October 2005 | How-To | Ten Tips

Selecting an International Air Carrier

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When you ship by air, you need to look at the global picture. With world boundaries changing so frequently, and the European Economic Community continuing to emerge and develop, air cargo customs clearance and shipment tracking have become more challenging. You can simplify these challenges, however, by selecting the right air carrier/forwarder partner. Here's how, according to Andreas Schaefer, CEO Americas, TNT Freight Management.

1. Look for door-to-door capabilities, regardless of whether the transaction is controlled by the shipper or the ultimate buyer. Control of customs clearance and destination services are critical factors to consider when choosing a carrier.

2. Select a carrier with a global footprint. A carrier with a strong global footprint of owned-and-operated locations worldwide can support both shipper and consignee requirements.

3. Do a technology check. The forwarder/carrier should have user-friendly web-enabled tracking tools. These kinds of systems provide accurate status messages of global shipping data in real time.

4. Look for e-services. The more booking and documentation you can do electronically, the more you can facilitate the global shipping process. Many air carriers now offer powerful e-services that allow shippers to go online to request rate quotes, which can be reserved for a fixed time. E-services also allow shippers to book shipments and create export documents such as commercial invoices, packing lists, and shipping instructions.

5. Investigate the service menu. Pick a carrier that is capable of providing a full range of services—from mail to express to heavy freight—door-to-door, worldwide.

6. Look for Cargo 2000 members. Cargo 2000 is the International Air Transport Association's special interest group of airlines and freight forwarders working toward implementing a new quality management system for the air cargo industry. The leading air carriers participate in this organization.

7. Look at the bottom line. Increasing fuel costs have put extra financial pressure on international air carriers, and may have a serious impact on their ability to survive. It's best to select a carrier with a strong balance sheet; you want a partner that will be around for the long haul.

8. Ask about special freight handling certifications. Can the carrier you are considering handle your freight? Does it have the ability to move specialized commodities? If you transport dangerous goods, reagents, or perishables, ask if the carrier is certified by regulatory agencies and qualified to handle these shipments.

9. Certify that the carrier complies with regulations. Compliance with inbound and outbound governmental, security, and trade regulations is the lifeline for today's importers and exporters. It is critical that your international air provider protects your company's compliance requirements.

10. Ask about quality assurance. World-class providers of transportation services generally adopt quality initiatives that add value to their organization by measuring performance internally, as well as the performance of their shipping partners. Look for air carriers that have adopted and embraced quality programs such as ISO or Six Sigma.

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