Airport to Airport Shipping ("AtA")
International airlines use cargo terminals / warehouses located near airports across the USA to collect cargo that is then trucked to the airports where the cargo is actually loaded onto their flights and exported to their foreign hub. At the hub the cargo is then transferred to the next aircraft or to a truck that then transports the cargo to the next or to the destination terminal.
These airlines don't accept cargo from individuals. They require the individual shipper, to use an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) to act as the licensed freight forwarding / broker to provide the rates, book the cargo and collect the shipping invoice from the shipper.
For example, the shipper is in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has 250 lbs of baggage to ship to Sanaa, Yemen. You would obtain a rate from an IAC like A2 Global Shipping who would book your cargo on Qatar Cargo. A2 Global Shipping would send you the shipping documents and barcoded labels and you would drop off the baggage at a terminal in Romulus, Michigan, DTW Airport area at a trucking company that hauls shipments from DTW to ORD (Chicago) for Qatar Airways Cargo. For a fee the IAC will also arrange for the cargo to be picked up from your business or residence.
Overnight, the cargo will be transferred from DTW terminal to Chicago O'Hare Airport Terminal (ORD) to the cargo handling company used by Qatar Cargo, Swissport. Swissport will then screen the cargo, validate the paperwork and place your cargo on one of the large aluminum sheets or containers used to load cargo onto and off of, airplanes.
When the cargo arrives at the Airport of Destination, the recipient (consignee) is contacted by telephone and requested to clear and remove the cargo from the warehouse at the destination Airport, or to send the paperwork (AWB and Commercial or Pro Forma Invoice) over to a broker or cargo clearing agent in that city who will clear and remove the cargo.
The cost of AtA shipping is significantly less per lb than Door to Door (DtD) shipping via services such as FedEx, DHL and UPS. However it does not include clearing and removal, which are often performed by the importer at a cost that is significantly less than what UPS, FedEx and DHL would charge for such services.