DEFINITION of Air Waybill - AWB

An air waybill (AWB) is a document that accompanies goods shipped by an international courier to provide detailed information about the shipment and allow it to be tracked. The bill has multiple copies so that each party involved in the shipment can document it.


An air waybill (AWB), also known as an air consignment note, is a type of bill of lading.

Bills of lading are legal documents between the shipper of goods and the carrier, detailing the type, quantity and destination of the goods being carried. Bills of lading also act as a receipt of shipment when the goods are delivered at a predetermined destination. This document accompanies the goods, and is signed by authorized representatives of the shipper, the carrier and the recipient. 

Air Waybills (AWB) - The Details

In the case of an AWB, the document serves as a receipt of goods by an airline (the carrier), as well as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. The AWB contains the shipper's name and address, consignee's name and address, three letter origin airport code, three letter destination airport code, declared shipment value for customs, number of pieces, gross weight, a description of the goods and any special instructions (e.g,. "perishable"). It also contains the conditions of contract that describe the carrier's terms and conditions, such as its liability limits and claims procedures, a description of the goods, and applicable charges. 

AWB's are unlike other bills of lading, in that they are non-negotiable instruments, meaning that it does not specify on which flight the shipment will be sent, or when it will reach its destination.