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How to calculate chargeable weight for air freight?
In air freight, every gram counts. Every gram has an impact on the price. So does the volume. But sometimes it might be difficult to know what metric size the price is based on.

Since customers keep asking us about how to calculate the chargeable weight and as there is a lot of confusion around, we would like to bring light into the dark.

Find out how the chargeable weight is calculated and what needs to be considered to get the correct price.

Chargeable weight for air freight

In air freight the chargeable weight often causes a lot of confusion. First one needs to understand that each shipment has two weights; the actual weight (kg or lbs) and the dimensional weight (cbm). No freight forwarder can give you a quote just based on the actual weight. Other than in sea freight the cost of air freight is calculated based on whichever weight is higher.

As a result, you need to always calculate both weights. Is the calculated dimensional volumetric weight higher than the actual gross weight of your goods, this will be the chargeable weight. If the actual weight is higher, then that will be your chargeable weight. The reason for that is fairly simple. The space in air planes is limited and the costs are higher than for sea freight. Goods with a low weight, but high volume would take up all the space but not cover the costs to operate an aircraft.

This is how you calculate the chargeable weight

1. Find out the dimensions (Length x Width x Height) of your air freight.

2. Use the following numbers to obtain the volumetric weight:
    1. dimensional weight in kilograms using inches – divide the cubic inch result by 366
    2. dimensional weight in kilograms using centimetres – divide the cubic centimetre result by 6000
    3. dimensional weight in pounds using inches – divide the cubic inch result by 166 (only necessary when shipping from or to the USA)
3. Here are examples of how to calculate the volumetric weight with the above numbers
    a) Centimetres: 40cm x 30cm x 20cm = 24,000cc / 6000 = 4 volumetric kg
    b) Inch: 20in x 15in x 10in = 3,000cc / 366 = 8.2 volumetric kg
    c) Inch: 20in x 15in x 10in = 3,000cc / 166 = 18 volumetric lbs

4. When you look at the actual weight and the volumetric weight. Which of the weights is higher? Use the higher weight to obtain the chargeable weight.

To give an example: 1 tonne of rocks will use a fraction of space required for 1 tonne of wool even though their weight is the same. Therefore, the rocks actual weight will be the chargeable weight, the chargeable weight of wool most likely will be their volumetric weight.

For the above examples the chargeable weight will be as follows:
a) Centimetres: 40cm x 30cm x 20cm = 24,000cc / 6000 = 4 volumetric kg & 7 kg actual weight à the actual weight is the chargeable weight

b) Inch: 20in x 15in x 10in = 3,000cc / 366 = 8.2 volumetric kg & 6 kg actual weight à the volumetric weight is the chargeable weight

c) Inch: 20in x 15in x 10in = 3,000cc / 166 = 18 volumetric lbs & 12 lbs actual weight à the actual weight is the chargeable weight



Once the chargeable weight is calculated one major part of your shipment is done. If you need more information on your air freight shipment, we have put together more details on what you need for an air freight quote and how long the shipping times can take.

We know, to calculate the chargeable weight for air freight goods can be a source of confusion sometimes, especially for people that do not frequently import / export via air freight. To give you a rule of thumb; the lower the density of a good the more likely the chargeable weight will be its volumetric weight.
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