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A Guide to Essential Air Freight Shipping Documents

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

April 29, 2024

6 min read

When you are engaged in international trade, you will have to ensure a smooth shipping process so that your goods reach your overseas customers on time. Before a shipment is scheduled for air freight, you need to pass an important step, which is document verification. If the paperwork is not accurate, as needed for international or national trade, there is a risk of many troubles setting in during the shipment phase or landing at the destination, such as detaining of goods, delays, fines, etc.

Every air freight shipment needs proper paperwork, as per regulations, to ensure smooth transportation. This blog provides detailed information on the necessary air freight shipping documents, including their importance and the role these papers play in a seamless shipping process.

Air Freight Shipping Documents

Essential Air Freight Documents: Your Must-Have Checklist

Different types of documents are needed while shipping goods via air freight. The list of documents required depends on the destination state or nation. However, some of the common and important documents required for air freight shipping are:

  1. Airway Bill (AWB): It serves as a contract or significant document for both the shipper and the carrier. It contains information about the shipment, the declared value of goods, the terms and conditions of the transportation, etc.
  2. Commercial invoice: Since customs use this invoice to calculate the cost and taxes of the items being transported, it is one of the crucial documents required for air freight. A commercial invoice contains all the required information, such as the sender and recipient’s names and addresses, the specifications of the products being transported, the price, the terms of sale, etc.
  3. Certificate of origin: The country of origin of the items being shipped across the borders is verified by the certificate of origin (CO). Since each country has different rules and regulations depending on where the products originated, this paper is crucial for customs clearance purposes. An approved semiofficial organisation typically certifies the Certificate of Origin. Even though the information is the same on the commercial invoice, the Certificate of Origin can still be needed.
  4. Packing list: The packing list provided along with the shipment includes information about the consignment. Compared to packing lists used for domestic shipments, an export packing list is typically more comprehensive. The packing list is typically used by the shipper to confirm the products’ weight and volume. This list may be used by foreign customs officials to examine the consignment. The export packing list includes details about the packaging, quantity, measurements, weight, type of packaging used, and any specific instructions for the products for air freight shipping.
  5. Customs declaration: The customs declaration paper declares that the products being shipped are inspected, documented, and authorised by the customs authorities by identifying the value and taxes implemented on the shipment.
  6. Destination control statement: The information provided in the Destination Control Statement verifies that the items are being shipped according to the laws of the destination country. It includes information about the product, country of origin, country of destination, estimated value, shipper’s name and address, etc. This statement is only to be signed or made by an authorised representative of the shipper company.
  7. Export licence or permit: The export process is strictly regulated in accordance with the laws and regulations of the country of origin. The export licence is a government document that gives approval to carry out a particular export transaction.
  8. Dangerous goods declaration (if required): If the shipment contains any hazardous or dangerous goods, this declaration paper is required to ensure that the rules are adhered to while in transit.
  9. Insurance certificate (if required): Some air freight shippersshipping senders and recipients purchase insurance to cover their shipment against any losses or damages sustained during transit.
  10. Inspection certificate: The customs authorities require this certificate to ensure that the products shipped have been inspected by the concerned authorities and are fit for shipping.

The Importance of Proper Air Shipment Documentation

While transporting goods internationally or nationally, proper documentation is needed to make sure that the shipment gets delivered timely and safely. The necessary paperwork helps avoid any potential issues during shipping. The reasons why shipping documents are needed are:

  • Accurate and proper documentation ensures that the shipment is shipped in accordance with regulatory requirements and prevents delays or fines from authorities such as customs.
  • For seamless international import and export of products, air freight shippers must adhere to the laws and regulations of each nation.
  • Clear contracts stating agreements and conditions between the shipping company, carrier, and receiver are ensured by appropriate documentation.
  • Proper documentation enables a smooth customs clearance process. Important documents like details of goods, cost, origin of goods, taxes, import or export regulations, etc., help streamline the shipping process,and avoiding any delays.
  • Participants in the supply chain can track the movement of goods by having proper documentation of the shipment.
  • Documents have everything recorded on them, so it eliminates or reduces the risk of any loss, damage, or dispute in the shipping process and provides evidence of the terms and conditions of the shipment thathave been agreed upon.
  • Timely and proper documentation of air freight shipping enables on-time deliveries, decreases the risk of any damages, and promotes transparency and communication between everyone in the supply chain.
  • Proper documentation helps businesses promote transparency in the shipping process. This will encourage recurring business. Customers who are satisfied with the services will return and recommend others for the same. 

CargoX: Simplifying Shipping Documentation for Seamless Operations

The shipping documentation process can be very tiring for sellers and shipping service providers as it includes hundreds of documents to be collected, verified, and submitted at different stages of the shipping process. However, to help shipping service providers, companies like CargoX work towards making the process of preparing air freight shipping documents easier and more streamlined. Here’s how CargoX has streamlined the shipping and documentation process:

  • CargoX substituted traditional paper-based documentation with digital one. This has been made possible by blockchain technology. The procedure of obtaining documents for customs clearance has become more automated and digital, which has also reduced the possibility of fraud, delays, and mistakes.
  • The CargoX platform makes real-time cargo status tracking possible. Importers and exporters can monitor their shipments and foresee problems by taking advantage of the transparency in the customs clearance procedure with real-time tracking.
  •  The CargoX platform facilitates the easy exchange of papers between all parties involved in the customs clearance process. Efficient and rapid data exchange facilitates transparent collaboration and communication at every stage of the process.
  • The digital documentation procedure might be substantially more profitable as it lowers the cost of handling fees and physical documentation.


Proper documentation is important in every industry and, more so, in global import and export processes to achieve success. It becomes difficult if there are any delays in the delivery or the shipment gets stuck at a place during the delivery process because of documentation. CargoX here provides great help for businesses as it offers innovative solutions that simplify air freight shipping documentation and processes to make it accessible to all. By having proper documentation as per the regulations of the origin and destination countries, you can ensure smooth delivery and happy customers.

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