Functions and Features of Air Waybill

What is an Air Waybill? 

An Air Waybill (AWB) refers to a detailed document that contains information about the cargo transported through an international air courier to track and trace the shipment. AWB is synonymous with the bill of landing but the biggest difference is that an AWB is a non-negotiable document.

The document provides information such as the contents of the shipment, the sender of the shipment and recipient, terms and conditions of the transportation and other Air Waybill number to keep a track of the shipments. There are various copies in different colours provided to each party involved in the transportation of the shipment. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issues the Air Waybill. It is a standard procedure to fill out the AWB accurately and avoid any sort of confusion between the parties.

Now with the technological advancements, the e-AWB makes it easier for parties to save, fill out and access the bill. Additionally, they are easily able to track the shipment.

The purpose of the Air Waybill number is to serve as the receipt of the shipment and as a contract of carriage between the sender and the carrier. An AWB also contains basic information like the address of the sender, the address of the receiver and the shipper.

Moreover, there are two types of Air Waybill distributed by the International Air Transport Association.


There are various functions of the Air Waybill and each purpose has its significance. Some of them are as mentioned below:

1. Acts as evidence: The Air Waybill acts as the receipt of transportation of goods by the airlines. This evidence ensures safe and secured delivery of the shipment and it is a non-negotiable document to avoid or eliminate tampering. With the Air Waybill number, updates about the shipments can be easily accessed. 

2. Source of Contact and Information between parties: The AWB acts as a document that provides information about important factors like address, dates and contact details to make the process smoother and faster. The receiver as well as the sender can track and trace the shipment.

3. Proper Description of the Goods: In the Air Waybill, the weight, volume, size and other such information are described to be more specific and detailed. This also helps in slot and space management. The type of goods shipped is also described in the AWB.

4. Easy Shipment Tracking: The technology has evolved and the Cargo industry has witnessed a shift towards the e-AWB to ensure security and timely delivery. Additionally, with the e-Air Waybill, the parties can easily trace and track the shipments.


The Air Waybill is typically a one-page document that contains information about the shipment, sender and receiver. Issued by IATA, the document is distributed in eight colours, each signifying a different purpose or stage of the shipment. The first original document is in the green colour and the carrier’s copy, while the second one, in pink, is the consignee’s copy. The third copy is blue colour, which is the shipper’s copy. While the fourth copy is brown coloured and acts as the receipt and proof of delivery, the rest of the copies are in white and used for other purposes.

If the AWB contains the logo of the airline, it is a consolidated and airline-specific shipment and if there is no logo on the top, it can be a neutral AWB. Moreover, information like the carrier’s address, sender's and receiver's address along with contact information are a crucial part of the Air Waybill.

Moreover, the Air Waybill number is an 11-digit number, which can be used to track the location and status of the shipment. This has become easier with the technology and introduction of the e-AWB, that everything can take place online.


Introduced in 2010 an electronic Air Waybill, also referred to as e-AWB or e-air waybill, became the default contract of carriage in the Air Cargo industry. The documents printed on paper are still acceptable but the International Air Transport Association (IATA) uses, encourages and promotes the use of e-AWB. It is easier to save information online providing increased security and easy accessibility.

With the help of the e-AWB, tracking and locating the location of the shipment, status of goods and delivery has become seamless and easy for all the parties. Therefore, a shift from paperwork to a more digitalized method has helped in the growth of the Air Cargo Industry.

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