Shipping perishable goods by air involves a series of steps and considerations to ensure your goods arrive at their destination in optimal condition. Perishable goods can spoil quickly during shipping without proper handling and temperature measures. Shippers are responsible for packaging perishable items so they can withstand 48 hours in transit without refrigeration.

Here are some Key Points for shipping perishable goods:

Packaging and Insulation

  • Appropriate Packaging: Use sturdy and insulated containers designed for perishable goods. Insulated containers, such as foam coolers or vacuum-insulated panels, help maintain temperature.
  • Refrigerants: Depending on the type of perishable goods, use refrigerants like dry ice, gel packs, or cold packs to maintain the required temperature range.
  • NOTE: Be aware of regulations regarding the use of dry ice, as it is considered a hazardous material. 
  • Sealing, Leak-Proof Containers: Ensure that all packaging is sealed properly to prevent leaks and contamination. Use moisture-resistant materials and tape.
  • More packaging tips:
  • Use gel ice packs instead of wet ice
  • Use coolers or wet lock boxes to prevent leakage
  • Don’t mix perishable and nonperishable items
  • Clearly mark each piece with the shipper, consignee, and phone number
  • Clearly mark “Chill” and “Freeze” on each piece and the airway bill
  • Use polyethylene bags that are at least 4 mils thick, or two 2-mil thick bags
  • Use multi-walled, wax-impregnated fiberboard outer containers with leak-proof corners
  • Use absorbent materials between the polyethylene bag and the outer or inner container
  • Band or tape the outer container or box with at least two bands

Temperature Control

  • Temperature Requirements: Clearly understand and maintain the temperature requirements of the perishable goods. Different goods (e.g., fresh produce, seafood, pharmaceuticals) have different temperature needs.
  • Monitoring Devices: Use temperature-monitoring devices like data loggers or temperature indicators to track the temperature throughout the shipping process.

Regulatory Compliance

  • Packaging regulations: Packaging standards for perishable air cargo are outlined in the International Air Transport Association’s Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR). This document describes proper packaging standards for different types of perishable goods and the materials and design for each type of package. Examples are described in section 5.3.
  • Documentation: Prepare all necessary documentation, including commercial invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin. Ensure all documents comply with international shipping regulations.
  • Labeling: Clearly label packages with “Perishable” and indicate the required temperature range. If using dry ice, include the appropriate labeling for hazardous materials
  • Healthcare / Pharma Temperature Controlled Labeling: The IATA’s Time and Temperature Sensitive Label is a shipping label specific to healthcare industry products and materials.
  • Customs Regulations: Be aware of and comply with the customs regulations of both the departure and destination authorities. This includes understanding restrictions and obtaining necessary permits.
  • Dry Ice: Dry ice is considered a dangerous good. When packaging perishable goods in dry ice the shipper must follow the CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) regulations.

Choosing your Carrier

  • Specialized Services: Select a carrier with experience in handling perishable goods. Many carriers offer specialized services for temperature-sensitive shipments.
  • Transit Time: Opt for the fastest available shipping option to minimize transit time. Direct flights are preferable to avoid delays during layovers.

Handling and Storage

  • Freeze, Pre-Cooling: Freeze or pre-cool items before packaging. Pre-cool the packaging materials before packing to help maintain the desired temperature during transit.
  • Line the container: Line the inside of the container with a watertight plastic liner if the item can melt or thaw. If shipping a liquid or item that could contain liquid, line the container with absorbent materials.
  • Vacuum seal or bag: Vacuum seal or seal perishable food in plastic bags.
  • Proper Handling: Personnel handling and storing your perishable air cargo should have training on the proper handling of perishable goods to avoid damage and spoilage.
  • Storage Facilities: Ensure that origin, forwarding, and destination facilities have appropriate storage conditions (e.g., refrigerated storage).

Contingency Planning

  • Backup Plans: Develop contingency plans for potential delays or temperature excursions. This might include having extra refrigerants on hand or arrangements for expedited delivery.
  • Insurance: Consider purchasing insurance to protect against potential losses due to spoilage or delays.


  • Tracking and Updates: Use tracking services to monitor the shipment’s progress and receive updates. Inform the recipient of the expected delivery time and provide tracking details.
  • Clear Instructions: Provide clear handling and storage instructions to the recipient to ensure the goods are stored properly upon arrival.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your perishable goods are shipped safely and efficiently by air, maintaining their quality and minimizing the risk of spoilage.



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To speak with a CFS Air Cargo Specialist: Phone: (866) 255-6153, email: – or request a callback consultation.