Air Waybill (AWB)

Updated on May 15, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAaron Crowe
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Meaning of Air Waybill (AWB)

Air Waybill (AWB) is a non-negotiable transportation document issued by an airline as evidence for the air freight shipment. It is an example of a standard document used for exporting goods and is significant to international trade.

The Air Waybill is also known as an air consignment note. It contains information about the consignment, like sender and consignee addresses, commodity details, currency conversion rates, and execution date. This information attributing to the contract of carriage is central to the completion of transporting the freight to the consignee.

Key Takeaways

  • An Air Waybill (AWB) is a legally enforceable air freight document, and it contains essential information about a consignment. 
  • It includes necessary information about the shipment, the concerned parties, conditions, rules, description of goods, etc. 
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) designed an airway bill standard form.
  • It serves different purposes. For example, it’s proof for the airline receiving the goods, a contract between sender and airline, helpful during insurance availing process, can be used for customs clearance, tracking shipment status, etc.

Airway Bill Explained

Air Waybill attributed to the consignment generally follows the structure designed by IATA. The one-page receipt contains relevant information for initiating ad completing the air freight shipment. For example, it comes with an 11-digit unique identification number used to track the status of the consignment. There will be eight copies of AWB for a single order to share with participating entities. The introduction of an electronic AWB eliminates the need for a paper AWB. As a result, there is no longer a need to print, manage, or preserve paper, greatly simplifying the air freight process. Paper AWBs are still accepted, but users commonly use e-AWB nowadays.

The exporter delivers the goods to the airline, which issues the Air Waybill when the export customs formalities are completed. Usually, the set of AWBs is tagged or sent with the cargo for various reasons, including instant identification during transit and import customs clearance at the destination airport. Once the shipment reaches its final destination, the importer or his cargo agent goes to the designated destination office of the airline and obtains the airway bill and other applicable documentation supplied by the exporter together with the cargo for import customs clearance processes and other requirements. The importer may also acquire documents from the shipper through courier or mail.

The air waybill will prove the contract’s completion, cargo acceptance, and transport conditions under the Montreal Convention. Furthermore, the carrier is generally accountable for any delays or damage experienced during goods transportation by air. However, suppose the carrier can demonstrate that the damage was caused by the entity requesting compensation or the entity from whom he derives his rights. In that case, the carrier will be released from liability entirely or partially.

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Sample Format of Airway Bill

Let us look into the sample air waybill format. Users can obtain it from the official sites of airline companies providing the service.

Air Waybill Format

Source: www.uslegalforms.com

The sample format shows that the AWB number and airline name will be in the top right corner. The top left corner has all the details of the shipper’s and consignee’s name, address, and account number followed by data like issuing carrier’s agents details, nature, and quantity of goods, declared value for carriage and customs, insurance amount, flight details, and handling information.

Uses of Air Waybill

The Air Waybill is relevant in the following ways:

  • Air Waybill acts as proof of air freight shipment 
  • AWB serves as a contract of carriage
  • Air waybill number helps entities in air waybill tracking by number that is to check the shipment status
  • It provides the contact information of the involved parties, like sender and receiver.
  • AWB can be attached to the freight bill since it contains payment details and will turn helpful during the accounting process
  • It is useful during the customs clearance since it includes payment and quantity details.
  • AWB can be used as a rule book for handling goods since it contains associated instructions

Is Air Waybill Same as Bill of Lading?

Airway Bill and Bill of lading (BoL) are transportation documents but associated with a different type of freight transportation. Let us look into the basic differences are listed below:

AWBBill of lading
Non-negotiable: Not a document of titleNegotiable: Document of title
Air shipment: Proof of receipt issued by the air carrierSea shipment: Proof of receipt issued by sea carrier
Issued on receipt of shipmentIssued after the consignment is shipped
Issued in 9 copiesIssued in 3 copies

AWB and Bill of Lading (BoL) are documents created by the cargo transporter when the client books cargo with them. The primary difference is that AWB is associated with air shipment, and BoL is associated with a sea shipment. In addition, since AWB is a non-negotiable document, it is not mandatory to submit it to receive the consignment. In contrast, BoL is a negotiable instrument and must submit while collecting the consignment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I get an Air Waybill?

The user can download the AWB document format from the official website of carrier companies. The introduction of an electronic AWB eliminates the need for a paper AWB. As a result, there is no longer a need to print, manage, or preserve paper, greatly simplifying the air freight process. After passing over the freight, the shipper gets an airway bill. The air carrier delivers the AWB of goods upon receiving the items after completing customs procedures.

What is Air Waybill for shipping?

It is the proof of receipt produced and shared with the parties involved in shipping the goods via airlines. The legally enforceable document forms a contract between the shipper and the airline.

Is Air Waybill the same as the tracking number?

AWB contains an identification number called an AWB number, an eleven-digit number, which helps track shipment. Hence, the AWB number is used as the tracking number.

This has been a guide to What is an Air Waybill (AWB) and its definition. Here we explain Airway bill along with the sample format & its uses. You may learn more about financing from the following articles –