Shipping computers, cameras and other gadgets to the Philippines – Our experience with Johnny Air Cargo

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Most expats are exasperated with the high cost of computers, cameras, tablet computers, e-readers and other electronic gadgets in the Philippines compared to the U.S. and elsewhere. Johnny Air Cargo (JAC) is an air cargo company with branches in the U.S. and in the Philippines. JAC offers an interesting alternative if you live near a JAC office in the Philippines.  JAC has offices in Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Naga, Laoag, Bacolod, Cebu City, Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Here’s how the JAC program works.   You make your purchases through any of the online merchants such as,,  and   When you make your purchase, have it shipped to the Woodside, Queens, NY JAC office.  The JAC website gives the email addresses of JAC agents.  You choose one and inquire about the service using the email addresses on the JAC website.  They will give you shipping instructions.  For example, I contacted Analyn Diego at the Woodside office.  She sent me an email describing the program and told me to ship our purchases to:

Address:6904 Roosevelt Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
(718) 672-7080
As soon as we made our purchase we notified Ms. Diego of our purchase and asked her to forward it to the JAC Iloilo office.  Based on Analyn’s email quote we expected the cost to be as follows:
Service charge:  $5.00

Shipping: $7.50 per pound to Metro Manila, $8.50 per pound to the provinces with a two pound minimum.

Customs fee: laptops ($50), iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch/Smartphones/Tablets/eReaders ($25),

Couture/bags and other high-value items worth $500 and over ($25)

VAT:  12% of the fees paid to JAC.

As a test, we ordered a Barnes and Noble Nook Color e-reader.  Barnes and Noble does not ship its e-readers outside of the U.S. so using the JAC Woodside shipping address was perfect. Since we ordered it from Barnes and Noble, which has branches in New York,  we had to pay New York State Sales tax. Of course, it’s better to order from merchants offering free shipping and no sales tax.  I placed the order on Oct. 19.  On Nov. 5 we were informed by text message that my package was available for pickup at the JAC Iloilo office and that the charges are P3413.28.   We were upset because, based on the information we had received from Analyn, the fees should have been $17 for shipping, $25 for customs, service fee $5.00 + $5.62 VAT for a total of $52.62 or about P2290.  It took several rounds of text messages and emails before JAC relented. The final charges were  P2185.48.  We think that the problem may have been that someone at JAC may have mis-classified the Nook e-reader as a computer and so charged a $50 customs fee rather than the $25.00 e-reader fee.

The JAC staff in Iloilo were helpful in resolving the problem so we decided to give them another try with a camera order.  It worked perfectly.  The total cost we paid at pickup in Iloilo was P950 or about $22.  This is a bargain for international air shipping.  Doing the same shipment via FedEx or DHL would be much, much more expensive, albeit a few days faster.

Bottom line — JAC offers an appealing work-around especially for high value, light weight items such as cameras and laptop computers.   Here’s an example.  A decent laptop computer costs about P40,000 in the Philippines or $920.00   The same computer in the U.S. would be about $550 or P23,925.  The savings is P16,075.  Assuming a weight of 10#, JAC would charge $150 to deliver the laptop to a Philippine provincial office, so over all the savings would be almost P10,000.  Of course you have to consider warranty coverage.  We have previously recommended Asus brand laptops because they offer a two year global warranty which really works in the Philippines.


Comments (20) Write a comment

  1. I have been shipping via johnnyair and have been very satisfied. Anything from documents to food processors and the like. When ordering items from other places like China and Guam I still send them through Johnnyair in Woodside and they have arrived in their Dian makati branch in good condition with out any problems. For more than 50 transactions, so far so good. they have in recently years said that they do not consolidate but many time my goods were consolidated. I heard there are another cargo services of the same kind that does better and are far cheaper. but i wont fix anything thats not broken. My loyalty remains with Johnny air.


  2. Beware Johnny Air. They promise to consolidate items. Whether the do or not seems to depend upon who receives your Amazon order, whether they are sufficiently mindful or trained to ask if the office is waiting on other orders and if the office has communication protocols that inform staff of how to keep their commitments to customers. This was my experience of the NY office.

    The real problem with Johnny Air is pinning them down on what you will be charged prior to using their service. The have, at their sole descretion, the right to charge you based on volume weight- whichever is higher, according to their materials. This should be of significant concern if the item being shipped is either heavy or bulky.

    I was quoted a price for items that were 100% heavier than the item I had shipped and dimensionally larger. Yet my cost for the item I had shipped (again 50% lighter and less in size) was more. The item was shipped without consultation with me, detailing my charges would be higher than what I was quoted and why. In other words I had no opportunity to return the item to Amazon (which is permitted by them).

    Imagine my surprise. When I asked why, I was told by the Davao office that the volume weight fluctuates, depending upon their costs. And they are not obligated to inform you of the cost changes in advance.

    Johnny Air, BEWARE


  3. How much would I be charged for a TABLET PC worth 9500 Php (a little less than 200 USD) from china po? would it be the same customs charge of 25$ for tablets?


    • Johnny Air does not ship from China. We buy quite a few items from China through If shipped by China Post (slow) or EMS, it’s possible that you will pay no duty except a service charge at your local post office. If you ship FedEx or DHL, customs charges are much more likely.


  4. According to Johnny Air shipping, insuring a decent laptop (over $1000) is $5 per $100 declared value for total loss only. Additional shipping charge for items declared over $1000 is additional 5%. Insurance for damages who the heck know how much additional.

    By the time you add all these extras your savings is much less.
    Your savings turns into a loss if the item comes damaged.

