Air WayBill Documents

Air waybill / AWB is issued 1-3 days before shipment is in US port:

  1. Export freight forwarder (EFF) = issuer bill of lading (BL) = pre-arranged before leaving foreign port, to warehouse / port / issuer of (AN) ( AWB ) and etc.
  2. Import freight forwarder (IFF) = issuer of air waybill / AWB (5-7 days before cargo is in US): overseer of cargo to CFS warehouse / port.

What is an Air WayBill?

An air waybill (AWB), which provides comprehensive information about the shipment and enables tracking, is a document that is shipped with goods by an international air courier. Multiple copies of the bill are provided so that the shipment can be documented by all parties. A particular kind of bill of lading is an air waybill (AWB), often called an air consignment note. However, whereas an ocean bill of lading is negotiable, an AWB is not. Both documents perform the same function. This implies that compared to a bill of lading, an AWB provides less protection.

Fyi, in an perfect world, consignee will be receiving (but less than 1% is perfect world)


Two Bill of Lading (BL) : before vessel leaving foreign port (draft bl) and after vessel leaves foreign port (commercial bl)


Two Invoice : before vessel leaving foreign port (proforma/draft Invoice ) and after vessel leaves foreign port (commercial Invoice )


Two arrival notice: pre air way bill / AWB , 7 days before vessel is in us port and after/before vessel in us warehouse/port, final air way bill / AWB .

Below are examples of Air Waybill

Page 1. Example of air-way-bill / AWB for airline  |  Page 2, 3 and 4 split shipment.

  1. If air shipment directly with airline, they will be issuing air-way-bill / AWB (99%).
  2. But, if export freight forwarder has issued Bill of Lading , your import freight forwarder will be issuing airline air-way-bill / AWB and arrival notice. .
  3. Split ship is charge double, also clearing time will take triple or quadruple of the time normal shipment.
  4. (example/look below #1, 2 and 3: out of 125 boxes, only 93 got on airline 10 29 2015, other 32 was 2 days later 10 31 2015)


On most of Bill of Lading , notify party is known as: customs broker, customs agent, ISF and entry filer with domestic trucker. On most of Bill of Lading , issuer of arrival notice is known as: (also, after these text, below there are 12 different Bill of Lading as examples) shipper agent, for delivery of goods please contact, forwarding agent, domestic routing/export instructions, for release of shipment please contact, delivery agent, for delivery please apply to, document presentation, cargo releasing agent, for arrival info and release of cargo contact.

Fyi, other bill: clean bill of lading, claused bill of lading (aka "dirty bill of lading" or "foul bill of lading. "). Uniform bill of lading, bill of lading, bill of sale, ocean bill of lading, inland bill of lading, through bill of lading, stale bill of lading, negotiable bills of lading, functions of bill of lading, carrier on bill of lading, lash bill of lading, switch bill of lading, proforma bill of lading (normally given before leaving), onboard bill of lading (normally given after cargo has left) what, how, when and why bill of lading is use.

Let your supplier(s) do Telex Release / surrender / Express Release (this will saves time, monies and headache), but if you do received a Original Bill of Lading ( OBL ) from your shipper/factory/supplier, "sign / date the OBL (any place on OBL )" and keep two copy for yourself and fed-ex/ups other to "issuer of arrival notice = agent of BL" usually, if you received OBL , if you made only partial payment and etc against your shipment to your shipper/factory/supplier, before the shipping. ( OBL = title to your cargo)

If exam is issued by US customs/government agencies, such as intensive examination notice (stop sign), ibet-exam, A-TCET -exam, USDA -exam or any other exam and if your Bill of Lading (BL) / arrival notice (an) is required original- Bill of Lading ( OBL ), your ""freight forwarder (issuer of arrival notice = agent of Bill of Lading (BL) "" must received your ""sign/date OBL (any place on OBL )"" from you, before your shipment/container could be moved to exam site, until then, you maybe paying storage fees/demurrage fees and other fees. With or with-out exam, your ""freight forwarder (issuer of arrival notice = agent of Bill of Lading (BL) "" must receive ""sign/date the OBL (any place on OBL )"" to freight-release your shipment to you, OBL is consignee/importer responsibility only. ( OBL = title)


