Air Waybill

Air Waybill: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

Probably, you’d like to know the vital aspects of airway bill.

Let’s say – why you need it, how it looks, the importance or content, among other vital aspects.

That’s why this guide digs deeper into the ultimate questions frequently asked by the now professional in the field.

Your questions regarding Airwaybill are covered in this article.

What’s an Air Waybill?

Air waybill

Air waybill

An Air Waybill is a lawfully joining document or paper that gives information concerning shipped goods and gives information in detail on the:

  • Content of the shipment
  • Terms and conditions for the consignment
  • Recipient, and other information.

A carrier or agent issues an Air Waybill, and the International Air Transport Association(IATA) distributes it.

Qatar Air Cargo

Qatar air cargo

What does an Airway Bill look like?

Consider an Air Waybill, also called a dispatch note or a shipment note, as a consigner or sender’s receipt.

It plays or acts as proof of the carriage’s contract from one airport to the other with the involvement of three parties;

  • Airline
  • Sender
  • Recipient
  • Air waybill becomes an enforcement contract once the shipper and the Carrier sign it.

Below is how an air waybill looks like.

Make sure that when filling the document, you fill it out clearly and accurately.

Air way bill

Airway bill

How does an AirWaybillWork?

You’ve probably wondered how this legal document works!

What are some of its functions?

The functions of Air Waybill include:

  • Custom declaration
  • Contract information among all parties
  • Tracking of shipment
  • Freight bill
  • It describes goods being shipped
  • Contract of carriage between Carrier and shipper
  • Acts as a guide for delivering and handling goods
  • You can use it to track your shipment
  • Acts as evidence of goods by an airline

Is an AirWaybill a Bill of Lading?

Both documents share a lot in common.

However, an Air Waybill is different from a bill of lading.

In as much as the AWB (Air Waybill) and the BoL (Bill of Lading) share similarities, the two have distinct features that set them apart.

Bill of lading

Bill of lading

Both documents are essential when conducting international trade.

Please don’t confuse the two forms.

Having read about their functions as they are both legal documents between the Carrier and the shipper.

Which provides details on how to handle goods, details of the goods, and the destination they are headed to.

The main dissimilarity or difference between an Air Waybill and a BL is the Title to goods.

A BL or bill of lading acknowledges the shipment firm’s items with a treaty to distribute the properties at the endpoint or destination only to the party the Bill of Lading is delivered.

It’s a document of title to goods.

An AWB is a note of items by an agent or Carrier revealing the distribution location.

An AWB is a fixed instrument, while a BLisan unfixed instrument.

People use the bill of lading in sea shipment while an Air Waybill, just like the name suggests, is used air shipment.

When are these documents issued?

Air Waybill is issued after complete shipment is received, while a bill of lading is given after the consignment is shipped on a vessel.

The Air Waybill is given in a set of more than six copies, three original and the rest copies, whereas the BL is offered in six copies: half are original, and the other half are copies.

What’s the Use of an AWB (Air Waybill)?

AWB is a lawfully joining paper that acts as evidence of receipt of items or goods.

This proof usually comes from the issuing authority.

Who issues AWB?

Air carriers of goods will issue you with an Air Waybill on receipt of goods after completing the country’s export customs formalities.

Shippers only receive an AWB after delivering the goods to them.

Unlike a bill of lading, an individual will send an air waybill, and the goods since the goods arrive using air and transportation period is not as much as sea delivery.

This is done to immediately refer to transportation and trade-in duties clearance at the terminus point.

Who is Responsible for the Completion of the Air Waybill?

To qualify as a lawful contract or agreement, the Carrier or its legal agent and the shipper or agent must sign it.

Though similar organizations or individuals may act in place of the shipper and the Carrier, the air waybill must have more than one signature.

Of course each in the respective Carrier and transporter packages.

How do you Get an Air Waybill?

You can get an Air Waybill through issuers such as a transporter or the representative representing the transporter.

