Giving wings to cars

Air FreightGiving wings to cars

Zhipeng Liu
Zhipeng LiuOffice Manager

Our air freight specialists in Frankfurt and Munich realize air freight transport solutions for special automobiles – more often than not these vehicles are highly confidential

Air freight transport solutions for automobiles are part of the daily business of our specialists in Frankfurt and Munich. There are several reasons for shipping vehicles via air freight. One is time constraint – air cargo shipments are the fastest intercontinental transport solution. For shipping special types of cars air freight is often the transport option of choice. Vehicles like concept cars and prototypes are regularly on the shipping lists of our air freight specialists – e.g. when these automobiles are presented on international car shows.

Punctuality is priority

“When automobiles are transported by air freight for presenting them on shows, adherence to schedules is a top priority”, says Zhipeng Liu, Teamleader Export in Frankfurt.

Air freight is the fastest and the most flexible way of transportation. And even if a flight is cancelled on short notice due to unforeseeable events, the next possible flight is generally available very soon. Flight frequencies on intercontinental main routes are high. “When transporting cargo via air freight we are talking about hours, not days”, says Zhipeng Liu.

“Many cars we ship come directly from the manufacturer. Usually concept cars and prototypes”, says Zhipeng Liu. “They are shipped for being presented on shows or for testing purposes.”


In the air freight business,
each hour counts.

Unit load device, wooden box or special container – the packaging often depends on the level of confidentiality

There are generally three options for shipping vehicles via air freight: unpacked on unit load devices, stowed in wooden boxes or in special containers. “Cars can be transported securely lashed on unit load devices. They do not have any special packaging and are just covered with a tarpaulin. Packaging is always also a question of costs. But we also often transport vehicles that need special packaging as they are highly confidential”, explains Zhipeng Liu.

When shipping concept cars or prototypes, the manufacturer often requires that only pre-determined persons involved in the transport chain are allowed to look at the vehicle if their work requires. “Of course the manufacturer does not want that anyone to view a special automobile shortly before its presentation”, explains Zhipeng the reason for secrecy. “We follow special steps, so called ‘red security actions’.”

Special vehicles, special actions

Red security actions are for automobiles transported under very high confidentiality. “Usually, these vehicles are trucked to the airport loaded onto a special closed car trucks. Upon arrival at the airport, the automobiles are unloaded at a special packaging company”, says Zhipeng Liu. “But of course they cannot just be unloaded at the outside premises. Unloading procedures take place in a special hall. The hall needs to be protected so that no one can have a look inside. The windows get covered and the hall gets locked”, explains Zhipeng Liu. “We need to ensure total secrecy.”

Only customs is allowed to take a look into the box.

Only after these measures have been carried out, the automobile is unloaded and parked on a podium. This step may only be carried out by a person specially approved by the manufacturer. Then the packaging, usually a wooden box, is built around the automobile. “After this procedure no one can recognize what is inside the box anymore”, says our air freight specialist. Only customs officers are allowed to have a look inside the box. “For identifying the vehicle, there is a small slot on one side of the box so customs can have an eye on the ID number of the automobile.”

Attention! Dangerous goods

Regardless of the type of automobile, there is one thing that all vehicles have in common: they are classified as dangerous goods (PAX ok). “The battery of the automobile and possible remains of liquids such as fuel or oil bring about the classification as dangerous goods”, explains Zhipeng Liu. “Even the smallest amounts of substances that are classified as dangerous goods need to be listed.” The IATA (International Air Transport Association) determined international rules for the transportation of dangerous goods: the so called DGR (Dangerous Goods Regulations). Parts of the DGR are instructions what needs to be classified as dangerous goods and how it needs to be shipped via air.

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