Within the air freight, one document stands out for its critical importance: the Air Waybill (AWB). This is not just another piece of paper among the documentation required for international shipping; it is the backbone that supports air logistics operations, facilitating global trade with efficiency and security.

The AWB serves as a contract between the shipper and the carrier, but its relevance goes far beyond that, influencing every step of the air freight forwarding and delivery process.

In this article, we will delve into the AWB universe, exploring its definition, the elements that compose it, its regulation, and its functionality within the logistics sector. We will learn how to read and understand an AWB, who issues AWBs, and how the transition to the electronic AWB (e-AWB) is shaping the future of air shipments.

In addition, we will highlight the advantages that the AWB offers your business, distinguish between the AWB and the Bill of Lading, and discover how Across Logistics positions itself as your ideal partner in international logistics, ensuring that your goods fly safely and arrive on time at their destination.

Let’s dive together into this comprehensive guide to the Air Waybill and discover how to manage it effectively to optimize our air transport operations and strengthen our supply chain on the global stage.


What is Air Waybill

The Air Waybill (AWB) is an important document in the air transport of goods. It functions as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the airline, detailing the terms and conditions under which the shipment is made.

In addition, the AWB serves as the airline’s receipt of the goods, evidencing acceptance of the cargo for carriage and its commitment to deliver to the named consignee.

It is important to know that the AWB is non-negotiable, which means that it does not confer title to the goods, as opposed to other transport documents that do have this characteristic.


Key elements of the Air Waybill

An AWB is composed of several key elements that record essential information about the shipment:

AWB number: A unique code that identifies the shipment and facilitates tracking.

Shipper and Consignee information: Names, addresses and relevant contacts.

Cargo Description: Details of the goods, including type, quantity and weight.

Handling Instructions: Special instructions for the care and handling of the load.

Costs and Charges: Detail of transportation costs, including freight and additional charges.

Shipment Route: Specification of departure, transit and destination points.

This data set, (which we will go into in more detail later), ensures that all parties involved in the transportation process, from customs to the cargo operators, have access to the information needed to properly process and handle the shipment.


AWB regulation

AWB regulation is closely linked to international bodies that standardize air transport practices, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

This entity defines the standards and formats for the AWB, thus facilitating its worldwide acceptance and understanding.

In addition, the AWB is governed by the regulations of the Montreal Convention and other international legislation that establishes the responsibilities and obligations of airlines and shippers, ensuring a legal framework for the protection of goods and the resolution of disputes.


What is Air Waybill used for?

The Air Waybill (AWB) fulfills many crucial functions in air freight transport and is indispensable for modern logistics. The main purposes of this vital document are detailed below:


Contract of carriage

The AWB acts as a legal contract between the shipper and the airline. It establishes the terms and conditions under which the transportation of the goods will be carried out, including the responsibilities of both parties.

This agreement ensures that all aspects of the shipment are clearly defined and agreed upon, providing a legal framework for cargo handling.


Receipt of goods

By issuing an AWB, the airline confirms receipt of the goods described in the document for carriage.

This receipt is essential for the shipper, as it proves that the airline has accepted the cargo under the stipulated conditions, committing itself to its care and delivery to the final consignee.


Handling and distribution guide

The AWB contains specific instructions on cargo handling, storage and distribution, including details on dangerous or sensitive goods.

This information is crucial to ensure that the cargo is handled correctly at each stage of the transportation process, minimizing the risk of damage or loss.


Document for customs clearance

The AWB serves as a key document for customs clear ance in both the country of origin and destination.

Detailed information on the shipper, consignee, cargo description and value of the goods facilitates the customs process, enabling efficient transit of cargo across international borders.


Freight tracking tool

Thanks to the unique AWB number, shippers and consignees can track the status and location of their shipment in real time.

This tracking provides transparency and security, allowing the parties involved to anticipate the arrival of cargo and plan accordingly.


Basis for collection of freight and other charges

The AWB itemizes all costs associated with the transportation of the cargo, including freight rates, additional service charges and possible customs fees.

This information is essential for billing and collection, ensuring that all charges are transparent and agreed in advance.


In summary, the AWB is a multifunctional document that plays critical roles in air transport logistics.

It facilitates communication and understanding between all parties involved, from the shipper to the consignee, airline and customs authorities, ensuring that the shipping process is efficient, secure and compliant with international regulations.

