Air Cargo

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Air Cargo Dimensional Weight - The dimensional, or volumetric weight calculated by IATA follows the table below.

Dimensional Weight Formula

Dimensional Weight Formula - inches/pounds Dimensional Weight Formula- mm/kilos
Length x Width x Depth /166 = Dim Weight Length x Width x Depth/366 = Dim Weight

For example: 12" x 12" x 12" box = 1728/166 = 10.41 lbs.

There are a number of factors to be taken into account when considering the packaging, including the density of the product, the density of the packaging materials and the amount of air space included in the product for protection or marketing considerations. Every effort should be made to reduce the dimensional weight of products. By reducing the size of packages significant reductions in cost can be achieved. The table below examines several general product groups with respect to density. The lower the Dim: Actual ratio the denser the product. Values of 1.0 or lower pay only for actual weight. Values above 1.0 pay dimensional weight in proportion the actual weight times the ratio. From the table below it is clear that the penalty paid in air shipping costs can increase shipping costs by a third.

Dimensional Weight Ratio Examples - Air Cargo*

Sample Data Approximate Actual Weight Approximate Dim Weight Ratio Dim: Actual
Product A 7.9lbs 10.5lbs 1.33
Product B .990lbs 1.53lbs 1.55
Product C 9.6lbs 12.35lbs 1.29
Product D 38lbs 38.57lbs 1.01
Product E 16.87lbs 12.09lbs .72
Product F 20.5lbs 21.2 1.034

*The above analysis is based on shipping case data not including unitload fit.

Unit Load Layout

Another area where dimensional weight penalties can be paid is in poor unit load layout. Underhang adds significantly to cubic dimensions. A 48 x 40 x 48" unitload has 53.3 cubic feet of volume. The same load with a 4" underhang has only 35.6 cubic feet of volume. Removing the underhang adds 50% more product in the same space. When an air cargo company determines the cube weight of a unitload it measures the footprint and height. In the case of a unitload composed of product with a 1.33 dim weight ratio per case (secondary package) and a 4" underhang on the pallet the shipping costs would double over that of a unitload with an optimally fitting load and a dim ratio of 1.0.

Squared-off Tops of Unit Loads

Adding odd boxes on the top of a flat unitload adds significantly to the dimensional weight of a shipment. Sometimes it is necessary to keep an order together in a secure unit load rather than shipping it broken-down. There is, however a dimensional weight penalty to pay when this is done. Also, uneven tops may result in problems if anywhere in the transport of the load double stacking is attempted.

Air Cargo Pallets

Main Deck cargo pallets - MD-1's - typically allow airline pallets to be built up between 96" and 118" high depending on the position in the aircraft. For general purposes it is usually safest to assume the maximum height will be 96" (2438mm), unless you have specific information to the contrary.

Lower Deck cargo typically uses an LD-7 sized pallet which is nominally 60" high but fits into an aircraft door that is 64" high. The maximum working height of the unitload must not normally exceed 61" to allow adequate space for the airline pallet, spacers that may be needed under the load, clearance for entry, and uneven loads and pallets.

Airline Cargo Pallets

Air Pallet Name Max Nominal Dim Max Actual Dim
Main Deck MD-1 96"W x 120"L x 96"H 96"W x 120"L x 96"H
    2438mm x 3048mm x 2438mm 2438mm x 3048mm x 2438mm
Lower Deck LD-7 84"W x 120"L x 60"H 96" w x 120"L x 62"H
    2134mm x 3048mm x 1524mm 2438mm x 3048mm x 1574mm

The "Max Actual Dim" is only achievable by shimming up the pallets on the airline pallet approximately 1" (25mm) to allow the securing hooks that attach the load to the pallet to be reversed into the notch that retains it. This method allows for a matching-up of the typical transportation pallet with dimensions of 48 x 40 to fit the 96 x 120 dimension on a (48 x 2) x (40 x 3) fit of 6 pallets per airline pallet.