Air Freight Tracking 101: Challenges, Solutions, and Opportunities


Air Freight Tracking 101: Challenges, Solutions, and Opportunities

The global air freight volume has seen a rapid increase in the recent past. Statista reports that the volume reached 65.6 million metric tons in 2021, and is expected to be 68.4 million metric tons before 2023. Also, the global air freight market is projected to be USD 376.8 BN by 2027, creating more opportunities than ever before.

As the world moves towards increased adoption of cross-border commerce and customer expectations continue to rise, having leg-to-leg visibility over the shipment movement becomes a must. 

With advanced air freight tracking technology, shippers can keep track of their shipment throughout its journey and locate it at any time. They can get real-time visibility over the leg-to-leg movement of shipments, which offers accurate information for every stakeholder. 

What are the benefits of granular visibility into air freight movement and what is the best way to do so? What are the challenges associated with air freight tracking and how can smart automation overcome them?

Here, we explore the answers to all these and many other questions.

What Is Air Freight Tracking and How Is It Done

Air freight tracking is the process of tracking air cargo with the help of all the parties involved, such as the airline, freight forwarders, transport operators, or GPS devices. The tracking of air cargo generally takes place from the first mile to the last mile, all the way through customs clearances and all the stages in between while at the airports.

The tracking of air freight is done via the Air Waybill or the unique tracking IDs provided by multiple third parties involved in the freight transportation. The manual process of tracking cargo from one airport to another is tedious, time-consuming, and costly.

The manual air cargo tracking system is not as accurate as it should be, as many variables affect the ETA. For example, weather conditions at your destination airport can delay or cancel flights, and the same applies to your origin airport. If there are several connecting flights at different times with different locations, the system will only show one ETA for all of them.

Further, manual air cargo tracking can be very confusing, especially when businesses are dealing with multiple carriers and multiple airports. They have to do several activities in the manual process that results in delays, lost shipments, and other problems.

Automated air freight tracking bypasses the entire manual effort and reduces these issues by providing real-time information about the shipment.

Top Challenges in Air Freight Tracking

1. Limited, Carrier-Specific Information

Manual freight tracking means getting access to limited and carrier-specific information that might be partial as well as relying on a person for accuracy. Many carriers don’t offer detailed leg-to-leg movement insights to their clients because of the multiple parties involved.

Further, when it comes to checking the location of a particular order, it might be impossible to get the details as that particular order might be a part of a bigger bag. 

2. Lack of Standardized Status Reporting

A major challenge for air freight is the lack of standard reporting systems. This means that a simple event like “shipment pickup” can be represented in multiple ways, such as:

  • Pickup done
  • Pickup completed
  • Shipment picked up
  • Order picked
  • Driver picked up the shipment and many more

As every party involved in the transportation of shipments from one place to another is not having a standard format for various order movement milestones, it becomes impossible to have a central or unified dashboard-like interface for effortless management.

Air freight tracking challenges

3. Inability to Convey Dynamic ETAs to the Customer

Air freight tracking is a complex process, and customers expect their shipments to get delivered on time. However, there can be multiple reasons for delays or failures of delivery. 

It is extremely important to ensure that all the alerts and notifications for any such delays are conveyed to the customer in an automated manner. This offers two-fold benefits – the customer experience stays uninterrupted and the customers need not raise tickets for checking the shipment status.

However, with so many moving parts involved in an air freight shipment, this can get difficult to predict an accurate ETA and convey the same to the end customer.

4. Poor Transparency Owing to Manual Tracking

Manual tracking is a time-consuming process. In most cases, manual tracking involves checking the details with multiple parties, like carriers and consignors. This process takes time, often several days, and may result in delays due to multiple checks taking place at different locations, which means that by the time a retailer gets the tracking information, it might no longer be correct.

Hence, manual air freight tracking is subject to discrepancies and lacks transparency.

5. Tedious Paperwork

The problem with air cargo tracking is that there’s a lot of paperwork involved, which can get messy with large orders or in cases where a mother bag has multiple independent child consignments.

So, the final resort is to make individual calls for each shipment and get insights into their journey. This not only reduces the overall work productivity, but it is also not scalable at all.

6. Additional Costs Due to Demurrage and Detention

Carriers usually charge a demurrage penalty for late deliveries, typically a few percent of the shipment’s value. 

In case a shipment gets delayed for pickup from the final port or airport, the retailers have to pay the detention and demurrage fees. These costs are a total loss for the business and are a result of poor visibility into the order movements. 

