Terms & Glossaries of Shipping and Trading

Belly Freight

Belly Freight is a term in the shipping and logistics industry that refers to the cargo transported in the lower deck or belly of a passenger aircraft. This practice leverages the available space in the aircraft's belly, which is not utilized for passenger baggage, to carry additional cargo. 

Understanding the Term "Belly Freight" in Air Shipping

Definition of Belly Freight

Belly Freight refers to the cargo that is loaded into the lower deck or belly hold of a passenger aircraft. This space, typically located below the passenger seating area, is designed to accommodate not only passenger baggage but also additional freight. Airlines use this space to generate additional revenue by transporting goods alongside passengers.

Importance of Belly Freight

Belly freight is significant for several reasons:

Revenue Generation: It provides airlines with an additional revenue stream, supplementing income from passenger services.
Efficient Use of Space: Maximizes the use of available space on passenger aircraft, improving overall efficiency.
Cost-Effective: Often more cost-effective than dedicated cargo flights due to shared operational costs.
Flexibility: Offers shippers more options for air transport, especially for routes with limited dedicated cargo flights.
Speed: Provides a fast transport option for time-sensitive goods, leveraging the frequent schedules of passenger flights.

Advantages of Belly Freight

Belly freight offers several advantages:

Frequent Schedules: Passenger flights typically operate more frequently than dedicated cargo flights, providing shippers with more flexible and frequent shipping options.
Global Reach: Passenger airlines often serve a wide range of destinations, including many that may not be served by dedicated cargo airlines.
Lower Costs: Sharing operational costs between passengers and cargo can result in lower transportation costs for shippers.
Environmental Benefits: Utilizing existing passenger flights for cargo reduces the need for additional cargo flights, leading to lower carbon emissions and environmental impact.

Operational Aspects of Belly Freight

The operation of belly freight involves several key aspects:

Cargo Booking and Handling: Shippers book cargo space through the airline's cargo division or freight forwarders. The cargo is then handled and loaded by ground staff, ensuring it is securely stowed in the aircraft's belly hold.
Weight and Balance: Proper weight distribution is crucial for flight safety. Cargo loading must be managed to ensure the aircraft's weight and balance remain within safe limits.
Security and Screening: Belly freight undergoes rigorous security screening to comply with aviation security regulations. This includes checks for hazardous materials and other prohibited items.
Customs Clearance: Like other air cargo, belly freight must clear customs at both the departure and arrival airports. Proper documentation and compliance with import/export regulations are essential.
Handling at Destination: Upon arrival, the cargo is unloaded from the aircraft's belly hold and handled by ground staff for further distribution to its final destination.

Types of Goods Transported as Belly Freight

Belly freight can accommodate a wide variety of goods, including:

Consumer Goods: Electronics, clothing, and other retail products.
● Perishable Items: Fresh produce, flowers, and pharmaceuticals that require timely delivery.
Express Parcels: Small packages and express delivery items from courier services.
Documents and Mail: Important documents and mail transported by postal services.
High-Value Goods: Jewelry, luxury items, and other high-value products that require secure and fast transport.


Belly Freight is a vital aspect of the air cargo industry, offering a cost-effective, efficient, and flexible means of transporting goods using the lower deck of passenger aircraft. By maximizing the use of available space on passenger flights, airlines can generate additional revenue while providing shippers with frequent and extensive transport options. Understanding the operational aspects and advantages of belly freight is essential for logistics professionals, shippers, and airlines looking to optimize their air cargo operations and improve overall supply chain efficiency.