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What Does “The Airline is Shipping” Mean? Tracking Guide

You’ve ordered something online from China and you have received a “The Airline is Shipping” status alert.

What does this mean exactly? Is your package on its way to you when you see this update? What should you do if it ends up stuck?

Let’s take a look…

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Summary: “The Airline is Shipping”

The “The Airline is Shipping” status alert means that the carrier has handed the package to the airline service responsible for transit toward the destination country. The alert is vague in that it covers the entire time that the consignment is with the airline service; this can include waiting to be loaded onto the airplane, the entire transit period, and landing in the destination country.

“The Airline is Shipping” – Guide

airplane wing in flight

As explained in the summary, “The Airline is Shipping” is a catch-all term that covers the entire period that the package is with the airline service, also known as line haul operator or forwarding agent.

Some services will provide more detailed updates as the package proceeds through the delivery infrastructure.

These will inform customers of the actual location of the consignment.

Such updates include, “Departed from AIRPORT of Origin“, “The Plane Entered the Port“, “Arrived at Destination Country” and “Arrived at Airport of Destination“.

However, it is very likely that you have reached this page due to your tracking being stuck on the “The Airline is Shipping” update.

We’ll now explore why this happens and what you can do about it.

Why Your Tracking is Stuck on the “The Airline is Shipping” Status Update

The Airline is Shipping stuck

Although it is frustrating, there are a number of reasons your package might be stuck on this update.

1. Economy shipping from China is slow

The main reason your package is stuck is the fact the economy carrier shipping process from China is slow.

The catch-all nature of the update means that a lot of steps will take place during the time you see this alert.

Add that to the reality that budget carrier services are a low priority for line-haul operators, which means things inevitably take time.

2. Cargo flights from China struggle to satisfy the demand

Another big issue is the fact international cargo flights out of China struggle to meet the high volume of shipments that are sent daily.

With not enough international flights, backlogs have occurred. Your package could easily sit inside a warehouse at the airport for multiple weeks as it awaits an available plane.

And this is all after you receive the “The Airline is Shipping” alert.

3. Covid Pandemic and Staff Shortages


The covid pandemic has seen both an increase in online shopping (and the popularity of Chinese e-commerce platforms with customers in the west) alongside lockdowns and staff shortages in vital components in the delivery supply chain.

Although we are currently seeing the impact of covid diminish around the world, China has still been enforcing compulsory lockdowns throughout the country.

This is all having an impact on the speed at which shipments are delivered.

4. Packages Often Transit via Intermediate Countries

Airplane being loaded

It is unlikely that your package will travel from China to the country of destination direct. In the same way, you might catch multiple airplanes to travel long haul, the same applies to your parcels.

Without the “The Airline is Shipping” updating, your package may well have landed in an intermediate country to be loaded onto a connecting plane to the final destination country.

Although customs clearance will not be necessary, the unloading and loading (alongside further delays while it awaits the next plane) mean more time for your package to be delivered.

5. Chinese e-Commerce Sellers Utilize the Lowest Budget Carriers

Finally, it is worth remembering that one of the reasons you are using an e-commerce platform based in China is due to cost savings.

This applies to the delivery method too. Unless you opted for a premium service when making your order, a budget operator is likely responsible for the shipment.

Even when the entire shipping process goes smoothly, such services are slow. At every juncture, the lowest cost option is leveraged in order to keep the price down.

This inevitably means that the process takes time.

What to do if Your Package is Stuck on “The Airline is Shipping”

The Airline is Shipping

You’ve probably guessed from that previous section that the most important step is to be patient.

The fact these services operate at such a slow pace, means you have no choice but to wait. In most cases, your package will eventually arrive.

To gauge just how long you should wait you will need to look at the delivery duration stated by the platform you ordered from.

For example, AliExpress state 7 to 15 days on premium shipments and up to 60 days on standard shipments. The latter is two months!

If you are stressing about the tracking being stuck for a week and only two weeks have passed since you made your order, you have a long way to go.

However, I do understand the frustration. I have ordered countless items online from China and there are two proactive steps I advise:

Use a Universal Tracking App


Your package is likely moving, (albeit slowly) through the delivery infrastructure and is still receiving scans without your knowledge.

This is because most economy carriers (Yanwen, Sunyou, Yun Express to name but a few), will not track a package once it has left China.

However, if the line-haul operator or even carrier in the destination country scans the package, these details can often be found using a universal tracking app.

By punching in the consignment details into an app such as 17Track or Parcelsapp, you can see if further updates are being provided.

Thus putting your mind at rest when you see that the package is in fact making progress.

Be Aware of Buyer Protection Periods

buyer guarantee-period

A second proactive step you can take is to look at the details of your buyer protection period.

This is offered by the e-commerce platforms and will cover you if an item isn’t delivered. For AliExpress this period is 60 days.

Platforms such as Shien set periods based on the delivery location. Check these out and make sure that you contact the platform and/or the seller before the periods draw to a close.

By opening a dispute you will be able to make a claim or ask for a replacement item in circumstances where your package is never delivered.

Final Words

watercolor of china map

The “The Airline is Shipping” update can be frustrating due to its vagueness. Essentially, your item has reached the exit point out of China and is making its way toward you.

However, you should still expect long delivery times (unless an expedited service has been used).

Your best course of action is to ignore the tracking (or lack of updates) and ensure that you are aware of your buyer protection period.

If this starts to run out and you still haven’t received your package, it is time to take action.

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