International shipping through air routes is the most efficient mode, in terms of tracking, speed and reliability. The airway bill (AWB) is a crucial document in air shipping, serving as a contract of carriage between the shipper, the airline, and the consignee. The airway bill serves as proof that a contract for the transportation of goods by air has been established between the shipper and the airline. It contains essential details such as the shipper’s and consignee’s information, the nature of the goods being shipped, and the terms and conditions of carriage.           

We will be understanding the meaning, working and importance of an Airway Bill in this blog.    

What is an Airway Bill?

An airway bill is a dispatch note or a consignment letter that contains the terms of the agreement between the shipper and the carrier (airline). The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is responsible for verifying the Air Waybill’s structure globally.

The airway bill also includes the shipper’s and consignee’s names and addresses, the three-letter airport codes for the origin and destination, the declared shipment value for customs, the quantity and weight of the goods, a description of the items, and other additional instructions. 

How to Issue an Airway Bill?

Here are the steps you can follow to issue an Airway Bill:

  • Upon receiving the items that have finished the necessary customs formalities, the carrier of the air shipment provides an Airway bill.
  • When goods arrive at their destination, the consignee or agent receives the package and obtains a copy of the Airway bill. 
  • The shipper receives it and transfers it through their bank to the consignee if the transaction is covered by a Letter of Credit.      

Importance of an Airway Bill

This is a one-page legal document that contains a wealth of knowledge that is helpful for both local and international shipping. The following are the purposes it fulfils:

  • An AWB serves as a transportation agreement between a shipper and an airline.
  • It serves as proof of shipment
  • It serves as an air freight bill
  •  It serves as a legal document including details about the parties involved, and guidance for the carrier in properly dispatching the shipment.
  • It also serves as a customs declaration document.

Format of an Airway Bill

The International Air Transport Association (IATA)  has declared two key formats in which an Airway bill can be issued:    

  1. Airline-specific airway bill:

This format includes the name of the airline, its logo, its headquarters address, and the Air Waybill number. 

  1. Neutral airway bill:

Except for the airline information, this format is identical to the one indicated before.

8 distinct colour codes can be used to issue air waybills. Each hue represents something particular:

• Green: The carrier (issuing authority) still has the original copy of this document.

• Pink: This colour is likewise regarded as the original copy, and it stays with the shipment’s consignee.

• Blue: The copy or an air waybill sent to the shipper is also regarded as an original.

• Brown: In the course of commuting, this duplicate Air Waybill is utilized as a receipt or evidence of delivery.

• White: The shipper also keeps this copy and uses it for a variety of things.

Each Airway bill is given a distinct 11-digit number. This special code denotes the data in the following sections: 

The following seven numbers represent the serial number of the bill issued, while the first three digits provide information about the carrier.

• The digit called the checksum digit, is the last digit, and is created by multiplying the serial-number digits by 7.

Types of Airway Bill

  1. House Airway Bill

This bill is given to the exporter by the freight forwarder after they receive export items from the exporter. The shipper is the exporter and the consignee is the importer in this document.

  1. Master Airway Bill

After the air cargo has passed through customs inspections and been delivered to the principal carrier, a master air waybill is provided to the freight forwarder. The person who receives the package at the destination port before the consignee is referred to as the consignee in this document. The shipper is the freight forwarder. The final delivery is then made by this individual.  


An airway bill is a legal document which is used in the shipment and delivery of goods through air routes. It plays an important role in international shipping too, the airway bill is a one-page document yet it is complicated because it contains a lot of information and has multiple recipients. An air waybill acts as a contract between you and the carrier when sending items abroad. For a hassle-free and economical shipping solutions, connect to NimbusPost, a tech-enabled shipping aggregator which offers shipping, logistics, and warehouse solutions across 196+ countries with seamless integration to multiple carriers. 

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