The AWB has details such as the supplier’s details, recipient and shipment contents, terms and conditions under which the exchange or trade happens, and other vital information.

What’s an AWB Number?

An AWB number involves an 11-digit number used to track your shipment on its journey.

The eleven-digit number can be used to check the delivery status, current position of the shipment, and make bookings.

The eleven-digit numbers consist of:

  • The airline prefix. They are usually the first three digits.

Every Airline has a three-digit number, but the International Air Transport Association makes it easy for you to identify which Airline has been given your document.

  • The subsequent 7 digits are called the running numeral (s), which each stands for every shipment.
  • Check digit: the name for the final number.

How do you get the Air WaybillNumber?

You can get an Air Waybill number on your cargo document or any message sent by the agents you have used to ship your goods.

In any case, an individual has none of these; he or she can contact or communicate with the delivery firm and request them for the Airway Bill digit of one’s consignment.

You will have to answer some questions and provide them with your shipment’s information to be given the AWB number on request.

What are the Different Types of Airway Bill?

There are two types of Air Waybill:

Neutral Airway Bill

Neutral Air Waybill (NAWB), is also known as a shipment note.

It is an acknowledgment which an International Airline for goods issues and acts as proof of the carriage agreement but not a paper to the goods’ name.

It is the most crucial document you’ll use as a transporter, either directly or via a legal representative.

It is a fixed paper that includes the transit of goods from one airport to another.

Airline Specific Airway Bill

This’s an official paper that goes with goods that an International Courier ships to permit tracking.

It is a legal document enforceable by law that serves as an acknowledgment of cargo by an Airline and a carriage agreement between transporter and a shipper.

What areAir Waybill’s Format and Features?

There are a total of eight copies of an air waybill, each with its color codes and uses.

The 1st 3 copies are called original bills, and the others are known as copies.

The 1stthree are original:

  • The 1st original (Green) the issuing transporter’s duplicate
  • The 2nd (Pink) the copy of the consignee
  • The 3rd (Blue) the duplicate or copy of the shipper

Air Waybill Tracking Number

EachAir Waybill which a carrier issues have a distinct eleven-digit Air Waybill number.

This digit aids you follow the packs and maintains a tab on all the advances along with the several trading ways.

The shipping firm will only recognize your shipment by its Airway Bill digit once issued.

Is AWB the same as the Tracking Number?


AWB is commonly known as your tracking number.

It contains barcoding and a 12-digit number, and all the package information used to track your shipment on its journey.

How do you Track an Airway Bill Number?

This is how it works:

  • Air Cargo usually come in the format of a prefix and number (For example, 333-24343573)
  • The first three digits indicate the Airline to allocate the shipment. It is used to send a request to the correct Airline automatically.
  • On the status of the consignment tracking, click “Track.” Then click “To Airline,” and you’ll be taken to the corresponding freight airline website.

What is a Master Airway Bill?

A Master AWBdocument is the primary transporter or shipping firm signs and issues when they receive freight forwarders’ goods.

This document contains the cargo’s details to be transported, the cargo’s content, and routes, among others.

How can you Check a MasterAirway Bill?

This is how it works:

  • Air Cargo usually come in the format of a prefix and number (For example, 333-24343573)
  • The first three digits indicate the Airline to allocate the shipment. It is used to send a request to the correct Airline automatically.
  • On the status of the consignment tracking, click “Track.” Then click “To Airline,” and you’ll be taken to the corresponding freight airline website.

Is an Airway Bill Negotiable?

An Air Waybill is a non-negotiable instrument.

Therefore, they do not transfer the ownership of goods from one party to another—instead, they act as proof for receipt.

Why is an Airway Bill Non-negotiable?

Unlike BLS, they don’t hand over the cargo’s ownership and are just the receipt’s proof.

What’s House AWB?

