Airway Bill in International Shipping: Why Do You Need it?



In the realm of international shipping, the Airway Bill (AWB) plays a crucial role as a vital document that facilitates the movement of goods from one country to another. In India, AWBs are widely used in the shipping industry to ensure smooth and efficient transportation of goods by air. 

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the Airway Bill and its significance in international shipping.

What is an Airway Bill (AWB)?

The Airway Bill, also known as an AWB, is a transport document used in the air cargo industry. It serves as a contract between the shipper, the air carrier, and the consignee, outlining the terms and conditions for the transportation of goods by air. 

AWBs are essential in tracking and monitoring shipments, as they contain vital information about the cargo, its origin, destination, and the parties involved.

Types of Airway Bills

There are two main types of AWBs:

Master Airway Bill (MAWB):

The Master Airway Bill is issued by the air carrier or its authorized agent. It covers the entire shipment from the origin airport to the final destination airport. The MAWB is used when multiple House Airway Bills (HAWBs) are associated with a single shipment, allowing for consolidated cargo from different shippers.

House Airway Bill (HAWB):

The House Airway Bill is issued by freight forwarders or consolidators and is used for individual shipments within a consolidated shipment covered by the MAWB. It contains detailed information about the specific consignment and serves as a subsidiary document to the MAWB.

Key Components of an Airway Bill (AWB)

1. Shipper and Consignee Information: 

It includes essential details about the shipper (sender) and consignee (receiver) – names, addresses, contact details, and relevant identification numbers, thus ensuring proper identification of the parties involved.

2. Cargo Description and Details: 

It provides a comprehensive description of the cargo being transported – the nature of the goods, quantity, weight, dimensions, and packaging.

3. Origin and Destination Details: 

It states the origin and destination of the shipment, including the airports involved thus ensuring that the cargo reaches its intended location without complications.

4. Terms and Conditions

: It outlines the responsibilities and liabilities of the shipper, air carrier, and consignee. This section often covers aspects such as insurance, liability limitations, claims procedures, and applicable laws and regulations.

Benefits of Using an Airway Bill (AWB)

Efficiency and Speed

The use of AWBs in international shipping expedites the transportation process by streamlining documentation and providing clear instructions to all parties involved. This efficiency reduces delays, enhances overall speed, and ensures timely delivery of goods.

Security and Traceability

AWBs enhance security and traceability by providing a comprehensive record of the cargo’s journey. The unique AWB number allows for easy identification and tracking, reducing the risk of loss or misplacement of shipments. This increased security instills confidence in both shippers and consignees.

Legal Protection

AWBs offer legal protection to both shippers and carriers by clearly defining their respective rights and obligations. The terms and conditions specified in the AWB act as a contractual agreement, helping to resolve disputes and claims effectively.

What Does the Airway Bill (AWB) Certify?

The Airway Bill (AWB) serves as a certification of various aspects related to the transportation of goods by air. Let’s explore what the AWB certifies:

Contractual Agreement:

The AWB certifies the contractual agreement between the shipper, the air carrier, and the consignee. It confirms that all parties have agreed to the terms and conditions outlined in the AWB, including the transportation of goods, liabilities, and responsibilities.

Cargo Details:

The AWB certifies the accuracy and completeness of the cargo details provided. It ensures that the description, quantity, weight, dimensions, and packaging of the goods mentioned in the AWB accurately represent the actual shipment. This certification helps prevent discrepancies and ensures proper handling of the cargo.

Shipment Origin and Destination:

The AWB certifies the origin and destination of the shipment. It confirms the airports involved and provides assurance that the cargo will be transported from the specified origin to the designated destination. This certification is crucial for tracking and routing purposes.

Proof of Shipment:

The AWB certifies that the goods specified in the document have been accepted by the air carrier for transportation. It serves as proof that the shipment has been handed over to the carrier and is ready to be transported. This certification is essential for legal and insurance purposes.

Compliance with Regulations:

The AWB certifies that the shipment complies with relevant international and domestic regulations. It ensures that the necessary documentation, permits, and certifications required for the transportation of goods by air are in order. This certification helps avoid regulatory issues and facilitates smooth customs clearance.

Receipt of Goods:

The AWB certifies the receipt of the goods by the air carrier. It confirms that the carrier has taken possession of the cargo and assumes responsibility for its transportation. This certification establishes a clear chain of custody and accountability for the shipment.

Tracking and Monitoring:

The AWB certifies that the shipment can be tracked and monitored throughout its journey. The unique AWB number allows for real-time updates on the status and location of the cargo. This certification ensures transparency and enables stakeholders to proactively manage the shipping process.

Wrapping Up

The Airway Bill (AWB) is an indispensable document in international shipping, including the Indian context. It serves as a contract between the shipper, air carrier, and consignee, outlining the terms and conditions for the transportation of goods by air. 

By providing vital information about the cargo, its origin, destination, and the parties involved, AWBs ensure efficient tracking, customs clearance, and overall smooth logistics operations. Embracing the use of AWBs in international shipping can significantly contribute to a reliable and streamlined supply chain, benefiting both shippers and consignees alike.


Q. What is the meaning of air waybill in shipping?

A. An Airway Bill in shipping is a transport document that serves as a contract between the carrier, the shipper, and the consignee. It contains important information such as the tracking number, details of the cargo, its origin, destination, and details of the parties involved.


Q. How to generate awb number?

A. The carrier of the shipment is responsible for generating the airway bill.


Q. What is the difference between bill of lading and air waybill?

A. The bill of lading is generally used for port-to-sea shipments, whereas the airway bill is generated for air cargo shipments.


Q. What is an air waybill used for?

A. An airway bill can be used for tracking the shipment from its origin to its destination.


Q. How many digits is an AWB number?

A. An air waybill has eleven digits which can be used to track the current status of the shipment in its journey of delivery. 99953729071 is an awb number example.

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