All shipment are bound to incoterms (pre-arranged to US port/ CFS , before leaving foreign port). To understand why/who importer must pay, before/ after/ during shipping, you must review incoterms/icc/uncitral and contact issuer of bl / arrival notice. Customs broker is messenger between US customs and you, only.

Importance of Air Waybill?

The air waybill ( AWB ) is the most important document issued by a carrier either directly or through its authorized agent. It is a non-negotiable transport document. It covers transport of cargo from airport to airport. By accepting a shipment an IATA cargo agent is acting on behalf of the carrier whose air waybill is issued.

Airway Bill Number

Air Waybill's have eleven digit numbers which can be used to make bookings, check the status of delivery, and current position of the shipment. The number consists of:

  1. The first three digits are the airline prefix. Each airline has been assigned a 3-digit number by IATA , so from the prefix we know which airline has issued the document.
  2. The next seven digits are the running number/s - one number for each consignment
  3. The last digit is what is called the check digit. It is arrived at in the following manner:

The seven digit running numbers are divided by 7, by using a long division calculation. The remainder becomes the check digit. That is why no AWB number ends with a figure greater than 6. Air waybills are issued in sets of different colours. The first three copies are classified as originals. The first original, blue in colour, is the shipper’s copy. The second, coloured blue, is retained by the issuing carrier. The third, coloured orange, is the consignee’s copy. A yellow copy acts as the delivery receipt, or proof of delivery*. The other copies are all white.

There are several purposes that an air waybill serves, but its main functions are: contract of carriage. Behind every original of the AWB are conditions of contract for carriage evidence of receipt of goods

When the shipper delivers goods to be forwarded, he will get a receipt. The receipt is proof that the shipment was handed over in good order and condition and also that the shipping instructions, as contained in the shipper's letter of instructions, are acceptable. After completion, an original copy of the air waybill is given to the shipper as evidence of the acceptance of goods and as proof of contract of carriage freight bill

The air waybill may be used as a bill or Invoice together with supporting documents since it may indicate charges to be paid by the consignee, charges due to the agent or the carrier. An original copy of the air waybill is used for the carrier's accounting certificate of insurance

The air waybill may also serve as an evidence if the carrier is in a position to insure the shipment and is requested to do so by the shipper customs declaration

Although customs authorities require various documents like a commercial Invoice , packing list, etc. The air waybill too is proof of the freight amount billed for the goods carried and may be needed to be presented for customs clearance the format of the air waybill has been designed by IATA and these can be used for both domestic as well as international transportation. These are available in two forms, viz. The airline logo equipped air waybill and the neutral air waybill. Usually, airline air waybills are distributed to IATA cargo agents by IATA airlines. The air waybills show:

  • the carrier's name
  • its head office address
  • its logo
  • the pre printed eleven digit air waybill number

Types of Airway Bill

There are two types of AWBs: an airline-specific one and a neutral one.

It is also possible to complete an air waybill through a computerized system. Agents all over the world are now using their own in-house computer systems to issue airlines' and freight forwarders' own air waybills. IATA cargo agents usually hold air waybills of several carriers. However, it gradually became difficult to accommodate these pre- numbered air waybills with the printed identification in the computer system. Therefore a neutral air waybill was created. Both types of air waybills have the same format and layout. However, the neutral air waybill does not bear any pre-printed individual name, head office address, logo and serial number.


