Air Cargo Packing : How to Prepare Your Shipment

By Margaret Bux
clock 6 min

Air freight is one of the fastest and most reliable ways to ship goods internationally. However, the success of your air freight shipment depends not only on choosing the right freight forwarder but also on how well you’ve packaged your cargo. Proper packaging is absolutely essential to safeguard your goods during the rigours of air transport.  

Below you will find step-by-step instructions on how to pack your goods for a safe and damage-free journey.

Why is Packaging Important for Air Freight?

Air freight cargo undergoes a complex journey involving multiple transfers, handling by various people, and exposure to varying conditions. Here’s why proper packaging is vital:

Protection from Impact and Vibration: Air cargo may experience jolts, bumps, and vibrations during take-off, landing, and even turbulence. Appropriate cushioning and secure packaging will keep your items safe from these forces.

Handling and Stacking: During loading and unloading, boxes may be stacked on top of each other. Durable packaging ensures that boxes won’t crush and damage your products within.

Temperature and Pressure Fluctuations: Air freight compartments can experience changes in temperature and pressure as an aircraft travels through different altitudes. Well-packed cargo should be able to handle these changes without issues.

Environmental Factors: Your goods may be exposed to moisture or humidity. Good packaging helps prevent moisture damage.

Security: Secure packaging deters pilferage and makes it easier to identify tampering during transit.

How to Pack for Air Freight

Packaging for air freight should be approached strategically. Here’s what to consider:

Choose the Right Box

  • New, Double-Walled Corrugated Cardboard: These offer superior strength and protection. Avoid reusing old boxes.
  • Size Appropriately: Ensure enough room for internal cushioning but not so much that your goods shift around in the box.

Internal Cushioning

  • Bubble Wrap: Versatile and excellent for shock absorption.
  • Packing Peanuts: Good for filling voids. Consider biodegradable options.
  • Air Pillows: Inflatable pillows offer extra stability.
  • Foam: For fragile or high-value items, consider custom foam inserts for maximum protection.

Sealing Your Cargo

  • High-Quality Packing Tape: Use strong tape, applying it in an H-pattern across all seams.
  • Reinforced Edges: For extra heavy cargo, consider reinforcing box edges with additional tape or corner protectors.


  • Plastic Wrap: Protects against moisture and dust for externally-exposed cargo.
  • Internal Waterproof Lining: Use waterproof bags or linings within the box for sensitive items.


  • Clear and Durable Labels: Include shipper and recipient information, handling instructions (e.g., “Fragile,” “This Way Up”) and any required hazardous material labels.
  • Multiple Labels: Place labels on at least two sides of the box for visibility.

Special Considerations

Pallets for Larger Shipments

  • Choose Stable and Strong Pallets: Wooden or plastic pallets should be in good condition and able to handle the weight of your cargo.
  • Secure to the Pallet: Use stretch wrap or straps to secure boxes to the pallet, preventing shifting during transport.

Dangerous Goods

  • Follow Strict Regulations: Dangerous goods have specific packaging, labelling, and documentation requirements mandated by IATA. We can provide guidance.

Fragile Items

  • Use Ample Cushioning: Provide extra padding for delicate goods.
  • “Fragile” Labelling: Mark boxes clearly with “Fragile” labels on all sides.

Valuable Cargo

  • Nondescript Packaging: Avoid boxes that hint at valuable contents.
  • Security Seals: Consider using tamper-evident seals for added security.

What Happens if You Don’t Pack Correctly

Improper packaging can lead to several unfortunate consequences:

Damage to Your Goods: Poorly packed items are vulnerable to getting crushed, broken, or damaged during handling and transport. This could result in lost revenue, unhappy customers, and even damage to your reputation.

Damage to Other Shipments: If your cargo isn’t secure, it might break loose and damage other consignments. This could lead to liabilities and disputes with carriers and other shippers.

Delays: Damaged shipments might  need to be repacked or inspected, resulting in delays and additional costs.

Rejected Shipments: Air carriers have the right to reject cargo that doesn’t comply with their packaging regulations. This can lead to significant disruption of your supply chain

Insurance Issues: Your cargo insurance might not cover losses or damages that result from inadequate packaging.

Additional Tips for Air Cargo Packaging

Consolidate Smaller Shipments:  If possible, consolidate smaller shipments into fewer but larger boxes to improve stability and handling efficiency.

Distribute Weight Evenly:  Pack heavy items at the bottom of the box and distribute weight evenly throughout for better box integrity.

Know the Regulations: Familiarise yourself with any specific air freight packaging regulations relevant to your goods and destination country.

Work with a Freight Forwarder:  An experienced air freight forwarder like Clarke Global Logistics can advise you on the best packaging practices for your cargo, ensuring everything conforms to regulations

Our team can provide tailored advice on all aspects of your air cargo shipment, including packaging, documentation, and compliance. With our extensive experience and global network, you can trust us to deliver your cargo securely and on time.


We’re Australia’s Leading global logistics provider.

Established in 1917, Clarke Global Logistics is a reputable Australian Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder; offering a totally integrated trade service both locally and globally.


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