What is an Air Waybill?

Air Waybill (AWB), or air consignment note, is a type of Bill of Lading (BoL) used while transporting freight via air. It is a shipment receipt issued by the agent or the carrier acting as a legal contract of carriage and is also called dispatch note for the same.

A legal, non-negotiable document, AWB is a crucial part of the freight import & export process, and serves as:

  • An evidence of receipt by the carrier/agent
  • A contract of carriage between shipper and carrier
  • A title for the goods to depict ownership
  • A freight bill for accounting
  • A certificate of insurance
  • A customs declaration document
  • A guide for handling and delivering goods

It is used for both domestic and international air transportation.

Requirements for Air Waybill

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has designed a standard format of the air waybill, and its regulations must be followed while filling the details. It is available in two formats: one equipped with an airline logo, or a neutral air waybill (without a logo).

You can even fill an air waybill online, called e-Air Waybill (e-AWB). All e-AWBs are neutral. As per IATA, the Electronic Air Waybill Resolution 672 (MeA) removes the requirement for a paper AWB — thus, simplifying the air shipment process.

An air waybill is a one-page document and must contain all the essential freight details, like:

  • Shipper’s Name & Address
  • Consignee’s Name & Address
  • AWB number (11-digits)
  • Origin Airport Code (3-letter IATA Code)
  • Destination Airport Code (3-letters IATA Code)
  • Description of Goods (with HS Code)
  • Declared Value of Goods (for Customs)
  • Quantity of Goods
  • Net & Gross Weight
  • Dimensions of Goods
  • Special Instructions (for handling)
  • Carrier’s Terms & Conditions
  • Applicable Shipping Charges
  • Insurance Details
  • Area for Signature (shipper/agent)
  • Date, Time, & Place of Order Execution

Also, an air waybill is issued in eight sets of different colors:

  • Green: Carrier’s copy (original)
  • Pink: Consignee’s copy (original)
  • Blue: Shipper’s copy (original)
  • Brown: Receipt or proof of delivery (duplicate)
  • White: 4 other copies for various other purposes (duplicates)

There are also 2 types of air waybills, namely House Air Waybill (HAWB) and Master Air Waybill (MAWB).

Air Waybill v/s Bill of Lading

An air waybill is different from a Bill of Lading (BoL) as it only acts as a contract for transportation and does not cover the merchandise value. Bill of lading, on the other hand, also acts as a receipt of shipment when the goods are delivered at the destination.

BoL is a negotiable document signed by the shipper, carrier, and recipient; whereas, an AWB is a non-negotiable document signed only by the shipper and carrier (not the recipient).

Also, as the name goes, AWB is used for air freight, while BoL is used for sea freight.

Validity of Air Waybill

To become a valid legal document, the air waybill must be signed by both the shipper/agent and carrier/agent. The validity of the contract expires upon delivery of the shipment by the carrier to the consignee.

Terms related to Air Waybill

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