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How to Import Goods by Air Cargo into USA

Customs Clearance for Importing Goods into the US by Air Cargo

Here in this section, we will discuss some of the benefits, risks and general import procedures for Importers who are thinking about importing their goods into the U.S by Air Cargo. Air Cargo should not be confused with express courier shippers like DHL, UPS or Fed Ex. Shipping your goods by Air Cargo, unlike express couriers, always require a Customs Broker to clear your goods to pay for any import duties/fees, obtain customs release, and to coordinate the pick up / or delivery of your goods.

In most cases, if your goods are less than 1-2 CBM, shipping by air cargo may offer cost savings and faster arrival time than shipping by LCL. LCL shipments will contain local charges due to the freight delivery agent and CFS warehouse which can be anywhere from $400-$1000 (approximation) combined between these two parties.

One of the dangers of shipping by Air Cargo is that the goods can arrive within 2-3 days after your shipper has arranged. If the Importer is not aware that their goods are arrived, or not properly notified, the chances of late storage charges can begin as soon as 2 days after arrival. Each airline and cargo handler has its own free time and policy as to how many free days are allowed upon arrival to pick up your goods.

The general rule of thumb for air cargo is to have your Customs Broker clear your goods as soon as the plane is wheels up, which is the earliest allowed time set by CBP to file the customs entry. If your goods are subject to other PGA such as FDA, USDA, FWS, or any other, please consult with a Customs Broker first as PGA will require its own additional requirements and clearance in addition to Customs.

Benefits of Air Cargo

  • Faster Arrival Time to the U.S.

  • Small shipments less than 1-2 CBM may offer cost savings than shipping by LCL

Disadvantages of Air Cargo

  • Higher freight shipping cost

  • Not ideal for large shipments

  • High probability of late storage charges if shipment is not customs cleared when arrived


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