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Air Waybill (AWB)

A legally binding transport document issued by a carrier or agent that provides details about the goods being shipped

What is an Air Waybill (AWB)?

An air waybill (AWB) is a legally binding transport document issued by a carrier or agent that provides details about the goods being shipped. It provides detailed information on the contents of the shipment, the sender and recipient, terms and conditions, and other information. The AWB is a standard form that is distributed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

 

Air Waybill
Source

 

Consider the document as a receipt for the sender or consignor. An air waybill is also referred to as a consignment note or dispatch note. The AWB is non-negotiable and acts as evidence of the contract of carriage from airport to airport. There are three parties involved in an air waybill – the sender, the airline, and the recipient.

Before goods are shipped, an air waybill must be filled out. Once the air waybill is signed by the shipper and carrier involved, it becomes an enforceable contract. Because it is a legally-binding document between parties, the details must be filled out clearly and accurately.

 

Summary

  • An air waybill (AWB) is a legally binding transport document issued by a carrier or agent that provides details about the goods being shipped.
  • It provides detailed information on the contents of the shipment, the sender and recipient, terms and conditions, and much more.
  • The AWB used to be a one-page physical paper document, but the e-AWB is considered the standard nowadays and is filled out and stored electronically.

 

Functions of the AWB

The air waybill serves many functions, including:

  • Evidence of receipt of goods by an airline
  • Contact information among all parties
  • Contract of carriage between shipper and carrier
  • Freight bill
  • Customs declaration
  • Description of the goods
  • Guide for handling and delivering goods
  • Tracking of shipment

 

Features and Format of the AWB

An AWB is typically a one-page document that is packed with important information. The bill is designed and distributed by the IATA and is used in domestic and international shipping. The document itself is issued in eight sets of different colors, with the first three copies being the original.

  • The first original (green) is the issuing carrier’s copy.
  • The second (pink) is the consignee’s copy.
  • The third (blue) is the shipper’s copy.

The fourth copy is brown and functions as the receipt and proof of delivery. The other four copies are white.

The air waybill may come with an airline logo at the top right corner or it may be a neutral AWB. The two are essentially identical outside of the airline logo and prepopulated information for the airline.

Each air waybill must include the carrier’s name, office address, logo, and AWB number, which is an 11-digit number that can be used to make bookings and track the status and location of the shipment.

The top-left quadrant of an air waybill document will contain information for the shipper, consignee, agent, airport of departure, and airport of destination.

The top-right quadrant will contain the information for the airline – either in the form of printed and prepopulated text and logos or manually-entered information. The top-right section will also contain information about the declared value for carriage and declared value for customs.

The middle of the page will contain information on the contents of the shipment, including the number of pieces, gross weight, chargeable weight, total charge, and the nature and quantity of goods.

The bottom portion of the air waybill will contain additional charges and taxes, an area for the signature of the shipper or agent, and an area to enter the date, time, and place of execution.

 

Electronic Air Waybill

An electronic air waybill (e-air waybill or e-AWB) was introduced in 2010, and on January 1, 2019, it became the default contract of carriage for all air cargo shipments. Paper air waybill documents are still accepted, but IATA mostly uses the e-AWB nowadays. The electronic version requires and communicates the same information as the paper version.

The transportation of cargo requires a decent amount of paper for each shipment, which means that paper must be kept track of and sent around. Storing the documents electronically keeps things safe and organized and reduces the need for paper.

 

Air Waybill vs. Bill of Lading

The air waybill and bill of lading are similar, but they come with distinct differences. The two should not be in place of each other.

Both are important documents for international trade. They are legal documents between the shipper of the goods and the carrier, and the two documents provide details on the goods, how to handle them, and what destination they are headed to.

The main difference between the air waybill and bill of lading deals with the title to goods. A bill of lading is a document of title to goods. It is a receipt of the goods by the shipping company with an agreement to deliver the goods at the destination only to the party the bill of lading is consigned to.

On the other hand, an air waybill is a receipt of goods by a carrier or agent showing the place of delivery. The other differences are listed in the table below.

 

 Air WaybillBill of Lading
Title to GoodsNoYes
Negotiable?NoYes
Shipment TypeAir shipmentsSea shipments
When Document is IssuedAfter a completed shipment is receivedAfter consignment is shipped on a vessel

 

More Resources

CFI is the official provider of the Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program, designed to transform anyone into a world-class financial analyst.

To keep learning and developing your knowledge of financial analysis, we highly recommend the additional CFI resources below:

  • Logistics
  • Negotiable Bill of Lading
  • Consignment Sales
  • Source Documents

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