An airport community system is a form of a Single Window for Trade & Logistics. It is an open and neutral electronic platform that makes possible the secure and intelligent exchange of information between private and public stakeholders to enhance the competitive position of airport communities.

The Role of the Airport Community System

The airport community system is designed to handle electronic communication and data exchange between the airport authorities, private transport operators (such as warehouses, airlines, trucking companies, freight agents and freight forwarders), exporters and importers, Customs and other Regulatory Authorities.

Some of the services provided by an Airport Community System include:

  1. Information exchange between Customs, GHA’s (ground handlers), Shippers, Freight Forwarders, and other authorities.
  2. Processing of PGA (Partner Government Agencies) declarations of regulated goods with the regulatory authorities
  3. Electronic exchange of Customs responses and declarations and cargo releases between Customs and private parties.
  4. Status information on schedules, tracking, and control of goods in the entire logistics chain
  5. Electronic processing of all data on export and import of cargo for the airport community


One of the most important roles of the Airport Community System is to automatically derive data from information exchanges between private port operators that are needed by Customs Authorities. The information can then be forwarded to Customs without the need for manual submission, which makes the system more efficient.

Note that while most airport community systems are established on internal standards they still need to communicate with other systems using international air-specific standards such as the e-freight initiative by IATA (International Air Transport Association) or the Cargo IMP standards from IATA.

The Players of an Airport Community System

Air cargo shipments originate with a shipper who can be a manufacturer or consolidator who wants to ship an item. Shippers can either find a carrier themselves or if not use a third-party logistic provider who will ensure all shipping arrangements are made with the best shipping options available.

The different distribution channels for mail and freight include:

  1. Integrated Express Carriers – These include the likes of DHL, UPS, and FedEx, which operate from distributions hubs in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Memphis. They usually operate in a tight window and hence they have a large fleet of couriers for door-to-door service.
  2. Consolidators – These combine several small shipments that are headed to a common destination, also known as direct injection shipping. Since they combine many small shipments, they benefit from economies of scale and pass down these to all stakeholders in the shipping chain. Most domestic shipments will be loaded at the airport and then delivered to their final destination by truck.
  3. All-Cargo Freighter Airlines – This is a carrier that usually runs scheduled containerized or wide-body cargo craft from major airports. Some all-cargo carriers include Polar Air Cargo, Atlas Air Cargo, Cargolux, Evergreen, and Kalitta.
  4. Regional Air Cargo Carriers – These usually operate between market stations, remote or smaller cargo markets. They usually act as support for larger integrated express cargo operators such as DHL, UPS, and FedEx. Mountain Cargo and South Aero are examples of contracted regional carriers for FedEx and UPS. As feeder flights, they usually transport cargo from the smaller markets to a larger cargo plane that is heading to a carrier’s hub. Some regional feeder carriers may fly directly to a hub doing time-critical and custom charter flights from point to point.
  5. Freight Forwarders – These are intermediary carriers that arrange for the best shipping for goods that usually includes taking on small packages from shippers that are then consolidated into container loads. The loads will then be shipped to a passenger airline or integrated carriers to deliver to a subsidiary or agent at the destination airport. Some forwarders include Expeditors and Panalpina. In recent times, DHL, FedEx, and UPS have also been strengthening their freight forwarding divisions dealing with bulk and heavy freight shipments.
  6. Commercial Passenger Airlines – These are scheduled passenger flights that move cargo from airport to airport using space in their bellies. These services vary in size and scope depending on the aircraft used and the airline. Some major carriers that offer these services include Southwest, Delta, American, and United.

The players in international shipments include:

  1. Consignee – This is the buyer that takes possession of the shipment once it enters the country. Sometimes, the shipment is transferred to a container freight station for customs inspection and basic handling. Subsequently, the shipments are broken down into individual packages that are then delivered by either courier or truck.
  2. Importer or Customs Broker – This is a company that partners with government agencies to clear goods imported into the country. Since international shipping can be a cumbersome and detailed process, the forwarders and shippers typically work with a customs broker.
  3. Customs Officials – These are federal authorities/officials that are in charge of inspecting shipments once it arrives in the destination country.

Features of the Airport Community System

The Airport community system has several features that make it an essential component in the movement of air cargo. These features help to enhance sustainability by focusing on the elimination of physical documentation.

With the Air Cargo industry becoming more important with growing demand for cargo to reach its destination in rapid time, there is pressure on all stakeholders to develop a better way of processing shipments. According to IATA, each air cargo shipment has as many as 30 documents and up to a hundred copies of documents that result in significant supply chain opaqueness, dwell times and overhead.

As a one-stop solution, the Airport Cargo Community System is a cloud-based Single-Window system that collects, converts and disseminates digital information about shipments via a single interface to all stakeholders. The community platform connects stakeholders such as Customs, exporters and importers, ground handlers (GHA’s), airlines, transporters, customs brokers and freight forwarders.

Unique Functional Capabilities of an Airport Community System include:
  1. E-Booking
  2. Schedules
  3. AWB stock assignment
  4. E-Payment through a digital portal
  5. eAWB (e-Airway bill)
  6. eManifests & trade declarations
  7. Electronic dock and slot management provision to configure docks and slots
  8. Electronic delivery orders and the generation of airline delivery orders
Benefits of the Air Cargo Community System
  1. Overcoming truck congestion
  2. Achieving sustainability goals
  3. Reducing data redundancies
  4. Facilitating real-time visibility
  5. Improving operational efficiency

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