Air freight plays a pivotal role in global trade and supply chain, moving cargo across vast distances in a time-effective manner. There are various accessorial charges related to moving cargo via air freight, one of them being an airport transport fee.

Airport transfer fees are levied by freight forwarders to shippers for transporting cargo between the consolidation warehouse and the airport terminal prior to export. Unless there are special payment arrangements, airport transfer fees are usually considered prepaid expenses and paid by the shipper. 

How Much Are Airport Transfer Fees?

Airport transfer fees are not standardized as rates can vary depending on the carrier, airport, and market conditions. On average, carriers charge anywhere between $50 to $100 for airport transfer fees.

However, when it comes to oversized cargo, special handling requirements, dangerous goods, or perishable items, certain carriers may charge a slightly higher fee to cater to these requirements. In essence, airport transfer fees are designed to offset the cost of transporting the cargo from the warehouse to the airport cargo terminal.  

How is Cargo Transferred to the Airport?

As airport terminals have limited space and storage facilities, cargo is usually consolidated in a warehouse near or inside the airport premises. Therefore, cargo needs to be transported from the consolidation warehouse to the airport terminal, before it can get loaded onto an aircraft.

There are three essential steps when it comes to transferring cargo to airport terminals. First, the air freight forwarder coordinates with the exporter (also the shipper) to finalize space requirements and confirms the nominated flight the shipment is intended for.

Subsequently, the exporter delivers the shipment to the freight forwarder’s warehouse, which can be located near or sometimes within the airport (a location dedicated to cargo consolidation). However, this area is often outside of the airport terminal due to regulatory requirements.

In this warehouse shipments are received, checked, labeled, and consolidated. Value-added services such as packaging inspection, labeling, and documentation checking are also offered. After the freight forwarder has checked the required documentation, they would arrange a truck to deliver the shipments to the airport terminal – this cost is what the airport transfer fee is meant to offset.

While some freight forwarders use their own vehicles, most subcontract the airport transfer to a third-party trucking provider. The cargo is unloaded at the cargo terminal of the airport where it undergoes security screening. Finally, the cargo is loaded into unit load devices (ULD) and transferred onto the aircraft before it departs.

Can Airport Transfer Fees Be Avoided?

As previously stated, freight forwarders charge this fee to offset the transportation costs for moving cargo from their warehouse to the airport terminal. In this case, most carriers will charge an airport transfer fee, unless this price is included in the air freight rates.

In some instances, some freight forwarders may allow shippers to move their cargo to the airport terminal using their own appointed trucking company. However, a majority of shippers tend to pay the freight forwarder directly as it lessens the administrative burden of working with multiple logistics companies in order to streamline the transportation process.

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.