The validity of the air waybill

We have seen earlier that the air waybill is a contract i. E. An agreement enforceable by law. To become a valid contract it has to be signed by the shipper or his agent and by the carrier or its authorized agent. Although the same individual or organization may act on behalf of both the carrier and the shipper, the air waybill must be signed twice one each in the respective carrier and shipper boxes. Both signatures may be of the same person. This also implies that the air waybill should be issued immediately upon receipt of the goods and letter in instructions from the shipper. As long as the air waybill is neither dated nor signed twice, the goods do not fall within the terms of the conditions of contract and therefore the carrier will not accept any responsibility for the goods. The validity of the air waybill and thus the contract of carriage expires upon delivery of the shipment to the consignee (or his authorized agent).


Responsibility for completion

The AWB as we have seen is a contract - an agreement between the shipper and the carrier. The agent only acts as an intermediary between the shipper and carrier. The air waybill is also a contract of good faith. This means that the shipper will be responsible for the hall also be liable for all the damage suffered by the airline or any person due to irregularity, incorrectness or incompleteness of insertions on the air waybill, even if the air waybill has been completed by an agent or the carrier on his behalf. When the shipper signs the AWB or issues the letter of instructions he simultaneously confirms his agreement to the conditions of contract.


Definition of the term not negotiable

Waybills are non-negotiable documents unlike bills of lading which are negotiable. The words non-negotiable are printed clearly at the top of the air waybill. This means that the air waybill is a contract for transportation only and does not represent (the value of) merchandise mentioned in the box nature and quantity of goods. The ocean bill of lading, if negotiated may represent (the value of) the goods and must be endorsed by the party ultimately accepting the goods. Although the AWB is a non-negotiable document, it can be used as a means of payment. This can be done only through the intermediary of a bank and only when the carriage is subject to a letter of credit. The air waybill executed according to the terms of a letter of credit allows the shipper to present the original of the air waybill to the bank and collect the billed value of the shipped goods from the bank. The amount paid by the bank to the shipper will be debited to the consignee who ordered the goods. At the destination the carrier will only hand over the goods to the consignee on receipt of a bank release order from the consignee's bankers.

The goods in the air consignment are consigned directly to the party (the consignee) named in the letter of credit (l/c). Unless the goods are consigned to a third party like the issuing bank, the importer can obtain the goods from the carrier at destination without paying the issuing bank or the consignor. Therefore, unless a cash payment has been received by the exporter or the buyer's integrity is unquestionable, consigning goods directly to the importer is risky.

For air consignment to certain destinations, it is possible to arrange payment on a cod (cash on delivery) basis and consign the goods directly to the importer. The goods are released to the importer only after the importer makes the payment and complies with the instructions in the AWB . In air freight, the exporter (the consignor) often engages a freight forwarder or consolidator to handle the forwarding of goods. The consignor provides a shipper's letter of instructions which authorizes the forwarding agent to sign certain documents (e. G. The AWB ) on behalf of the consignor.

The AWB must indicate that the goods have been accepted for carriage, and it must be signed or authenticated by the carrier or the named agent for or on behalf of the carrier. The signature or authentication of the carrier must be identified as carrier, and in the case of agent signing or authenticating, the name and the capacity of the carrier on whose behalf the agent signs or authenticates must be indicated.

International AWB s that contain consolidated cargo are called master air waybills (m AWB ). M AWB s have additional papers called house air waybills (h AWB ). Each h AWB contains information of each individual shipment (consignee, contents, etc. ) within the consolidation. International AWB s that are not consolidated (only one shipment in one bill) are called simple AWB s. A house air waybill can also be created by a freight forwarder. When the shipment is booked, the airline issues a m AWB to the forwarder, who in turn issues their own house air waybill to the customer.

House and master AWB s and bls a freight forwarder offering a consolidation service, will issue its own air waybill or bill of lading. From now on AWB will be used to refer to both. This is called a forwarder's or house AWB with its equivalent house bl. These act as contracts of carriage between the shipper and the forwarder, who in this case becomes a deemed carrier. The forwarder in turn enters into contracts with one or more carriers, often using more than one mode of transportation. The contract of carriage between the forwarder and carrier is called a master air way bill ( m AWB or mbl). A house air waybill (h AWB ) or bill of lading (hbl) could act as a multimodal transport document.