Airway bill sample

Air waybill sample

House Airway bill is a document that a freight forwarder issues to a shipper.

This is after getting a delivery to verify that the forwarder ships the shipper’s cargo to an agreed labeled or named place.

The shipping procedure begins from the transporter to the forwarding agent.

Besides, the forwarder then delivers the Carrier’s cargos.

The forwarder issues the HAWN on the receipt of the goods from the shipper.

What’s the Dissimilarity between House Airway Bill and Master AWB?

A House AWBis a paper that a forwarder issues on receipt of cargos from a transporter deciding or agreeing to ship items at a given location.

Master AWB is a document in which the primary transporter of goods issues on receipt of cargos from a forwarder to transport according to the Contract or Agreement.

Can you Check Air Cargo Status using an Airway Bill Number?

To check your cargo status, you will need to visit the airline’s air cargo tracking site and obtain the AWB number for your shipment.

Insert the number, then click “Track” to check your air cargo status.

Qatar Air cargo tracking

Qatar Air Cargo Tracking

What is an Original paper, Air Waybill?

It is a 1-page document that has important details which the International Air Transport Association designs and distributes.

It is used in local and foreign shipping.

The form comes in more than six sets of colors, with the 1st-3 three being original:

  • 1st original (Green) the issuing transporter’s duplicate
  • 2nd (Pink) the copy of the consignee
  • 3rd (Blue) the copy of the shipper

What is the Significance of Original Paper, Air Waybill?

The following are the uses of the original AWB copy;

  • For accounting Carrier’s purposes
  • It can facilitate declarations
  • It can be a certificate of insurance

How do you Fill Out an AWB?

It’s also called the shipment note and provides critical information about the shipping from the Carrier.

You can use AWB to track your shipment.

It is a joining document between you and the Carrier and needs clarity and accuracy when filling out the form.

Whichever way you choose to go, either typing or handwriting, make sure your words are easy to read and legible on all copies to enable your Carrier to conduct a smooth delivery.

Start with the necessary information such as date, phone number, company’s name, tax ID, among others.

You can add your receiver’s details on the AWB document.

However, it is crucial to note that if your country accepts post address.

If it is an international shipment, it is important to include; general description, Hs code, value, and declare if your dangerous shipping goods.

Make sure you fill out the delivery services. Select among the options provided in the AWB.

Filling in the bill sections depends on who is paying the carrier freight charges.

Add your account number if you are handling the shipment.

Otherwise, add the receiver’s account, and he or she will be responsible or accountable for the shipping cost when the goods arrive.

You must consult the receiver on this to avoid any inconveniences.

Finally, a company representative must sign the AWB to authenticate it.

Is Air Waybill a Document of Title?

Air Waybill is the document given by the air carrier on receiving your goods. It’s not a title’s document.

Nevertheless, one can set it in a way as to take it as a documentary title.

After preparation of AWB to treat as a document of title, it can be treated as a document of title, and you can use it to transfer goods from one person to another.

It can also be used under DP terms of payment after making it as a document of Title.

However, you should note that an Air Waybill cannot be used as a document of the Title without going through the special process.

Is there an e-AWB (Electronic-Air Waybill)?


Electronic AWB, e-AWB, or e-Air Waybill is a kind of paper AWB that includes the carriage agreement between the transporter and the forwarder.

It came into existence in 2010, and it became the normal carriage contract for every air goods shipment in January 2019.

What are the Benefits of e-AWB?

“e-AWB” is the term that the International Air Transport Association uses to describe or explain the switch of EDI (electric data messages) to replace a paper AWB.

This is when it comes to terminating the carriage’s agreement or contract.

Benefits of employing an electronic Air Waybillare:

Improves accuracy: With the electronic Air Waybill, information comes from the freight forwarder, ensuring the data is right and updated.

It also allows representatives to make final moments alterations to the information presented before the goods arrive at the base.

Increase productivity: Electronic Air Waybill reduces or eliminates data redundancy or redundant data entry.