As the retailers often don’t get notified till a few days, they are not only vulnerable to higher operational costs but losses and customer churn as well.

Now that we have had a look at the various challenges in air freight tracking, let us find out how can automation be of help.

Overcoming Air Freight Tracking Challenges With End-to-End Freight Management Platforms

1. Instant Access to Real-Time Shipment Location

Freight management platforms are a great way to streamline shipping operations. They provide instant access to real-time shipment locations, which helps to avoid costly delivery errors and delays.

The platform offers real-time shipment location details along with standardized ETAs and movement information. Such platforms can be used for managing shipment movements throughout their journey from origin to destination.

As every stakeholder, including the end customer, has granular insights into the order movements, they can directly track the package to check its location. 

2. Dynamic ETAs for Everyone

With dynamic ETAs, the end customers can find out exactly when their goods will get delivered to them from the manufacturer or supplier. So, if something changes unexpectedly along the way, they’ll always be aware of the situation.

Dynamic ETAs also help in avoiding delivery failures as the customer is alerted in advance about an order that is ‘out for delivery’. Finally, dynamic ETAs also help reduce the query tickets related to order status inquiries.

3. Plan for Incidental Costs

Automated platforms for air freight tracking can help businesses plan for handling and managing incidental costs like demurrage and detention. As the system will be sending an alert for any shipment that is liable to delays, it allows businesses to plan ahead of time and minimize these costs.

Real-time freight tracking also helps in checking which truck has been responsible for which shipment at any given point in time. Hence, any reasons for delays or failures of delivery can be verified by the retailers at any time.

4. Reduce Paperwork

Automated freight tracking overcomes the need to make individual calls for shipment tracking, or checking for order progress. Retailers can simply submit the tracking IDs for any shipment and get granular insights into the shipment movements.

Thus, there is no need to print out multiple sheets of paper with contact details, shipment numbers, carrier information, etc, just for tracking an order. Hence, the entire process becomes smooth, effortless, and streamlined.

5. Unified Window for Universal Tracking and Communication

With automated air freight tracking platforms, businesses are able to track, manage, monitor, and plan for all shipments from a single dashboard. They can connect and collaborate with multiple service providers and carriers at any time and for any issue.

A unified window means less confusion and more efficiency which leads to higher productivity and effortless scaling of operations. 

Air freight tracking software

6. Avoid Delays via Real-Time Planning

As the businesses have granular insights into the key milestone events, they can plan for the forthcoming journey. For example, if a shipment is vulnerable to delays, they can opt for the Last Mile service provider which offers quick or superfast deliveries. 

This ensures that the overall costs of delivery stay minimal and delays don’t incur customer unhappiness and losses.

7. Prioritized Air Carrier Selection Based on Historical Performance

Using an automated platform for carrier selection allows businesses to check the performance of individual service providers and choose the one with the best performance in terms of delivery time, quality, and overall experience. 

All the service providers can be ranked and prioritized on the basis of past performances or quotes. This way, the businesses are able to opt for the most profitable business partners.

Shipsy: Granular Air Freight Tracking, Planning, and Management

Shipsy is an AI-powered end-to-end logistics management platform that offers granular insights into all the key milestone events, offering a detailed leg-to-leg order movement view. 

The direct integration with leading freight forwarders (FFs) eliminates the cumbersome dependency on intermediaries for shipment status updates. The latest HAWB tracking module makes real-time shipment tracking more comprehensive and insightful with detailed event logging and automated shipment milestone visibility.

With professional collaborations with more than 15 freight forwarders like Kuehne + Nagel, DB Schenker, Senator, DHL, and Damco in addition to 50+ major airline carriers, Shipsy offers a larger tracking network for all businesses via its unified platform and helps them unlock:

  • 36% decrease in ETA SLA breach
  • 64% increase in Customer Satisfaction
  • 26% increase in delivery NPS

For getting started with Shipsy’s smart tracking capabilities, or to know more, please schedule a custom demo here with our experts!


Related Posts

6 Great Ways Logistics Visibility Improves Supply Chain Performance

An enterprise's inability to track its valuable goods across the supply chain is a risky business. Thankfully, technology ends guesswork with improved visibility across stakeholders and processes.


Multimodal Visibility- How It Drives Supply Chain Efficiency and Profitability

Multimodal visibility facilitates real-time tracking shipments to help shippers know the exact status of the shipment and avoid delivery delays, increasing transportation costs, and other problems.