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Air Waybill (AWB)


An Air Waybill (AWB) is a legal contract between a shipper and an airline that serves as a receipt for the goods being shipped and as proof of the carrier’s agreement to deliver the goods to the specified destination. It includes detailed information about the goods, sender, and recipient, which is essential for customs and tracking purposes. The AWB does not confer ownership of the goods, which distinguishes it from a Bill of Lading used in sea freight.


Air Waybill in phonetics is pronounced as: /ɛr/ /ˈweɪ.bɪl/ (EH-r WAY-bill). AWB in phonetics is pronounced as: /ˌeɪˈdʌblˌjuːˈbiː/ (ay-dub-uhl-yoo-bee).

Key Takeaways

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  1. Documentation: An Air Waybill (AWB) is a very important document that covers transport of cargo from airport to airport. It serves as a shipment receipt, a contract for the carriage, and proof of cargo delivery.
  2. Non-Negotiable: Unlike a bill of lading, an AWB is a non-negotiable instrument, which means it does not confer ownership of the goods being transported. It is simply used to facilitate shipment by air, enabling the airline to check-in goods and get them to the right location.
  3. Tracking: The AWB includes a unique number which can be used to track the shipment. This provides transparency to the customers, as they can check the status of their shipment at any time during its transport.

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The Air Waybill (AWB) is a crucial document in the field of transport, business and finance. It functions as a contract for carriage and includes detailed information about the goods being transported, destinations, and the involved parties, thus facilitating the process of shipping and delivering goods between countries via air freight. For businesses, the AWB is vital as it serves as tangible proof of the carrier’s receipt of goods, their commitment to deliver the consignment to the intended destination, and an invoice for the freight charges. Additionally, AWBs streamline the customs clearance process, providing necessary details for legal compliance, while protecting the rights of the shipper and the carrier. Therefore, due to its legal, logistical, and financial implications, the AWB is a key element in international trade.


The Air Waybill (AWB) serves a crucial purpose in international trade as it dictates the terms and details of the carriage agreement between the shipper and the carrier- be it an airline or a freight forwarder. Essentially, it is the contract that outlines information about the shipment, ensuring the transportation of goods is executed as planned without intervening issues. It can be both a physical document or an equivalent electronic version known as an e-Air Waybill (e-AWB).Moreover, AWB offers several other critical functionalities apart from just being a contract of carriage. It acts as a receipt of goods, affirming that the carrier has received the cargo from the shipper and hence is responsible for delivering it to the designated recipient. AWB also provides specific shipment details that aid in faster customs clearance, reducing the scope of delays in international trade. Importantly, in instances where the shipper opts for cargo insurance, the AWB can play a role as supporting evidence in any possible claim settlements.


1. FedEx Express Shipping: FedEx, a global courier company, uses Air Waybills for all their shipments. Customers need to fill out an AWB providing all the necessary information about the shipment such as shipper’s details, receiver’s details, description of goods, and special instructions if any. This helps FedEx to properly process, track, and deliver the shipment correctly.2. Pharmaceutical Companies: Pharmaceutical companies often have to ship temperature-sensitive products internationally. A company such as Pfizer, when shipping vaccines, will use an Air Waybill. The AWB ensures that the shipment is correctly documented, dispatched to the correct location, and can be tracked throughout its journey, ensuring the safe and timely arrival of these crucial medications.3. Amazon Cross-Border E-Commerce: Online retailers like Amazon often use Air Waybills for international shipping. When a customer in Europe orders a product from a merchant in the USA, an AWB is used to document the shipment. The AWB provides all the necessary information required for the cargo company to process and track the shipment, ensuring the correct items reach the customer in a timely manner.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Air Waybill (AWB)?

An Air Waybill (AWB) is a legally binding document that serves as a contract of carriage between a shipper and an airline. It provides details about the shipment and includes information such as the shipper’s name and address, the recipient’s name and address, the type of goods being shipped, and the destination of the shipment.

Is an AWB necessary for every shipment?

Yes, an AWB is required for the transportation of goods by air. It serves both as a receipt of the goods for the shipper and proof of carriage for the carrier.

What information does an AWB contain?

An AWB typically includes information on the shipper and receiver, the description of goods, shipping terms, carriage value, airport of departure and destination, as well as other handling instructions.

Do AWB need to be originals like bills of lading in sea freight?

No, unlike the sea freight where original bills of lading are often required, in air freight, a non-negotiable copy of the air waybill is often sufficient. It means shipment can be released with a copy, the original is not necessarily needed.

What is the difference between a Master Air Waybill (MAWB) and a House Air Waybill (HAWB)?

A Master Air Waybill (MAWB) is issued by the main airline that’s responsible for the shipment. On the other hand, a House Air Waybill (HAWB) is issued by a freight forwarder or consolidator who is handling the shipping.

Why is it important to keep a copy of the AWB?

As a shipment receipt, the AWB serves as evidence of the contract between the shipper and the carrier. It’s important to keep a copy for reference in case of any disputes, claims, or traceability needs.

Can the Air Waybill (AWB) be used as a title of goods?

No, the AWB cannot be used as a title of goods. It’s primarily a contract of carriage and serves as a shipping receipt. It doesn’t confer ownership or title to the goods.

Related Finance Terms

  • Bill of Landing
  • Consignment
  • Freight Forwarder
  • Consignee
  • Shipping Carrier

Sources for More Information

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