It also benefits all the parties big time.

This is because it eliminates waiting time since the parties involved can have the right information faster and move goods according to the schedule.

Quicker communication and processing: It quickens the clearance procedure at duties or customs, permitting transporters and freight forwarders to send and get related data ahead of the goods’ arrival.

Electronic Air Waybill can lessen the entire cycle period by up to twenty-four hours.

Reduce costs: By reducing document processing, storage cost, document transference:

  • To and from the freight forwarder to the Airline
  • From a storage warehouse to flight

So basically, an electronic Air Waybill cuts all the costs involved.

How does an Electronic Airway Billrelate to Paper Airway Bill?

IATA used paper Air Waybill before the introduction of e-AWB in 2010.

Though paper Air Waybill is still in use, IATA, in most cases, uses the e-AWB nowadays.

Both paper Air Waybill and the electric version communicate the same information.

The big difference is that the electric air waybill is in softcopy while the paper air waybill is hard.

How does Electronic Airway Bill Function?

There’re two choices or options to include the electronic Air Waybill procedure into daily freight operations:

The first one is DCRD (Deferred Cargo Receipt Delivery) Option:

Step 1: The shippers and transporters have to sign an electronic Air Waybill contract prior to applying the electronic Air Waybill.

It’s advocated for this procedure to be done at the commercial HQS level.

This is to facilitate the administrative problem of having several electronic Air Waybill agreements locally.

Step 2: Mover relays FWB electronic information to transporter preceding presenting the consignment

Step 3:Moveroffers the consignment to transporter coming before the flight exit

Step 4:The transporter agrees to take the consignment as “Freight on Hand.”

Step 5:The transporter gives the mover a “Warehouse Receipt.”

For this option’s purposes, the Warehouse Receipt will be considered an acting cargo acknowledgment or receipt.

Which the parties will use until the Carrier can give the EDI based “Cargo Receipt” described in the following step (Step 6).

Step 4: Carrier agrees to consignment in their organization or system as “Ready for Carriage.”

Step 5: The transporter promptly sends FSU/RCS electronic information to the mover, ending the Cargo Contract

Step 6: The transporter or Carrier makes the Cargo Receipt, the paper evidence of an agreement, available upon the shipper’s request.

Immediate Cargo Receipt Delivery’ Option is the Second Choice:

Step 1: Both participants have to sign an electronic Air Waybill Contract before applying the electronic Air Waybill.

This should occur once at a Commercial Level to avoid several electronic Air Waybill Contracts produced nearby)

Step 2:Mover sends FWB electronic information to the transporter or Carrier preceding offering the consignment

Step 3: Shipper or mover offers the consignment to the Carrier preceding flight exit

Step 4: Carrier agrees to the consignment in their organization as “Ready for Carriage.”

Step 5: Carrier promptly sends FSU/RCS electronic information to the mover or shipper, ending the Cargo Agreement (Look at Section 25)

Step 6:The transporter gives the shipper a paper document as the contract’s proof.

What is the Relationship between ElectronicAirway Bill and Electronic Freight?

International convention and local law permit, Airlines, and forwarders are free to apply the electronic Air Waybill outside of electronic freight.

For example, every freight forwarder with all allowable trade paths (even though it’s not yet an International Air Transport Association e-freight trade path).

This is also in situations where the freight forwarder is not yet participating in the International Air Transport Association e-freight)

The IATA e-cargo has the power to replacement of the paper air waybill.

Nevertheless, until currently, and owing to the lack of an e-AWB standard, the International Air Transport Association e-freight got applied with the paper AWB.

Getting transferred between the transporter and the mover at origin as the contract’s evidence.

The paper AWB got sent in an electronic form from the source to the last stop, not moved with the consignment but produced upon request or demand.

With the new electronic Air Waybill Agreement, full removal of paper AWB is possible for International Air Transport Association e-freight consignments.