Airway Bill vs Bill of Lading

However, an airway bill is not a title document like a bill of lading. However, an airway bill can be made in such a way that it functions as both a title document and a negotiable document.


After all necessary export customs paperwork has been filed in a country, the shipping company will issue an airway bill upon receipt of the goods. After handing over cargo, the shipper is issued an airway bill. Since the transit time for air shipment is much shorter than that of sea shipment, the importer will need a copy of the airway bill to clear import customs at the destination port. Cargo transfer manifest (CTM) issued by IATA agent along with airway bill and other required documents for transportation submitted to air carriers once customs formalities at load port customs location completed. Five copies of the original airway bill are printed, one each for the carrier, importer, shipper, and any additional recipients. When a shipment arrives at its final destination, the importer or his cargo agent will go to the airline's destination office to pick up the airway bill and any other documents the shipper was required to include with the shipment for use in completing import customs clearance and other administrative tasks. In addition to physically picking up the paperwork from the shipper, the importer can request copies to be sent to them via courier or regular mail.

How to know the Air waybill Number?

  • The AWB number has 11 digits and 3 parts.
  • The first 3 digits are the Airline Prefix
  • The next 7 digits is the Serial Number of the AWB
  • The last digit is the Check digit The check digit is derived by dividing the 7 digit Serial Number by 7. The remainder determines the Check Digit. Example: Serial Number
    8114074 divided by 7 is 1159153 remainder 3. Therefore the Serial Number + Check Digit is 81140743

Air Waybill Tracking

The three-digit airline code and eight-digit air waybill number are used for most air waybill tracking (example: 001 87654321). To track your cargo via air waybill, you can either use the airline's website (if available) or our compiled links and glossary (if you want to select a specific airline after tracking).

Air Waybill Fedex

The 12 digit number used to trace your item as it travels is found on the Air Waybill, which is also known as your FedEx shipping label or tracking number. It includes all of the package's information as well as its barcoding.

AirWay Bill Examples

1. Air Way Bill / AWB:
Page 2, 3 & 4 Split shipment, a. If Air shipment Directly with Airline, they will be issuing Air Waybill / AWB (99%) , b. But, IF Export Freight Forwarder has issued Bill of Lading, your Import Freight Forwarder will be issuing Airline Air Waybill / AWB & Arrival Notice., c. Split ship is charge double, also clearing time will take triple or quadruple of the time normal shipment., d. (Example/look below #1, 2 & 3: Out of 125 boxes, only 93 got on Airline 10 29 2015, other 32 was 2 days later 10 31 2015)
Page 2, 3 & 4 Split shipment . a. IF Air shipment Directly with Airline, they will be issuing Air-Way-Bill / AWB (99%) . b. But, IF Export Freight Forwarder has issued Bill-of-Lading, your Import Freight Forwarder will be issuing Airline Air-Way-Bill / AWB & Arrival Notice. . c. Split ship is charge double, also clearing time will take triple or quadruple of the time normal shipment. . d. (Example/look below #1, 2 & 3: Out of 125 boxes, only 93 got on Airline 10 29 2015, other 32 was 2 days later 10 31 2015)
Page 2, 3 & 4 Split shipment . a. IF Air shipment Directly with Airline, they will be issuing Air Waybill / AWB (99%) . b. But, IF Export Freight Forwarder has issued Bill-of-Lading, your Import Freight Forwarder will be issuing Airline Air Waybill / AWB & Arrival Notice. . c. Split ship is charge double, also clearing time will take triple or quadruple of the time normal shipment. . d. (Example/look below #1, 2 & 3: Out of 125 boxes, only 93 got on Airline 10 29 2015, other 32 was 2 days later 10 31 2015)