Air freight is fundamental part of the Canadian economy that touches every business sector. For this reason, shippers are warranted in taking an interest in how exactly their products are getting from point A to point B.

“Not all carriers are created equally,” says Lise-Marie Turpin, Vice President, Cargo at Air Canada Cargo. “There are many airlines out there and some are more invested in offering a very high quality cargo experience than others.”

The differences between carriers can come in many forms. Some offer more direct routes with fewer connections, providing better service for time-sensitive shipments. Some have greater range whether through their own network, interline agreements, or mixing dedicated freighter aircraft with belly cargo on passenger flights. Some airlines offer innovative new features like warehouse radio-frequency identification tracking. And some airlines are better equipped than others to handle the special accommodations required for specialized cargo such as live animals and diplomatic mail. “With the pharmaceutical industry, for example, you’re often carrying very high-value shipments that are both time-sensitive and temperature sensitive,” says Turpin. “So, a pharmaceutical company, before they decide on a carrier, really needs to know the conditions under which the cargo will be handled.”

Currently, many shippers are largely in the dark as to how exactly their products are moving across the transportation network. “Our customers are mostly freight forwarders, so there’s always a middle-man, but the more we can communicate directly with the shipper, the more we can understand their needs and they can understand what we offer, the better off we will all be,” explains Turpin. “It’s not about bypassing the freight forwarder, it’s about ensuring that a multilateral conversation happens between the three involved parties and that all are properly informed.”

In general, when something is shipped by air, it’s because it is either particularly valuable or particularly time-sensitive. Often both. For this sort of cargo, due diligence on the part of the shipper when it comes to their carriers is a must. “It’s really about knowing your needs,” says Turpin. “Different products have different values, require different accommodations, and have different levels of time sensitivity.