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:
- Green: Carrier’s copy
- Blue: Shipper’s copy
- Pink: Receiver’s copy
- Yellow or Brown: Receipt of goods
- 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:
|First three digits
|Carrier / Airline prefix
|Next seven digits
|Serial number of AWB
|Check 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.
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 logo
|Does not have the carrier logo
|Issued by the actual carrier or their agent
|Issued by the freight forwarder
|States the terms and conditions of the carrier
|States the terms and conditions of the forwarding company
|Contains only one number: the MAWB number
|Contains two numbers: HAWB and MAWB
|Adheres to IATA rules or any of the international air conventions
|May 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 freight
|Used for ocean, road, and rail freight
|Can be negotiable or non-negotiable
|Signed by shipper and carrier
|Signed by shipper, carrier, and receiver
|Acts as a legal contract of carriage
|Acts as a title and receipt of delivered goods
|Not used with Incoterms: FAS, FOB, CIF, and CFR
|Can be used with all incoterms