How to Calculate Air Freight - The Air Freight Calculator

Jan 26, 2022

We want to introduce you to our air freight calculation system and explain why you may need to know the volumetric weight of your shipment, not just the ‘actual weight’.

Table of Content

Air Freight: Terms You Need to Know
Volumetric Weight vs Gross Weight
How to Calculate Air Freight: Volumetric Weight
How to Calculate Gross Weight
How to Calculate Pivot Weight in Air Freight
How is Air Freight Cost Calculated?

Air Freight: Terms You Need to Know

Going in blind, sending off your shipment without guidance around what additional charges could accrue could cost your company its profit margins. Understanding how gross, volumetric, actual, and pivot weight works will allow you to restrategise shipments, whether it’s consolidating certain products or going back to the drawing board on how something is packaged. Here are the terms you need to know that will frequently pop up throughout the article.

Volumetric Weight

Volumetric weight considers the cubic meterage of a shipment compared to the gross or actual weight (in kg or pounds).


An abbreviation for Unit Load Device - the container that is used to store air freight goods.

Tare Weight

Tare weight is the weight of the ULD before goods are added to it.

Gross Weight

Gross weight refers to your shipment’s weight as a whole in kg or pounds - including the pallet, not including the tare weight.

Actual Weight

Actual weight refers to the weight of the goods including packaging, excluding the tare weight and pallet’s weight.

Pivot Weight

To avoid companies stretching the regulation maximum capacity weight of a Unit Load Device (ULD), freight companies may charge for shipments that exceed limits - this threshold is called the pivot weight.

Chargeable Weight

Chargeable weight refers to which method the freight company has chosen to value your shipment, factoring in whether it required volumetric or gross with the additional pivot weight.

Volumetric Weight vs Gross Weight

Why do we need to know both weights? And how do we know what will end up becoming the chargeable weight? When a freight company evaluates the total chargeable weight, they assess the volumetric or gross weight and choose the greater of the two. The significance of this process is best explained in the following analogy.

If you owned two companies, one produced factory-made bricks, and the other was a farming and agricultural company that produced a cotton-based product. Each company shipped the product in 1 ton batches, distributed across the world.

Now, a ton of bricks will take up a lot less space than a ton of cotton as the individual unit weighs more with the addition of its convenient shape suitable for stacking. So if a ton of bricks (hypothetically) took up 1 ULD and a ton of cotton took up 2 ULDs it wouldn’t be feasible to charge the same amount, even though they were equal in ‘actual weight’. In these circumstances, a freight and shipping company would charge for volumetric weight.

How to Calculate Air Freight: Volumetric Weight

(Scroll back up to ‘Terms you Need to Know’ if you’re not sure what volumetric weight is).

Here is a simple formula for calculating volumetric weight for International Courier Air Freight:

Length x Width x Height in centimetres / 5000 = Volumetric weight in kilograms rounded up to the nearest 0.5kg.

Here is a simple formula for calculating volumetric weight When shipping freight via a freight forwarder airline:

Length x Width x Height in centimetres / 6000 = Volumetric weight in kilograms rounded up to the nearest 0.5kg.


Volumetric Weight Formula: Height x Length x Width / 6000

Height: 35 cm

Length: 65 cm

Width: 40 cm

Multiply the height x length x width = 40 x 35 x 65 = 91,000 cm

To convert 91,000 cm³ to weight in kilograms: Divide the number by 5000 and round up. The volumetric weight of the carton = 18.2 kgWant more details on the Cubic Weight Calculator and dimensions?

How to Calculate Gross Weight

To calculate the gross weight of your item, you will need the total weight of the item, including packaging and the weight of the pallet. Weight of Item and Packaging + Pallet Weight = Gross Weight.


Weight of product 15kg + Pallet 21 kg = 36 kg

How to Calculate Pivot Weight in Air Freight

(Scroll back to ‘Terms you Need to Know’ if you’re not sure what pivot weight is).It’s difficult to calculate the pivot weight or even the cost of the pivot weight because every ULD has a different weight/ volumetric capacity. The best way to find out how to determine if you will be charged for breaching the pivot weight threshold is to use the formula above to determine whether you will be charged for volumetric or gross weight (whichever is greater), then cross-reference your chosen freight company’s ULD pivot capacity and pricing.If you haven’t chosen a freight company yet, why not let Couriers and Freight handle your logistics? Contact us for a free quote.

How is Air Freight Cost Calculated?

To find the total cost of your shipment you need to know the rates according to your chosen courier - per kilogram. Once you have determined the chargeable weight (either volumetric, actual or gross) in kilograms, you can multiply it by the cost per kilogram, giving you the total fee - provided you haven’t exceeded the pivot weight.

Finding a Competitive Price for Your Shipment

Even though you can now accurately calculate the gross or volumetric weight of your goods, there is the matter of finding a logistical solution that will prove cost-effective and timely.

This is where we can help! Couriers and Freight is an end-to-end freight solution that connects businesses with a number of first mile and last mile shipping services that cover both international and domestic routes.By using our cloud-based software, companies can track their goods at any point during the journey. We find that our clients achieve faster and more affordable outcomes through our expanded network of small-scale and large-scale couriers and postal services due to our expertise and industry knowledge. Contact Couriers and Freight for a Quote.

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Robert Lynch

Founder of Australia’s largest outside hire company Couriers & Freight, Robert Lynch is a seasoned business leader in the shipping industry with over 20 years of experience. His expertise spans from outside hire, taxi truck, and last-mile services to freight management, freight forwarding and warehousing. 

Robert has also incorporated technology into his business through custom software to enhance growth and efficiency. Robert is a valuable resource for business owners looking to improve their logistics operations.

Connect with Robert Lynch on LinkedIn.

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