With Across Logistics as your logistics partner, you can rest assured that AWB management and all related processes will be handled with the utmost professionalism and attention to detail, ensuring the success of your airfreight operations.


How to read and understand an Air Waybill

The Air Waybill (AWB) is an essential document in the air transport of goods, full of key information that ensures the correct handling and delivery of cargo.

Knowing how to read and understand each section of the AWB is not only crucial for shippers and consignees, but also for all agents involved in the logistics chain.

Here is a detailed guide to interpreting an AWB:


AWB Number: Usually located at the top of the document, it is a unique identifier assigned to your shipment. This number is essential to track the status and location of your cargo throughout the transportation process.

Shipper’s Information: Includes the full name, address and contact details of the shipper of the goods. This section is crucial for any communication or notification during transport.

Consignee Information: Similar to the shipper section, this section provides details of the receiver of the cargo. It is important to ensure that this information is accurate to avoid delays in delivery.

Airline and Route: Indicates the carrier performing the transport and the intended route, including any transfer points. This information helps to predict the route of the cargo and its estimated time of arrival.

Commodity Description: Provides details on the contents of the shipment, including number of packages, weight and dimensions. It may also include specific information on the type of merchandise, such as whether it is fragile or dangerous, which determines the special handling required.

Declared Value: Refers to the declared monetary value of the merchandise, which may be important for insurance and customs purposes.

Charges and Costs: Distributes all costs associated with the shipment, such as freight rates, fuel charges and other surcharges. Understanding this section is critical to the financial management of the shipment.

Special Instructions: Note here the shipper’s particular instructions for handling the cargo, including delivery requirements and any special care needed.

Signature and Stamp: The signature and seal of the airline confirms acceptance of the cargo and the terms detailed in the AWB, formalizing the contract of carriage.


Who issues the AWB

The issuance of the Air Waybill (AWB) is a fundamental step in the air freight process.

The AWB is issued by the airline that will transport the cargo, or in certain cases, by its authorized agents.

This document formalizes the contract of carriage between the shipper (or sender) of the goods and the airline, establishing the conditions under which the shipment will be made.

The issuance process and the parties involved are detailed below:

The Airline: In most cases, the AWB is issued directly by the airline that will transport the cargo. This is done once the goods have been delivered and accepted at the airline’s warehouse, and all shipment details have been confirmed and agreed upon. The airline, as the carrier, assumes responsibility for the cargo from the time of acceptance until final delivery, which is recorded on the AWB.

Authorized Agents: In certain situations, especially for shippers who do not have a direct contract with the airline, a freight forwarder may issue the AWB. These agents operate as intermediaries between shippers and airlines, consolidating cargo from various customers to optimize transportation costs and efficiency. In these cases, the agent issues an AWB on behalf of the airline, acting under its authorization and following the regulations established by the airline.

AWB Direct vs. House AWBIt is important to distinguish between the direct AWB issued by the airline, which covers the transportation of the goods from the shipper to the final consignee, and the House Air Waybill (HAWB), issued by a freight forwarder.

The HAWB is used to document the transportation agreement between the shipper and the agent, while the direct AWB refers to the agreement between the agent (as shipper) and the airline.


Electronic Air Waybill (e-AWB)

The electronic Air Waybill (e-AWB) represents a significant innovation in air freight, marking a milestone in the digitization of logistics and international trade.

The implementation of the e-AWB seeks to modernize and streamline traditional processes, eliminating the need for paper documents and promoting more efficient, secure and sustainable management of shipping-related information.

This section highlights the importance of e-AWB in the contemporary logistics industry.


Definition and purpose:

The e-AWB is the digital version of the traditional paper Air Waybill. Approved and promoted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as the industry standard, it aims to facilitate air cargo operations through the digitization of shipping documentation.

Like its paper counterpart, the e-AWB serves as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the airline, but it is handled completely electronically, improving data accuracy and reducing processing times.

Implementation of the e-AWB:

To adopt the e-AWB, companies must follow the guidelines established by IATA and coordinate with the airlines and freight forwarders involved in their operations.

This includes subscribing to e-AWB-enabled electronic platforms, upgrading internal systems and training staff on new digital processes.


