Air Way Bill

Air Waybill (AWB) or air consignment note refers to a receipt issued by an international airline for goods and an evidence of the contract of carriage, but it is not a document of title to the goods. Hence, the air waybill is non-negotiable.

Description


The Air Waybill (AWB) is the most important document issued by a carrier either directly or through its authorised 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.

Air Waybills 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.

Functions

There are several purposes that an air waybill serves, but its main functions are:

  • Contract of Carriage.


Behind every original of the Air Waybill 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


It is also possible to complete an air waybill through a computerised 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.

House and Master AWBs 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 ( MAWB or MBL). A House Air Waybill (HAWB) or Bill of Lading (HBL) could act as a multimodal transport document.