Moving a skid full of fruit and vegetables from A to B by air freight. That may seem like an easy task, but it involves a lot more thinking than you might expect on forehand. It actually is a big puzzle with lots of commercial interests. We will try to explain this to you.

Earning money in terms of space or in kilos?

In the past all airlines accepted skids without any weight restrictions. From a commercial point of view the airlines missed an opportunity here because letting customers pay for the number of pounds instead of the space would give them greater returns. Of course, this revenue model has been introduced by then and carried over to today.

Weight; the first puzzle piece

Now that the kilos determine the amount of the invoice, it is interesting to see what is possible. The exact weights differ per airline, so we take the average. For example, an L skid (lower deck skid) must weigh more than 330 kg. To meet the customer, some airlines maintain a minimum weight of between 250 and 275 kg. It is really important to achieve the minimum weight per skid, because when this is not achieved, we will pay for ‘shipping air’ and eventually it will affect the price of the fruit and vegetables.

Differences in pallets

Another part of the big puzzle is the different skid sizes. These are the flavours available:

  • Lower deck skid: 120 cm wide x 100 cm deep x 160 cm high
  • Main deck skid: 120 cm wide x 100 cm deep x 240 cm high
  • XL skids: 120 cm wide x 120 cm deep x 160 cm high

The L skids are the standard and the most popular within the world of fruits and vegetables. Exactly 6 of these skids do fit on an airplane plate and 26 to go in a truck. Each aircraft is of course constructed differently, but often the lower deck skids fit under the space where passengers are seated.

When there is not enough space at the lower deck, often there is only space left for Main deck skids. This variant has the same size in width and depth as the lower deck skids, but is 240 cm high. It is really a challenge to build these high skids and to combine the light and heavy products. A challenge because we must ensure the skids to remain intact during the long journey and arrive neatly at the customer.

Then there are the XL skids, these are square and a bit deeper, but have the same height of 160 cm. Just a little more products do fit on these pallets and the airlines maintain the the same minimum weight as the L skids. At first that sounds ideal, but it is not always. This has to do with the logistics puzzle as the pallets are bit bigger and fewer skids fit in the truck and it is often not convenient with the layout of the air cargo areas. It could therefore be risky to use these skids.

Transporting vegetables and fruit is a specialty

Many factors have got influence on the quality of the fruit and vegetables during the trip. The temperature during the flight and at the airports, the duration of the trip due to the shelf life of the products and the type of products. Not every airline know how to transport fresh products such as sensitive fruit and vegetables. If, for example, live animals are flown at room temperature, fruit and vegetables cannot be shipped in the same hold of the aircraft. The entire chain from warehouse to end customer must connect perfectly to maintain quality. Please read the article about how BE Fresh tries to influence the temperature of the trip.

Other commercial interests

Besides puzzling with weights and sizes, there is another overarching challenge. Namely, getting enough space by the airlines onto aircrafts to the desired destination. This has everything to do with supply and demand. Fruits and vegetables are less heavily taxed by airlines than, for example, technology and medicines, where the margins on products are much higher. Companies in these industries have a lot more money to spend to reserve the best seats with the airlines. In addition, airlines have to deal with differences in costs per country, such as landing fees, kerosene prices, etc. Commercial interests play a major role in this.

Practical tip!

How can you buy smartly to keep air freight costs as low as possible?
The only tip that can be given is to ensure that you combine light weights with heavy products, in order to achieve the minimum number of kg. We are more than willing to assist you with this, don't hesitate to contact us!