Got Your Air Freight Recovery Documentation? Here’s Why the Details & Paperwork in Hand Matter

November 15, 2022
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Despite the odds, international trade is strong and growing, the latest DHL Trade Growth Atlas finds. Across 173 countries, international trade has climbed nearly 10% above pre-pandemic levels. What’s more, DHL expects trade to continue to grow through 2023. Cross border e-commerce could exceed $1 trillion by 2030, according to the Atlas. The pick up in international commerce increases the likelihood of more frequent air freight emergencies. 


Emergency retrieval comes with a unique set of challenges. Having proper air cargo documentation is especially critical. Emergency air freight pick up necessitates providing a lot of paperwork, all filled out correctly, under tight time constraints. That means it’s vital to partner with a service provider who can get those details right.

The Purpose of Documentation for Air Freight

Air freight is essential for delivery of time-critical or temperature-sensitive shipments. It’s also complicated, and comes with its fair share of air cargo shipping documentation.


Shippers must be able to furnish a commercial invoice, a certificate of origin, a bill of lading, a packing list, and potentially an inspection certification and insurance certificate, to name a few. This documentation serves to provide information about the cargo, its origin, and the condition it should be in upon arrival.


The information must be ready when freight is retrieved. It’s not enough for an air cargo recovery service to simply furnish a pick up number. For expedited air freight pickup to be fast, all the paperwork must be ready in hand.


What Are the Air Freight Documents & Documentation Needed For Pick Ups?

Some of the air freight documents needed for pick up include a delivery order, customs clearance paperwork, and a terminal handling receipt (THC). It’s important to note that nearly all air freight stations require all paperwork to be ready to hand over a shipment. Therefore, it’s critical to partner with a carrier who gets the details of a shipment right and has this paperwork in hand.


Here’s a list of the paperwork that’s required for pick up at an air freight station.


  1. Delivery Order (DO) – A delivery order is a document issued by a shipper or freight forwarder that instructs the port operator to turn freight over to the importing party.
  2. Customs Clearance Documents – All freight that enters into the country is obligated to go through customs clearance. A few of the required customs documents include a bill of lading, an air waybill, delivery order, packing list, arrival notice, and certificate of origin. Incorrect, outdated, or missing forms can incur fees and long delays.
  3. Terminal Handling Payment Receipt (THC, ISC) – Terminal handling charges are fees charged by a terminal for equipment handling, maintenance, and storage. They tend to vary from one country to the next, or even one airport to the next.

The Top Considerations for Air Freight Pick Up Documents

Have you ever wondered how drivers actually get their air freight pick up documentation in hand? The process isn’t automatic. Forwarders must know which air freight shipping documents to provide, and ensure all paperwork is filled out correctly and transmitted to the carrier before a pick up can take place. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind for the next expedited pick up:


  1. Know your airline. 99% of airports will ask a carrier to leave if they show up without the correct air cargo documents in hand. There are exceptions – Chicago O’Hare airport, for example, may offer some wiggle room. But the majority of the time, drivers should expect to be turned away unless they can furnish complete, correct air cargo documentation.
  2. How are the drivers getting that paper in hand? Occasionally, a truck will have a printer, so freight documents can be printed en route. Barring that option, carriers should instruct their drivers to print all paperwork at a truck stop (leaving plenty of time to arrive on schedule, of course.)
  3. 99% of Air Freight Stations require all the paperwork needed. This means the delivery order, customs clearance documents, and terminal handling payment receipt. Without proof of a terminal handling charge payment, the ground handling agent may not see that it was paid, and won’t know to let the driver onto the premises.

Never Miss An Air Freight Recovery Document Again

When there’s an air freight emergency, the last thing a shipper wants to hear is that a retrieval was unsuccessful because of paperwork. And yet, cargo retrieval requires a myriad of air freight shipping documents in hand at the time of pick up that must be meticulously completed.


Shippers need a carrier who has a plan in place to manage important details, like having correct and complete customs documents in hand. Carrier911 has a built-in system to ensure that an air freight emergency doesn’t turn into a paperwork emergency as well. To learn more, contact Carrier911 today.

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