    $5 per $100 declared value for total loss for items over $100? does that mean they loose 1 in 20 items? or does it mean they make a profit insuring against employee theft and carelessness?

    Think about that…


    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comments. My experience with Johnny Air has been good. I have never bought or needed any insurance. I pay the fee for the item ($50 cellphone, $100 laptop and $0 for small things) and the shipping charge, which ends up being $20, more for a laptop. I agree, it’s frustrating to pay so much, but the prices in the U.S. are so much better and so is the selection. I have to think over the pluses and minues in connection with each purchase.

      I have not experienced any employee theft or carelessness.



  5. I love you for this article! Such a big help to everyone looking to buy reasonably priced gadgets. I’ll start reading your other articles as soon as I complete my amazon purchase 🙂


  6. If you are only paying $50.00 duty customs fee for laptops using this service I think my wife and I just found a new business. We shipped a laptop Fed Ex from the US and it got lost in customs for over a month. I finally found out we had to pay $300.00 to get it out of customs. We had purchased the laptop while in the States for $200 via E-bay.


  7. Nice article! I’m an expat that has been living in PH for over a year now and I was planning on ordering a laptop from Newegg seeing as it is $300 cheaper than buying here locally in the Philippines. I have heard crazy stories about immigration charging outrageous “fees” when electronics such as laptops, cellphones, cameras etc go through their hands whether they come from a business or an individual. Have you had any experience ordering from Newegg Amazon etc and getting it shipped directly to Metro Manila, I have heard the method you ship(US Post, UPS, DHL etc) can have an effect on whether or not you get hit with these customs fees, and of course there is always the chance that your product never reaches you because of corrupt customs people. Would you recommend using a service such as JAC over direct shipping from an online retailer, what would you say the pros/cons of either method of shipping would be? Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers.


    • Hi William,

      I would not have have a computer shipped directly to the Philippines. FedEx, DHL etc. all have to clear their shipments through customs in Manila. In addition to duty, you’ll be charged another fee by a customs broker. The best way is to have a friend or relative bring the laptop to you in the Philippines. No duty, no shipping charges. The next best is shipping in a balikbayan box along with other stuff you’ll need or want. It will cost about $100 but you can get a lot of useful stuff in a big balikbayan box. You will not be charged duty. Use a reliable shipper such as Manila Forwarders or Forexworld. The disadvantage is that it’s slow. Next best is JAC.

      You could also get a cheap flight to Hong Kong and buy a laptop there. With hotel and a cheap flight you might not save money but you’ll have a Hong Kong visit “for free” with the lower cost of computer there. Take a look at the Mongkok Computer Center – several floors of every tech gadget. If you buy in the Philippines, check out the V-mall which is part of the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, Manila. It’s supposed to have the best prices in Manila for tech.

      Give consideration to an Asus brand laptop. The cheapest ones have a one year global warranty but the better ones have a two year warranty that will actually be honored in the Philippines. They have a repair facility in Manila.

      I am just about to get a new laptop. Fortunately, my son is coming from Arizona to Iloilo for a visit in January so we can load him down with all sorts of goodies!

      Good luck.


    • You are correct. We paid $300 custom fee to Philippines for a $200 used laptop we bought on E-bay in the US. Don’t buy it and send it wait till you leave and bring it back with you as your carry on luggage.


      • Yes, FedEx is a disaster except for documents with no value. Then they are the best.


    • 1. “Immigration” does not charge duty, “customs” does
      2. You WILL pay customs duty if you ship via DHL, etc, including direct shipment from suppliers
      3. If the supplier is in China and the order is smallish, it will be advantageous to get it shipped directly for relatively small duty but long delivery times and long waiting time at the post office
      4. You will not pay custom duties if you ship via JA
      5. I’ve shipped via JA maybe 100 times and never had a failure
      6. Take into account that the cost to ship large, light packages is based on a “calculated weight” based on the dimensions of the package
      7. The $5 delivery charge is a good deal
      8. Analyn and her colleagues will combine several packages so you save (quite a bit, actually)


      • Klaus, right you are. It is customs which collects duties on immigration. I am a fan of Johnny Air but it’s expensive. They do not charge customs duty, but they do impose surcharges on high value items such as laptops. The U.S. has very good prices on laptops. Even if you have to pay JA $75 or $100 for shipping, it’s still much cheaper than buying one in the Philippines. For anything bought from China, Hong Kong, Korea or Singapore, we either use the respective national postal service or if we want faster shipping I use EMS. On all of these we pay P100 plus P12 VAT regardless of the value of the item. We recently bought a recently bought a fairly expensive CCTV DVR through EMS shipping was free and no duty. In that instance we saved quite a bit over buying the same item in the U.S. and having it shipped JA. The economics of each situation are different. We bought the 4TB WD hard disk for the same DVR from New Egg and had it shipped JA. No duty and reasonable shipping charges, so good quality item much cheaper than buying locally.


  8. Very good report there, Bob. I’m familiar with Johnny’s from years ago when i used to use them for all my Dollar/Peso trading when I visited Manila frequently.

    I have a friend who runs a shipping company who started a service similar to Johnny, and I’d love to recommend him, but his customer service folks n the US are just not responsive enough. I may give Johnny’s a try real soon now.


  9. if the nook tablet can be easily rooted like the nook color was (as most likely it will be), it’s one helluva full on android tablet with those specs! once rooted, you get the whole android market at your finger tips. install the kindle and nook apps then buy & read from wherever you are! i’m closely montioring the nook dev community in the next two weeks …


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