For the remainder of 2011 and 2010, the electronic Air Waybill application is non-compulsory for e-freight members.

At the start of 2012, the electronic Air Waybill will be compulsory for all e-freight consignments on the International Air Transport Association e-freight trade paths.

Can you Print your Air Waybill?

Yes. Some agents require sellers to print their air waybill (AWB) to improve their order’s fulfillment process.

This enhances flexibility on the sellers’ side since they don’t have to rely on the couriers’ timing.

To streamline and speed up the order fulfillment process, some companies like Shopee will require sellers to print their Airwaybill (AWB).

Sellers can now print their air waybills bearing the order details from the site.

The new feature will enable you to download all air waybills of your booked orders as a seller in the correct, ready-to-print A6 format accepted by partners of Shopee.

Should you Print a Paper AWB at the Period of Freight Acceptance as the Contract’s Proof?

The idea is a paperless AWB for the shipment’s full life cycle.

Point to take into consideration: If a member decides to use the form of an Air Waybill as a Warehouse Receipt, any reference or mentions to the contract’s condition shall be overlooked and thought as null and invalid.

To avoid confusion, when using the paper AWB that the form should have a clear or transparent suggestion on its appearance that it’s a “Warehouse Receipt” only.

Where can you Implement ElectronicAir Waybill?

Business operations change with technology change.

The electronic air waybill, is introduced for the traditional paper documents used for air shipments in dangerous goods.

With a few exclusions which International Air Transport Association has endorsed, the electronic Air Waybill should only be applicable on trade lanes.

Or paths where the source and the endpoint nations have endorsed a similar.

The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) altered the Warsaw Convention.

These agreements give a secure legal foundation and adequate information for electronic Air Waybill and electronic freight.

Native DutiesAuthority has to either agree or accept a printout of the electronic air waybill or electronic air waybill itself.

The airline industry is looking forward to replacing the use of paper entirely.

Given Which Conditions can your Consignmentbe Treated as Electronic Air Waybill?

Your consignment can be treated as an electronic Air Waybill.

This is when goods being shipped are dangerous goods or on an Agreement between the forwarder and the Carrier, and the receiver.

Can you ship special cargo using e-AWB?

Yes, you can do e-AWB for special cargo so long as you provide all the necessary documents.

House airway bill

House airway bill

Can e-AWB be used in countries where e-signature is not authorized?

Yes. The law for the multilateral e-AWB Agreement is a Swiss law.

This law provides the same legal validity for e-signature as for handwritten signatures.

The Agreement can be executed using an e-signature regardless of the location of the freight forwarder.

How do I find My Air Waybill Number?

To track your shipment, put the 3-digit airline code together with the 8-digit AWB number (For instance, 02673585415) for each consignment you would like to trace.

After inserting numbers, click the trace key to begin your search.

Do one need to Inform your Local Customs when Implementing the e-AWB?

The source and destination nations are live with International Air Transport Association e-freight.

Therefore, you do not have to reach out to your native duties authority to notify them of your intents.

In the case that they are non-electronic freight nations, the legal surrounding of the origin and endpoint nations contents the minimum or least legal needs of the electronic Air Waybill:

  • Have approved the same international treaty
  • Native Duties Authority should or have to be willing to accept e-AWB

International Air Transport Association endorses that the Airlines notify the local duties authority at the coming electronic Air Waybill application’s origin and endpoint.

Can you Implement an Electronic Air Waybill If you are Freight Forwarder with Limited Technology?

Yes. As long as one has the chance or opportunity to access an online web portal and have an airline enterprise partner that:

  • Agree to AWB terms and conditions
  • Key inAWB data.
  • Display and store the consignment record data
  • View and produce a Cargo Receipt

As you can see, Airway Bill is an important document in air freight.

At BanSar, we will handle all the vital documentation for you.

Contact us todayfor all your freight forwarding needs from China.

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