Freight 101 Library

Air Waybill (AWB): Meaning, Number, Types, and Examples

Shipping air freight? You’ll need an air waybill (AWB). Keep reading to learn what an AWB is, what information it includes, how to get one, and more.

Dylan Sommer

What is an air waybill (AWB)?

An air waybill, also called an air consignment note, is a required shipping document for air freight. It contains detailed information about your shipment and allows it to be tracked.

An AWB is a legally binding document when signed by all relevant parties.

Here is some of the information found in an AWB:

  • Carrier details
  • Consignor/shipper details
  • Consignee/receiver details
  • Origin airport code
  • Destination airport code
  • Quantity of items (number of packages or pallets)
  • Description of goods (weight, dimensions, condition)
  • HS code
  • Value of goods for customs clearance
  • Special handling instruction, if required
  • Payment information and shipping charges
  • Insurance details
  • Contract terms and conditions
  • Date, time, and place of contract execution
  • An 11-digit number

What is an air waybill used for?

Used for both domestic and international air freight forwarding, the AWB serves a number of functions:

  • Invoice or bill of freight
  • Contract between carrier and shipper
  • Proof of receipt by the carrier
  • Certificate of insurance for air freight
  • Essential document for customs declaration
  • Instrument to convey handling instructions

How can you get an air waybill?

For air shipments, the carrier and freight forwarders provide the air waybills. If you are an importer or exporter, your freight forwarder will share the air waybill with you.

Every international air waybill is issued in at least eight sets of different colors:

  1. Green: Carrier’s copy
  2. Blue: Shipper’s copy
  3. Pink: Receiver’s copy
  4. Yellow or Brown: Receipt of goods
  5. White: 4 or more copies for various purposes, such as customs and airport

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What is an air waybill number?

An air waybill number (AWB number) is a unique identification code used to track your shipment. It is an 11-digit number divided into three parts. Here’s an air waybill example:

AWB NUMBER11-digits99953729071
First three digitsCarrier / Airline prefix999
Next seven digitsSerial number of AWB5372907
Last digitCheck digit. This number is equal to the remainder when the 7-digit serial number is divided by 7. For example, when 5372907 is divided by 7, the remainder is 1.1

What are the different types of air waybills?

There are two types of air waybills: master air waybill (MAWB) and house air waybill (HAWB).

A MAWB is issued by a carrier to a freight forwarder. It can include a number of different shipments because when freight forwarders book freight with a carrier, they consolidate shipments and book them together. The MAWB is the forwarder’s contract with the carrier for all of those shipments.

A HAWB is issued by the freight forwarder to each individual importer or exporter after their shipment is picked up. It includes only their specific goods.

Here are some more details about these different types of air waybills:

Master Air Waybill (MAWB)House Air Waybill (HAWB)
Has the airline or carrier’s logoDoes not have the carrier logo
Issued by the actual carrier or their agentIssued by the freight forwarder
States the terms and conditions of the carrierStates the terms and conditions of the forwarding company
Contains only one number: the MAWB numberContains two numbers: HAWB and MAWB
Adheres to IATA rules or any of the international air conventionsMay or may not be subject to regulations put forth by IATA or other international air conventions

Air waybill vs bill of lading

An air waybill is similar to a bill of lading (BoL): both are contracts issued by freight carriers. However, air waybills are used only for air freight and bills of lading are used for ocean freight as well as rail and other freight.

Here are some more differences between an air waybill and bill of lading:

Air Waybill (AWB)Bill of Lading (BoL)
Used for air freightUsed for ocean, road, and rail freight
Non-negotiableCan be negotiable or non-negotiable
Signed by shipper and carrierSigned by shipper, carrier, and receiver
Acts as a legal contract of carriageActs as a title and receipt of delivered goods
Not used with Incoterms: FAS, FOB, CIF, and CFRCan be used with all incoterms

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