The Difference Between Air Freight And Ground Freight Shipping

Posted in Shipping on May 27, 2016, tagged with freight shipping

The Difference Between Air Freight And Ground Freight Shipping

Do you need to ship large, heavy items across the country? You might know that freight can be shipped by air or ground, but may not know how to decide which of these options is the best for you. Both ground and air freight shipping have advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to consider before deciding which way to ship your item(s):

  • Shipment Time
  • Shipment Cost
  • Range of Destinations
  • Schedule Reliability
  • Direct Route
  • Security Level
  • Size of Shipped Items
  • Type of Items Shipped

Read on to learn all about the basics of ground and air freight shipping, including the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

Ground Freight Shipping

When you ship using ground freight services, your items are transported over the road in a truck. You should be aware that there are two major ground shipping options that impact your costs and shipment time:

  1. LTL Freight Shipping
    If you aren’t shipping an entire household of goods, then the less-than-truckload (LTL) alternative is your most economical solution. When shipping LTL, your items don’t take all the available space on the truck, so you share the use and costs of the truck with other customers, which saves everyone money. An LTL truck will likely make several stops along the way to pick up and deliver shipments from other customers, so you should build extra time into your schedule.
  2. FTL Freight Shipping
    Full truckload (FTL) is the ideal shipping method when your load fills the entire truck. The truck goes directly from your place of origin to your destination, as an FTL ground shipment does not require stopping at various locations to load and unload other goods. While you’re paying the full cost of truck usage, you save time—and you know what they say: “Time is money.”

Regardless of which option you choose, FTL and LTL freight shipping have similar pros and cons.


  • Weather delays tend to be shorter in duration than air freight.
  • Ground transportation can handle even the largest items, including appliances, heavy equipment, big and bulky pieces of furniture and, yes, automobiles.
  • Ground transportation is significantly more economical than air.


  • Trucks with LTL shipments stop to pick up and deliver goods along the route, which will likely affect your schedule.
  • Trucks cannot always go directly from point A to point B. Road closures, accidents and detours are unexpected but they occur with some regularity, causing delays for truck shipments.
  • Long ground transportation trips carry risks. Trucks may be subject to hijacking during stops. Potholes, accidents and even sudden stops can cause damage to the vehicle’s contents. Plus, the loading, unloading and transferring of goods during a long LTL road trip make its contents vulnerable to loss and theft.
  • After a week or even a few days in a truck, perishable products would spoil, while perishables remain fresh during a plane trip of a few hours.

Air Freight Shipping

Air cargo planes deliver goods very quickly from one airport to another, and can ship across oceans, which trucks obviously cannot do. Air shipments go directly from the origin airport to the destination airport with no stops along the way. Items designated for air freight shipping arrive at and depart from the airport via truck.


  • Air shipping is faster than LTL and FTL ground shipping. Not only do planes move faster than trucks, but a plane also flies directly to its destination without stopping.
  • Air shippers transport freight to global destinations that trucks alone cannot reach.
  • Cargo planes have a more direct route and shipments generally arrive on time, barring airport closures due to weather, of course.
  • Air freight shipping is more controlled, with tight security surrounding cargo shipments at airports. The heightened security helps prevent theft and damage of the shipped goods, making air freight service ideal for shipping valuable and fragile items.
  • The speed of air shipment makes it the preferred option for shipping animals and food. You wouldn’t ship your beloved pets in a truck, and a fast trip by air is preferable to a long drive across the country.


  • Air fuel costs and airport fees are expensive, and these are passed on to the shipper. The increasing demand for fast shipping causes the cost of air freight shipping to rise as well.
  • While planes fly on regular, fairly frequent schedules, they are still subject to schedule disruptions. Airport closures due to weather can last for hours or days.
  • Although aircraft dimensions vary, which affects the amount of cargo that can be carried, generally all planes have size and weight restrictions. You can ship many heavy items via air freight, but the cost of shipping a very large item, such as an automobile, will be considerably higher than the cost of shipping it via ground transport.

Fulfill Your Freight Shipping Needs

Whether you decide to send your items by land or air, freight shipping is one of the best ways to get your belongings where they need to go. Which freight shipping option is better depends on your specific needs, and we can help. If you have any questions about ground or air freight shipping, need some advice about which option is best for you, or simply want a free quote, get in touch with us.


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