Air waybills (AWB) are a form of BOL and are used for both domestic and international flights. An AWB (also referred to as air consignment note or airway bill of lading) refers to a documentary receipt issued by a carrier (i.e. airline) in favour of a shipper for goods received and is evidence of the contract of carriage to carry the goods to a specified airport under specified conditions, but it is not a document of title to the goods. Hence, the AWB is non-negotiable. It is usually the shipper – the exporter – (or their agent) that completes the AWB. It serves as:

  • Proof of receipt of the goods for shipment
  • Evidence of the contract of carriage
  • An invoice for the freight, reflecting the shipper, the consignee and the goods being shipped, as well as the full freight amount
  • A certificate of insurance (if carriers insurance is requested by the shipper)
  • A guide to airline staff for the handling, dispatch and delivery of the consignment
  • A means of clearing the goods through customs

Usually, the AWB consists of three originals and nine copies. The first original is intended for the carrier (airline) and is signed by the exporter (or agent); the second original – the consignee’s copy – is also signed by the exporter (or agent) and accompanies the goods; the third original is signed by the carrier and is handed to the exporter (or agent) as a receipt for the goods after they have been accepted for carriage.

The AWB must be accompanied by the commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of orgigin and any other document which may be necessary to clear the goods through customs (such as any health certificates, etc.). AWBs have tracking numbers which can be used to check the status of delivery and current position of the goods being transported.

Types of air waybills

There are two types of air waybills used for the international transportation of air cargo:

  • The “airline air waybill”, with preprinted issuing carrier identification,
  • The “neutral air waybill” without preprinted identification of the issuing carrier in any form and used by other bodies than air carriers (such as freight forwarder).

The Air Waybill Handbook

This handbook contains all resolutions and recommended practices endorsed by the IATA Cargo Services Conference in relation to the completion of air waybils.  The handbook can be purchased online here – the cost is US$ 100.

The IATA Cargo Services Conference (CSC) is responsible for the development and maintenance of Air Waybill specifications and standards:

Click here to purchase an online air waybill