper than air freight?

Yes, ocean freight is generally less expensive than air cargo due to its larger capacity and the fact that it requires fewer resources for transportation.

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