The air waybill is the most important document issued by a carrier either directly or through its authorised agent. It is a non-negotiable transport document. It covers transport of cargo from airport to airport. By accepting a shipment an IATA cargo agent is acting on behalf of the carrier whose air waybill is issued.
Air waybills have eleven digit numbers which can be used to make bookings, check the status of delivery, and current position of the shipment.
Air waybills are issued in 8 sets of different colours. The first three copies are classified as originals. The first original, Green in colour, is the Issuing Carrier’s copy. The second, coloured Pink, is the Consignee’s Copy. The third, coloured Blue, is the Shipper’s copy. A fourth Brown copy acts as the Delivery Receipt, or proof of delivery. The other three copies are white.
There are several purposes that an air waybill serves, but its main functions are:
A. Contract of Carriage
Behind every original of the Air Waybill are conditions of contract for carriage.
B. Evidence of Receipt of Goods
When the shipper delivers goods to be forwarded, he will get a receipt. The receipt is proof that the shipment was handed over in good order and condition and also that the shipping instructions, as contained in the Shipper’s Letter of Instructions, are acceptable. After completion, an original copy of the air waybill is given to the shipper as evidence of the acceptance of goods and as proof of contract of carriage
C. Freight Bill
The air waybill may be used as a bill or invoice together with supporting documents since it may indicate charges to be paid by the consignee, charges due to the agent or the carrier. An original copy of the air waybill is used for the carrier’s accounting
D. Certificate of Insurance
The air waybill may also serve as an evidence if the carrier is in a position to insure the shipment and is requested to do so by the shipper.
E. Customs Declaration
Although customs authorities require various documents like a commercial invoice, packing list, etc. the air waybill too is proof of the freight amount billed for the goods carried and may be needed to be presented for customs clearance
The format of the air waybill has been designed by IATA and these can be used for both domestic as well as international transportation. These are available in two forms, viz. the airline logo equipped air waybill and the neutral air waybill. Usually, airline air waybills are distributed to IATA cargo agents by IATA airlines. The air waybills show:
– the carrier’s name
– its head office address
– its logo
– the pre printed eleven digit air waybill number
It is also possible to complete an air waybill through a computerised system. Agents all over the world are now using their own in-house computer systems to issue airlines’ and freight forwarders’ own air waybills. IATA cargo agents usually hold air waybills of several carriers. However, it gradually became difficult to accommodate these pre-numbered air waybills with the printed identification in the computer system. Therefore a neutral air waybill was created. Both types of air waybills have the same format and layout. However, the neutral air waybill does not bear any pre-printed individual name, head office address, logo and serial number.