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Air waybills are essential freight forwarding documents when you transport cargo via air. They have several uses and can even be used for customs clearance processes.
But what exactly are they?
An air waybill (AWB) is an essential, legally binding document used to transport goods internationally via air. It provides in-depth information about the shipment and allows for seamless cargo tracking.
The AWB has several copies, one for each party involved in the shipment. This bill is also called an air consignment note and is a type of bill of lading.
Although the air consignment note acts similarly to ocean bills of lading, it’s non-negotiable and provides less protection than bills of lading (more on this later).
There are two types of air waybills: Airline-specific AWB and neutral AWB.
But wait, there’s also an electronic airway bill…
Let’s look into it.
Air waybills can now be generated and completed electronically. This is called an electronic airway bill (e-air waybill or eAWB). The electronic version communicates the same information as the paper AWBs.
But here’s the thing:
eAWBs have become the default contract of carriage for all air cargo shipments. Paper air waybill documents are still accepted, but the IATA and everyone else prefer eAWBs in most cases.
The air waybill has many functions as a required document for air freight.
Its functions include:
Once the shipper delivers goods, you'll get a receipt as proof that the delivery was successful and in good condition. It also implies that the shipping instructions (as stated in the Shipper's Letter of Instructions) are acceptable.
After delivery, the shipper receives the air waybill original copy as proof that the goods were accepted and as evidence of the contract of carriage.
It contains the contact information of all parties involved, like the consignor and consignee.
Every original AWB has conditions of contract for the carriage documents.
For example, the conditions should:
The AWB also highlights the charges involved in the airfreight shipment process.
It can act as a bill or invoice when accompanied by other required documents like the commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of origin, etc. The original air waybill can also be used for the carrier's accounting.
Although customs authorities require various shipping documents when you conduct international trade. When you present the air waybill for customs clearance, it is evidence of the declared shipment value.
It includes the item description, quantity, weight, dimensions, and materials used in items and packaging.
The AWB can be a guide for handling goods since it contains the relevant handler instructions.
AWB contains the AWB number, which you can use to track the shipment. Aside from providing a tracking number, it includes serial numbers and barcodes to identify the load electronically.
Now that you know what the AWB can be used for, let’s discuss the layout of an air waybill.
Each airline AWB must show the following:
In the top-left quadrant of your air waybill document, you’ll see detailed information on the shipper, consignee, agent, departure airport, and airport of destination.
The top-right section of the AWB will convey information for the airline. It’ll either be in the form of printed text and logos or manually-entered information. It’ll also contain customs information and the declared value for carriage.
The document's middle will contain information on the shipment contents, number of items, total charge, gross weight, chargeable weight, and nature and quantity of the goods.
At the bottom of the air waybill, you’ll find the additional charges and taxes, a place for the shipper or agent to sign, and a section to enter the time, date, and location of execution.
Next, let’s explore how to get an AWB.
As a customer, you’d typically get an AWB from the company you choose to handle your shipment. They’ll have a template for you to complete.
But since eAWBs are the default contract of carriage now, this is how logistics companies can implement electronic air waybills:
Still have a few doubts?
Let’s discuss some FAQs about the airway bill and other related content.
AWBs are unlike other bills of lading because they’re non-negotiable documents. Since it’s non-negotiable, the AWB is a contract for transportation and doesn’t cover the value of the merchandise.
What does this mean?
It doesn’t specify what flight the air freight shipment will be on or when it'll reach its destination. It just accompanies the goods, and only authorized agents of the carrier, shipper, or receiver can sign it.
What about bills of lading?
This is a legal document (also called a document of title) between the shipper of goods and the ocean freight carrier. It details the type, quantity, and destination airport of the goods. They also act as proof of receipt of the sea shipment when the goods are delivered.
There are two types of AWBs, the Master Air Waybill and the House Air Waybill.
This is an air shipment transport document. They’re issued and signed by a freight forwarder, which is evidence of the freight forwarder’s terms and conditions for the carriage of goods.
The main features of a house airway bill:
The air cargo carrier or agent issues and signs this air shipment transport document. It’s evidence of the terms and conditions of transporting goods over the carrier's routes. You can also refer to them as airline air waybills with pre-printed issuing carrier identification.
The main features of a master airway bill:
Luckily, using airfreight forwarding software can help you handle eAWBs.
With an efficient software provider like Shipthis, you can:
Want a freight forwarding platform that does it all?
Check out Shipthis’s eAWB feature today!
Air waybills are essential to freight forwarding since they consolidate all the important information for transporting via air freight. Although there are software solutions that make the generation and completion of eAWBs effortless, it’s still vital that you know what they should contain.
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