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An Air Waybill also abbreviated for ease of use as AWB, is also known as an air consignment note. This is a document that is issued when goods are transported by air as a means of acknowledging receipt. Much like other bill of lading types, they are non-negotiable. Once the goods arrive at the destination airport, it is handed over to the consignee or the customs broker, if one has been hired to help with customs clearance services, for delivery.  It’s important to remember that though a Bill of Lading acts a title of goods, an air waybill is not so.

An Air Waybill functions in the following ways;

A Contract of Carriage – The conditions of contract for carriage are included within.

An Air Cargo Receipt and Delivery Instructions – the Air Waybill acts as the receipt of goods to ensure that the air cargo has been handed over and in the good condition along with the delivery/shipping instructions (as per the Shipper’s Letter of Instructions). Once this is carried out and the transaction is complete, the original copy is handed over to the shipper as proof.

Freight Bill – the Air Waybill will also be used as a freight bill or invoice along with the other documents to indicate the freight charges to be paid by the consignee or any other chargers due to the freight agent or the carrier. An original copy of the air waybill is handed to the carrier too.

Certificate of Insurance –  The Air Waybill also acts as proof if the carrier is able to insure the shipment and where the shipper has request the carrier to undertake shipping insurance.

Customs Declaration – The Air Waybill is also proof of the freight amount billed for the air cargo and can be used for customs clearance along with other documents like the commercial invoice, packing list and more.

How the Air Waybill differs from the Bill of Lading are as follows;

Bill of Lading (B/L) Air Waybill (AWB)
Negotiable (various other types of B/L can be non-negotiable though) Non-negotiable
Issued after complete consignment has been loaded onto vessel Issued after complete consignment has been received by airline
Issuing of B/L falls on the vessel company Issuing of B/L falls on the carrier company
Goods are delivered to the bearer of Original B/L except in the event of a Telex Goods are delivered to a specific person as mentioned in the Air Way bill

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