Across Logistics is leading the adoption of e-AWB, working closely with customers, airlines and logistics partners to facilitate the transition to fully digital freight management. Our commitment to innovation and efficiency positions us as your ideal partner in the digital era of logistics, ensuring that your business is at the forefront of implementing modern, secure and sustainable logistics solutions.


Advantages of Air Waybill for your business

The Air Waybill (AWB), especially in its electronic form (e-AWB), has become an indispensable tool in the world of air freight. Its implementation brings with it a number of significant advantages that can optimize the logistics operations of any business, improving its efficiency, safety and profitability.

The following are the main advantages that the AWB brings to your company:


Agility in logistics processes

The use of the AWB, especially the e-AWB, simplifies and speeds up administrative procedures related to the shipment of goods.

The digitization of the process reduces the need for physical paperwork, enabling faster and more efficient handling from booking to delivery, minimizing waiting times at airports and customs.


Improved accuracy of information

The ability to complete and transmit the AWB electronically significantly reduces the risk of human error in data entry. This ensures that shipment information is accurate and consistent at all stages of the process, from dispatch to receipt.


Cost optimization

Efficiency in AWB management leads to a reduction in administrative and operational costs. By minimizing errors and speeding up processes, additional costs related to delays, unnecessary storage or fines due to documentation errors are avoided.


Improved security and traceability

The AWB provides a detailed record of the goods and their transport route, facilitating real-time tracking. This complete visibility not only increases cargo security, but also allows you to respond proactively to any incident, improving customer service.


Regulatory compliance

AWB ensures that all shipments comply with international air transport regulations, including customs regulations of origin and destination countries. This reduces the risk of delays or penalties for non-compliance, ensuring a constant flow of goods.



The adoption of e-AWB contributes to companies’ sustainability initiatives by reducing the use of paper and minimizing the environmental footprint of their logistics operations. This not only enhances corporate image, but also aligns companies with growing environmental responsibility requirements.


Facilitates international expansion

The standardized use of the AWB facilitates the operations of companies seeking to expand into new international markets by providing a globally recognized framework for the transport of goods by air.


Differences between Air Waybill and Bill of Lading

Although the Air Waybill (AWB) and the Bill of Lading (B/L) serve similar functions as transport documents, there are fundamental differences between the two, especially in terms of their use, legality and negotiability.

Understanding these differences is crucial to effectively manage shipping and logistics operations, whether by air or sea.

The main distinctions are detailed below:


Mode of transport

AWB: Specifically designed for air freight transport. The AWB is issued by the airline or its authorized agents and is used to document the receipt and contract of carriage of cargo by air.

B/L: Used in the maritime transport. The B/L is issued by the shipping company and acts as a receipt for the goods shipped, as well as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the shipping company.



AWB: It is not a negotiable document. This means that it does not confer title to the goods on the holder of the document. Delivery of cargo is made only to the consignee specified on the AWB.

B/L: May be a negotiable document, especially in its “to order” form. This allows the ownership of the goods to be transferred by endorsement of the B/L, facilitating commercial transactions without the need to physically deliver the cargo.


Legal function

AWB: Serves as evidence of the contract of carriage, receipt of goods and cargo handling guide. However, it does not act as a document of title for the goods.

B/L: In addition to documenting the contract of carriage and serving as a receipt, the B/L functions as a document of title, giving the holder of the document the legal right to the goods.


Tracking and visibility

AWB: Provides real-time visibility and tracking of cargo, which is essential for the dynamic air transport environment.

B/L: Although it offers tracking, the tracking may not be as immediate or detailed as that provided by the AWB, given the nature of ocean transport.


Transit time

AWB: Generally associated with faster transit times, suitable for time-sensitive or urgent shipments.

B/L: More common in shipments with longer transit times, where speed is not the critical factor.


Across Logistics, Your International Logistics Partner

In the global trade landscape, having a reliable and expert logistics partner is more than an advantage; it is a necessity.

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stands as that indispensable partner, offering comprehensive logistics solutions tailored to the unique needs of each customer, ensuring that every aspect of their supply chain is managed with maximum efficiency, safety and sustainability.

At Across Logistics, we are not just a logistics service provider; we are a partner committed to the success of your business. Our team of experts is always available to advise you, helping you navigate the challenges of international trade and ensuring that your supply chain contributes positively to your business objectives.

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