Hey, Ino san. Actually, I’m not sure how to read an Air Waybill.
IINO san
IINO san
Ooh, is that so? Understanding the role and features of an Air Waybill can help in quickly identifying a shipment.
It will be useful for my work.
IINO san
IINO san
Absolutely! Let’s build up a good knowledge of an Air Waybill today!

What You Learn in This Topic

  • What is an Air Waybill (AWB)?
  • Air Waybill’s Format
  • The Roles
  • Types of Air Waybill
  • Issuance Process
  • Contents

What is an Air Waybill? (AWB)

Air Waybill is a carriage contract between the shipper and an airline. It serves as a receipt, evidence of the agreement, and a tracking tool for the shipped goods.

IINO san
IINO san
It’s easier to understand if you think of it like a Sea Waybill. The link is here. (リンクの挿入をお願いします)

Air Waybill’s Format

An Air Waybill is issued in a format specified by IATA. The document includes details such as the following:

  • The goods details to be transported
  • Precautions to be taken during transportation
  • Air Freight, etc.

AWB number is used to manage cargo inquiries. This can be found in the upper left and lower right corners of the AWB.

IINO san
IINO san
For cargo tracking, you can use AWB number!
I just need to give the number to the forwarder, right?
IINO san
IINO san
Yeah, exactly!

Roles of Air Waybill

An Air Waybill has various functions beyond being a simple transportation contract.

The roles include:

  • Evidence of the carriage contract
  • Cargo receipt
  • Invoice for airfreight charges
  • Instructions to the airline for cargo handling
  • Cargo Delivery Instruction
I see. An Air Waybill is a document that serves various purposes.
IINO san
IINO san
It is! That’s because Air Transport prioritizes moving goods in a timely manner!

Air Waybill Types

There are two types of Air Waybills:

・ Master Air Waybill (MAWB)
This is issued by an airline to a forwarder.

・ House Air Waybill (HAWB):
This is usually issued by a forwarder to a shipper and is commonly linked with a MAWB

In consolidated shipments, forwarders combine cargo from multiple shippers and book it with the airline.

Simply put, the document issued by the airline for the forwarder is a MAWB, while the one issued by the forwarder to the multiple shippers are a HAWB.

Direct AWB and Single AWB

In some cases, only MAWB is issued.

This document is called a Direct AWB or a Single AWB and is issued when a shipper books directly with an airline.

IINO san
IINO san
But in most cases, the HAWB is issued as a set because it involves a forwarder.
I see!
IINO san
IINO san
The forwarders’ role is to improve transportation efficiency by combining various types of freight in order to reduce airfare.

Differences between HAWB and MAWB

IINO san
IINO san
Let’s see the actual contrast between the two bills of ladings.

What a MAWB Contains

The features are the following:

  • Format: Airline’s one
  • Shipper: The exporting forwarder
  • Consignee: The importing forwarder
Why is the shipper and ‘s column is the forwarder?
IINO san
IINO san
That’s because the forwarder is the agent that makes the contract with the airline.

Unlike a HAWB, a MAWB includes information about the airlines’ local branches and agents.

What a HAWB Contains

The features are the following:

  • Format: Forwarder’s one
  • Shipper: The actual exporter
  • Consignee: The actual importer

A HAWB shows the name and address of the forwarder’s local agents or subsidiaries, allowing the consignee to contact the local forwarder.

In the case of the Letters of Credit Transaction

An Air Waybill is not negotiable securities like a Bill of Lading (B/L), so you can pick up the goods even without the original Air Waybill.

Therefore, it is common to state the L/C issuing bank name in the Consignee column to avoid these situations.

Hmmmm… if the Consignee is a bank, the importer cannot unilaterally pick up the cargo.
IINO san
IINO san
Yes, that’s correct. About the L/C transactions, you can review another topic. (リンクの創宇にゅうをお願いします)

AWB Issuing Process

IINO san
IINO san
This is how air transportation flows from a forwarder’s perspective.
  1. A shipper hands over the goods to the forwarder
  2. A forwarder measures and packs the goods
  3. The forwarder makes a booking with an airline
  4. Export customs clearance
  5. A HAWB is issued by the forwarder to the shipper
  6. A MAWB is issued by the airline to the forwarder
  7. Goods are assembled into ULDs with other consolidated cargo
  8. Hand over the MAWB along with the goods and pass the HAWB to the airline
  9. Flight
  10. Arrival
  11. The forwarder receives the MAWB and the HAWB along with the goods from the airline.
  12. Cargo breaking
  13. Import customs clearance
  14. Delivery


This is the process when the HAWB and MAWB are issued and the cargo is transported to the destination. Each flow’s timing may vary, but this is the general order.

Contents of an Air Waybill

An AWB contains the following information:

  • HAWB Number
  • MAWB Number
  • Shipper Information
  • Consignee information
  • HAWB issuing forwarder
  • Origin airport
  • Destination city, airport, and flight number
  • Currency, Freight Payer
  • Quantity Weight
  • Applicable Weight for Fare Calculation
  • Applicable Fare per Kilogram
  • Prepaid air freight
  • Collect air freight
  • Issuing Date
  • Place of Issuance
There’s a lot of information included in it, indeed!

How many Air Waybills are issued

In air transport, three original copies and six duplicate copies are issued.

Three Originals

Each role is different as follows:

  1. For the Transportation:
    • Role: Acts as a carriage contract
    • Signatory: The Shipper signs this copy
  2. For the Consignee:
    • Role: Functions as a shipping label for the cargo
    • Signatories: Both the airlines and the Shipper sign this copy
  3. For the Shipper:
    • Role: Acts as a cargo receipt and a “carriage contract.”
    • Signatory: The airline signs this copy
IINO san
IINO san
If the Shipper utilizes insurance, the Air Waybill also serves as the insurance contract certificate.

Six duplicate copies

Each role is different as follows:

1. For the Airline to deliver the cargo to the Consignee at destination
2. For the destination airport
3-5. For the airlines involved in the transportation
6. For the AWB issuing agent

An Air Waybill is packed with information.


In this topic, we explained the Air Waybill used in air transportation. Typically, air transport is booked through a forwarder, and, as a result, two main types of Air Waybills are issued.

  • Mater Air Waybill
  • House Air Waybill

When booking directly with the airline, only the MAWB is issued, referred to as a Direct AWB or Single AWB.

IINO san
IINO san
It’s important to thoroughly understand the differences in content between these two types.

Learn by Video

Air Waybill Features – About AWB Charges

Air Waybill Features – About Straight AWB

Take the Test

Reinforce your understanding of this topic by working through the exercises. Attempting the exercises without referring to the material as much as possible is advisable.

IINO san
IINO san
The act of “remembering” helps it stick in your memory.