Airway Bill – Definition & Explanation

Cite this article as:"Airway Bill – Definition & Explanation," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2019, last accessed November 26, 2020,


Air Waybill Definition & Explanation

An Airway Bill, also known as an “airway consignment note”, is a non-negotiable (cannot be transferred to others for value) document identifying goods being shipped with an international airline (carrier). It is a receipt issued by a carrier to a shipper that evidences a contract between a shipper and a carrier to transport goods via air travel. Airway bills are regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

  • Note: The airway bill is different from a standard Bill of Lading, used in other types of carrier contract. Unlike a bill of lading, the airway bill is not a document of title (document demonstrating ownership of the named goods) and is not negotiable.

A Little More on What is an Air Waybill

The airway bill is assigned an eleven-digit number or code – identification number of the air transport company (3 digits) and the shipping code (8 digits). The shipper can use this code to reference the shipment when checking its status or making additional bookings.

The airway bill must also contain the following information:

  • The identification of carrier(s), dispatch from the airport, and the entire route of transport,
  • Details of the contracting party, the recipient, and air transport company,
  • The IATA code along with IATA agent details who was in charge of transport,
  • Transport insurance details, and
  • Detailed transport data like costs, freight, delivery dates, the amount charged, etc.

The airway bill has 9 sheets and comes in 6 colors.

  • Green – On top, an original, the issuing carrier’s copy
  • Pink – Second in the stack, an original, the consignee’s copy
  • Blue – Third in the stack, an original, the shipper’s copy.
  • Brown – Fourth in the stack, a copy, serves as the Delivery Receipt or Proof of Delivery
  • White – Four copies at the bottom of the stack, used for various purposes.
  • Yellow – Proof that goods are received by the receiver, along with a signed certificate.

The gist of the air waybill is summarized in the following points, the air waybill performs the following functions:

  • It makes a formal contract of transportation of goods, thereby, certifies the bill of lading.
  • It confirms that the merchandise has been received.
  • It indicates the service costs.
  • It notices on-demand insurance coverage.
  • It details the situation of transport and merchandise handling.
  • It describes the conditions agreed upon between the parties.
  • It identifies the specifics of carriage.
  • It acts as a declaration document at customs.

Hence, the air waybill must contain the following details

Academic Research for Airway Bill

  • Air-freight logistics, Reynolds-Feighan, A. J. (2008).  In Handbook of Logistics and Supply-Chain Management (pp. 431-438). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Air cargo overbooking based on the shipment information record, Becker, B., & Wald, A. (2008). Air cargo overbooking based on the shipment information record. Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, 7(3), 242-255. Air Cargo revenue management (ACRM) oftens encounters the issue of overbooking. In such cases, airlines have the chance to increase their revenue by increasing their capacity utilization. On the other hand, overbooking leads to offloads and poor service quality. Present overbooking methods are based on flight event extent and forecasts based on past flight events. These methods are derived from passengers overbooking models and show various issues since the business needs for air cargo vary widely. This paper proposes new ACRM handling approach using some factors of the Shipment Information Record (SIR) to have accurate forecasts. This has been taken from Passenger Name Record based overbooking of business, focusing on the evaluation of if this method is suitable for cargo.This paper contains definitions to be used for future research and the survey findings that was carried out to determine the factors affecting the shipment behavior. Hence, the paper serves as an important foundation for potential SIR based overbooking research.
  • Implementation of cargo revenue management at KLM, Slager, B., & Kapteijns, L. (2004). Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, 3(1), 80-90. The passenger airline industry strictly follows the revenue management (RM); however, cargo industry somehow doesn’t utilize it fully. The paper highlights the case of RM implementation in KLM Cargo along with implementation challenges. The paper starts with major traits of cargo industry that bear signiffcance for RM implementation, RM principles, systems and processes. RM principles were implemented in KLM Cargo as it showed real effects on the company. The success factors included usage of simple tools, management strategy and the skilled manpower.
  • Logistics technologies in aviation, Ferencová, J., & Hurná, S. (2017). Acta logistica, 4(2), 11-17. Logistics technologies in aviation. Acta logistica, 4(2), 11-17. The article highlights the advancer technologies emerging across the industries, especially the aviation. The article evaluates these technologies in a global perspective of transportation industry that is faced with various economic demands, fast and convenient service and minimum errors. The article encourages the use of centralized recording for efficient aviation functions, air traffic control and passenger management.
  • Air Freight and Logistics Services, Kiso, F., & Deljanin, A. (2009). Promet-Traffic&Transportation, 21(4), 291-298. Air transport industry bears a larger share in global passenger and freight traffic industry as seen in past 40 years, with annual growth rate of 1-2 percent, on average. Previously, there were limited services with lots of intermediaries. Now, the system is based on new technologies and wider range of innovative services including dedicated freight operators and specialists availability. The industry is determined to keep pace with globalization of trade, especially the Asian market shows the highest growth potential. The technology is being exploited for almost all freight operations, including movement, storage and handling of consignments. This paper studies the air freight industry’s structure, its organization and the role in supply chain models, as well as the latest trends, challenges and future prospects.
  • Carriage of Goods by Air, Kouladis, N. (2006). Principles of Law Relating to International Trade, 289-295.
  • Absolute advantage, Sutherland, J., & Canwell, D. (2004).
  • The air freight supply chain, Roebuck, M. (2013). In The Air Logistics Handbook (pp. 25-39). Routledge.
  • Air freight markets in modest slowdown, HAS, D.
  • Achieving services when turning a waybill into an e-waybill, Bakhtyar, S., Persson, J. A., & Holmgren, J. (2011).In International Conference on Paperless Freight Transport Logistics. European Commission. This paper proposes the electronic waybill solutions to be used in future for Intelligent Transport System services such as identification of the freight, automation of data exchange etc. IATA and e–Freight framework have taken some measures in this regard, which are based on actor-to-actor communication. We hypothesize the waybill recording both locally and centrally as it can support services that are provided through  e-waybill solutions. We have mapped out the information in a way that will help services to be supported by various e-waybill solutions.
  • The Air Cargo Market in Brazil: Challenges, Opportunities, and Perspectives, de Roode Torres, R., Matera, R. W., & Santo Jr, R. A. (2001). Issues Aviation L. & Pol’y, 4331. Our rapidly changing and highly volatile world witnesses the fast information flow, which is essential for safe and reliable logistics operations. Having logistics information systems, it is necessary to exchange data to support the cross functional activities involved. For instance, to get advice from the Decision Support Systems, the data is first retrieved from order processing systems and then exported to output systems for reporting. However, these systems lacks efficiency in terms of data exchange. The paper proposes an efficient Information Exchange Model based on industry best standards for information exchange, which ensures the high capability to exchange data among multiple logistics systems.

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