News & Press


Airfreight: Avoiding Storage Costs and Delays

May 22nd 2024

Rogers & Brown 

Written By Lori Mullins, Director of Operations at Rogers & Brown 

When a client is shipping air cargo, the need is typically urgent. In an efficient supply chain, cargo moves fluidly through the process, and delivery at the destination occurs quickly. However, when delays occur, causing a kink in that chain, airfreight storage can occur. Let’s look at the details and define a few terms to help us better understand what air storage is and how it can be prevented.

The Line Between Free Time and Storage

Free Time: The amount of time cargo is allowed to sit at the destination air handling warehouse with no additional fees for storage. The ground handler manages air cargo unloading, storage, and distribution. They determine the amount of free time given and when that free time clock begins. Most airlines are currently offering 24 hours from arrival for pick up without additional costs. Each airline will determine the ground handler utilized for their imported cargo.

Storage: Fees for holding costs and storage of imported cargo. This is measured from the date the free time ends until the cargo is picked up, usually based on weight and days of storage. This charge will be paid at the time of pick up, along with any terminal handling fees.

When Does Airfreight Storage Occur?

What reasons may airfreight storage be incurred, and who is responsible for them?

  • Inland carrier capacity constraints
  • Government holds
  • Late appointments
  • Incomplete documents
  • Release orders
  • Late Releases

These are a few reasons that can cause delays, which result in storage. That being said, how do you avoid storage at the airline/ ground handling facility? The airbill is the written contract for the movement of all air cargo. Therefore, the shipper or consignee is fully responsible for all storage payments.

How Can I Avoid Storage?

  • Hire a professional. Hire a professional to help you navigate the complexities of the process.
  • Plan ahead. Be sure you are clear on the arrival date and the free time period for your goods, and keep communication with all parties open so that nothing is pending upon arrival.
  • Gather shipping documents early and be sure you have collected all the information required for timely handling before arrival.

For a list of the documents required for the Import of goods, see our previous blog post on Import Documentation here.

  • Dispatch the shipment to the inland carrier as early as possible to avoid delays. In some locations, that may mean pre-scheduling pick-up time slots. Each airline ground handler has a different process, so utilizing an inland carrier familiar with the complexities of international pick-up is a necessity. Proper planning ensures a smooth pick-up.
  • Ensure all holds are addressed and resolved immediately upon arrival. Imports require payment of terminal handling charges, often also require a release from a 3rd party, and most importantly, a release from CBP (and other participating government agency releases based on the commodity). With air cargo, an entry can only be filed with the airplane wheels up, so early handling is a priority. Be sure the Customs Broker has all of the required documents to make the filing early. USDA/APHIS, USDA AMS, EPA Pesticides, and some Food & Drug products will not be allowed to move off the terminal to anywhere other than an approved exam site prior to release, so keep in mind additional delays for certain classes of products may prevent movement until fully released should there be delays with release from those agencies. The Customs Broker filing the CBP entry will handle those the participating government agency holds with the ACE CBP message set and can confirm if a may proceed or release has been issued.

Other Things to Consider

Friday Arrivals:

With airfreight storage, Friday arrivals are often an issue because most Customs Brokers are only open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you anticipate a Friday arrival, you will want to be sure you understand how the handling will be addressed before 5 p.m., or storage may be incurred.

Government Holds or Exams:

Government holds, or exams are outside of your control, so if delays occur due to them, unfortunately, the government will not cover the costs. Those charges are at the risk and expense of the party on the airbill.

Airline Isusses and Storage Costs:

Suppose you have issues with the airline related to availability due to closures, strikes, or location access. In those cases, you may be able to dispute any storage costs with the carrier or ground handler. Each ground-handling facility would address those on a case-by-case basis. Some may require payment of all storage in full for movement of the cargo, and dispute resolution will occur after that time through a secondary dispute resolution process. It is extremely important to keep all screenshots, emails, tracking, or communications related to those delays in case the dispute resolution is denied and further action is required.

Rogers & Brown’s Policy on Airline Storage Fees:

As a freight forwarder and Customs Broker, Rogers & Brown does not markup fees for airfreight storage. If our clients wish us to pay for the storage and bill them, our policy is to bill all charges per the carrier tariff. Unfortunately, airline ground handlers typically do not provide written invoices for storage or terminal charges due to the speed required for handling charges are provided by phone and paid through various means (Sprint Pay, PayCargo, Credit card, web payments, or ACH/Wire) and any payment receipts would be provided.

We are a certified and validated member of Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.