6 Other Reasons Why My Shipment is Delayed

air freight calculation

If possible, we want everything delivered the second we click the “buy” button. Speed of delivery is not something that we need, but actually something that we want.

Consumers in this day in age want fast delivery, and logistics service providers are happy to oblige, if there is a demand, you bet that there will be someone eager to supply.

That being said, not every delivery goes according to plan. Unexpected delays are part and parcel of supply chain and consumers are less tolerant of delays than ever before, and rightfully so because the pace of technology and innovation is very much up for the challenge.

We all know the common reasons for delays of your recent online purchase, such as: –

  1. Bad weather
  2. Failed Delivery attempts
  3. High Peak seasons
  4. Heavy Traffics

Behind the scenes, there are a lot of moving parts operating, just as a team of synchronized swimmers performing an act. Warehouses, delivery and pick up agents, documentation departments, and airliners all perform in synchronicity to deliver your parcel.  

But we want to elaborate further, the majority of E-commerce trade is an international affair, and involves air freight shipments.

Nevertheless, here we explore 6 other untold reasons why your delivery parcel is late.

1.     Choosing the Wrong type of Service Provider

There are actually more that one type of air cargo service provider. Each service provider has advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right type of service provider will save you a lot of pain.

  1. Integrators
  2. Couriers
  3. Freight Forwarder/Consolidators

Integrators are companies that integrate air transportation with land transportation to provide end customers the full package delivery (Pun intended).

Integrated companies are companies like FedEx, FedEx has 13 Air Express Hubs, and 678 dedicated aircrafts to reach 650 international airports. They are one of the dedicated fast delivery that has the greatest global coverage. Other examples of dedicated air cargo transport providers are UPS and DHL.

Fedex Express, Source: Common Wiki

What separates these 3 companies are the fact that their sole existence is to transport cargos by air. Hence, they can operate at hours that do not need to accommodate passengers like other mixed passengers/freight aircraft. FedEx company is able to provide same-day delivery because its flights are scheduled at dawn between 2 am to 4 am. The advantages of using Integrated Aircraft Carriers are obvious.

There is a caveat, Integrated Service providers have very huge assets invested globally. Aircraft, airports, and sorting hubs are very capital intensive.

Hence, it is the interest of Integrated providers to have a uniformed parcel size limit for their smooth daily operation.

It is not that they do not accept large parcels, it is just not their core competence. You either pay a high premium for its service or have delays due to the large parcel size. As detailed in the Chicago Tribune here.

2.     Global Pandemic

Apart from the integrated service providers, the actual fact is that most airliners that carry passengers also carries air cargos. These “combi” aircraft carriers particularly ship both cargos and passengers for long haul flights.

Coincidentally, the very expansion of air transportation that makes the world a smaller place, also makes global pandemic viruses easier to spread.

Countries with reported Corona Virus outbreak, Source: common wiki

It is no longer possible to localize a disease as the world’s land, sea and air transportation gets more connected.

With the recent Corona Virus, which is similar to SARS that preceded that. Airports and airliners are the first “carriers” of the virus.

The ICAO, IATA, and WHO has to monitor all air traffic, and if the situation is dire, air transportation may be halted to cease the virus spread.

As we know now, the disruption of air traffic not only delays passenger transits but also air cargo transits as well.

3.     Wrong Documentation

This particular form of delay is by far the most common. So, we have to include this on the list.

Despite knowing that the root cause of shipment delays is due to the fact that the cargo’s documentation does not represent accurately the cargo in transit, we still make the same mistake in one form or another that ultimately causes shipment delays.

Importantly, although many claim that local customs are the cause of shipment delay, it is actually far from the truth.

A custom officer’s primary purpose is to ensure that the cargo imported is properly accounted, carries the necessary licenses and permits, and collect the duty imposed on the cargo declared.

If anyone of the criteria above is not fully up to the customs officer’s satisfaction. It is their duty to perform their due diligence and quarantine, hold, or reject the cargo from entering the country.

As an anecdote, if you follow all the rules and regulations the TSA officers at the airport, you wouldn’t hold up the line behind you, just because you packed in that non-regulation sized toothpaste tube, by accident.

Here is a list of reasons why: –

  1. Incorrect Cargo Weight or dimension description;
  2. Illogical declared cargo value;
  3. Inadequate import permit/license;
  4. Failure to disclose the hazardous nature of goods.

5.     Faulty Packaging

Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration.

This is more pertinent for cargos that are larger than a standard parcel size.

Naturally, the heavier the cargo, the large it’s acceleration force will put stress on both the aircraft.

  • Is the packaging resistant to extreme weather?
  • Does the packaging distribute the weight of the cargo evenly?
  • Does the packaging have edges that may damage other cargo and its handlers?
  • Is the cargo packaging properly labeled?
  • Is the packaging properly temperature proof?
  • Does the packaging break any rules of the importing country?

These are some of the questions you may have to consider prior to the order, and properly convey the packaging requirement to your supplier.

The worst-case scenario, with the unfortunate oversight of many parties involved, a faulty packaging can doom the plane to crash.

National Airlines flight 102 claimed 7 lives from its doomed flight that crashed in 2013, the investigation concluded that the crash is caused by an improperly secured cargo broke off, and shift all the weight of the cargo to the back of the aircraft.

The best-case scenario, faulty packaging damages your own parcel and was held in quarantine by customs.

Cargo packaging details are not to be trifled with and should be taken seriously, nominally to ensure the safety of crew on board, but also with the added benefit of being able to receive your goods arrive in one piece.

5.     Equipment Malfunction

Terminal Warehouse are the intermediary where cargos are sorted for loading or unloading. For unitized cargos handling, we have specialist integrators such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL. But for the rest of it, air cargos are either loaded in a Unit Load Device (ULD) or handled in loose.

The bottom line is, there is a high degree of handling involved in a Warehouse Terminal, and much relies upon warehouse and storage equipment such as forklifts, pallets, and ULDs.

Despite technological advances like RFID and automatic conveyors, there are bound to be some misplaced, human errors are common and your cargo may or may not be misplaced, mishandled, or misdelivered. The result of that is a delay in your package arrival.

Not to mention that these ground handling aspects are often outsourced to third-party providers because it is simply not economical for some airlines to maintain its own crew and equipment at every airport hub.

Outsourcing services have the benefit of reducing overhead costs and also capitalizing on other company’s specialty and scale. However, a high degree of trust and information transparency is required for smooth daily operations.

6. Freight Forwarder Negligence

Let’s put freight forwarders on the spotlight here, a freight forwarder’s core responsibility is to arrange and assist air cargo transportation for its clients.

Therefore, a freight forwarder has the best knowledge on the documentations and custom requirements. It may be the case that exporters are transporting cargos and preparing documents at the advice of the freight forwarder, and the freight forwarder’s advice may be wrong.

Moreover, freight forwarders do not operate alone, they rely on outsourced parties in the airliners, terminal operators, oversea partners to package a holistic service to the exporters. Interestingly, emails are still the primary mode of communication between the outsourced parties.

Emails are efficient and are good to trace back past communications BUT it has a lagging effect and may delay communication between involved parties. There is also a chance that emails are omitted by accident by the service providers.



Hello! I'm Kelvin, I work as a custom broker and I'm thrilled with having the experience to share my industry knowledge with you. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I do posting them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts