Unfortunately, getting freight from point A to point B isn’t as simple as putting some pins on a map or entering a destination into a smartphone app. For businesses, determining the best way to move product is one of the most critical decisions leadership will make. There are several factors to consider. Here are some of the most important ones when choosing whether to use air freight services or to use ground freight services.


Most freight comes with a deadline attached. Either the products to be moved have an expiration date, or the business, customer, or person on the other end of the shipment has a deadline by which they need the product. Though air freight is typically quickest, that isn’t always the case. Depending on when and where product is headed, shipping via air has certain requirements, especially for hazard materials, that can slow the air freight process.


No business person has to be told that cost is a factor in any decision. Ground freight, whether by ocean vessel or by truck, generally costs less than air freight. However, that’s not always the case. Some of the cost is largely dependent on how a freight carrier charges for international shipping. It’s also important to remember that warehousing fees at sea ports are often more expensive than those at airports. This can make up the difference in actual shipping costs.


Reliability is one factor that’s difficult to put in a spreadsheet and crunch the numbers, but it’s of critical importance. Delays are more likely when shipping by air. Weather patterns can disrupt air traffic control all over the country. Meanwhile, shipping by land or by sea are less dependent on the weather. However, those who ship by sea know that ocean carriers don’t keep schedules all that well. Missing a cutoff at a seaport can mean a longer delay than just a few days.  It’s difficult to put a price on reliability, but missed deadlines can be costly.


Shipping by air is generally a more secure way to get freight from point A to point B. Security at airports is tightly controlled in cargo and passenger areas. The high security protects air shipments against theft and damage in a way that ground transportation services by land cannot. Potholes, sudden stops, and even the unloading and transferring of goods during less-than-truck load shipping all increase the risk of damage to products.

Shipment Type

Trucks, ocean liners, and airplanes are all capable of transporting the same types of goods. However, the size of the shipment can have a considerable influence on the cost of transportation. For example, smaller shipments may cost less to ship via air, while larger shipments or a full truck load may move most cost efficiently via roadways. Perishables with a tight expiration date are more likely to arrive fresh and quickly via air, while non-perishable items like furniture and appliances can be transported safely and effectively on the ground.

Choosing whether to use air freight services or ground freight services isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.