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What is AWB Number: Why & Where to Use It?

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

October 3, 2023

6 min read

Cargo can be moved from one place to another using various modes of transport. When transported using air as the mode of transport, goods are known as airfreight or air transport. The airline that transports the goods issues a document indicating receipt of the goods on the flight. It shows a brief description of the goods and other details. This document issued by the airlines is called an air waybill or AWB. The AWB has a unique number assigned to it, which is called AWB Number. This number helps to track the goods and is a guide to check when the goods were despatched, despatch airport, flight number, destination airport and current status. Each airline has a unique numbering methodology used while issuing the AWB number. It is important to understand the role that this number plays and how it can be used to ensure that your cargo arrives at its intended destination on time and in good condition. Let us learn more about it.

Understand the importance of AWB number

Definition of AWB Number

The Airwaybill document accompanies the goods that have been transported by air. The unique number or code denoted on the Airwaybill (AWB) is called the AWB number. The number distinguishes one AWB from another. Each airline issues an airway bill starting with a unique code that indicates the flight on which the goods are being transported. 

Importance and Usage of AWB Number

The airway bill documents the relationship between the shipper, airlines, and the consignee.  Here are some of its importance and usage.

Importance and uses of AWB number:

  1. Proof of receipt: The AWB number is proof of receipt of goods, and it also documents the relationship between the shipper, airlines, and the consignee. AWB contains the Shipper name (Consignor), address and contact details, and the Consignee name, address, and contact number.
  2. Carrier identification: The AWB number indicates which airline is carrying the goods and gives details about the cargo’s contents and packing details. The packing details will give information about the number of packages, dimensions, and cargo weight. The AWB also indicates details about the despatch airport, intermediate airport, and final destination airport. It gives the flight number and any transit flight number, with the flight name and date.
  3. Unique identification: Each airway has its unique code based on which the Master airway bill is numbered. The Master Airwaybill number is designated as ‘MAWB’. The MAWB is always an 11-digit number, beginning with the airline code. For example, if the cargo is carried by Singapore Airlines, the MAWB will start with 618. Another example is Air France. For Air France, it will begin with ‘057’. So, the first three digits of the MAWB will indicate which airline is carrying the goods. The next seven digits are the unique serial number of the bill issued, and the last digit is the checksum digit, which is calculated by dividing the serial-number digits by 7.
  4. Consolidation: In case of cargo consolidation, the House airway bill (HAWB) is issued. Many a time, when cargo is being consolidated (which means cargo of various suppliers is being aggregated or collected by a common agent, normally called freight forwarder), each cargo can be issued an airway bill by the consolidator agency. This AWB is called the House airway bill. The HAWB will not indicate the airlines in the number. It is a free number and can be of any number of digits
  5. Customs declaration: A customs declaration is a formal document that provides the necessary information about the goods being transported across borders. It helps customs officials to assess the value of the goods and determine the amount of duty and taxes payable on the goods.

The AWB contains important information about the goods being transported and this information is critical for customs officials to determine whether the goods can be allowed into the country and to assess the appropriate taxes and duties to be charged. It also acts as a customs declaration document.

The AWB will give information about various factors involved in the airfreight of the cargo. The AWB number also contains information about the port of despatch, the cargo’s declared value and packaged cargo’s dimensions. Marketplaces and couriers can also issue AWB. Examples of these are FedEx, eBay, TNT, etc.

It is worth noting that IATA manages the AWB number. It stands for International Air Transport Association. This is a global organisation and is responsible for the generation and distribution of AWB numbers. Some requirements for generating AWB numbers are the airline’s name, logo, headquarters address and unique waybill number. AWB number is also known as air consignment notes. 

Tracking Shipment with AWB number

An airway bill is always used to accompany goods transported by air. This can be through cargo mode or courier mode of airfreight. As hundreds of thousands of cargo are being moved worldwide, it would be impossible to track cargo. But this problem is resolved and made so much under control through AWB.  The AWB number being unique helps to track and trace the shipment. The AWB number, specifically, helps track the cargo and find its whereabouts. This real-time information gives confidence to the suppliers that the cargo can be traced and will not be lost in transit. 

All airlines and courier companies have track and trace modules on their website. When the supplier or the consignee wants to track their cargo, they simply log in to the shipper’s website and enter the AWB Number. Within a few minutes, the website will revert with the cargo status details. It will also show the historical background data from when the cargo was loaded from the despatch airport. This will build the confidence of the shipper and the consignee. Courier companies and airlines are trying to improve tracking features by adopting modern techniques such as AI, IoT, blockchain, etc.

Shiprocket’s Advanced Air Freight Solutions

Shiprocket provides effective solutions for air freight. Shiprocket has distinguished itself by providing effective, economical and practical solutions to airfreight problems. Some of the features of Shiprocket’s solutions are:-

  • It provides national and international airfreight solutions.
  • It endeavours and delivers in 1 or 2 days.
  • Supports eCommerce companies to pick up and deliver their products quickly.
  • Cash on delivery feature
  • Shiprocket provides pick, pack, and ship solutions. The airfreight of cargo is easier than before.
  • The website has tools to calculate cargo weight, such as net weight, gross weight, and volumetric weight. Through this weight calculation, estimated charges can be calculated easily. 
  • It is possible to airfreight through top courier partners such as DotZot, ExpressBees, FedEx, BlueDart etc.
  • The cargo can be tracked by using AWB Number.

Conclusion

The AWB number is a crucial element in the airfreight industry. It helps to track and trace cargo and provides critical information about the goods being transported. With its unique identification code, the AWB number enables suppliers and consignees to track their cargo in real-time and ensure that it arrives at its intended destination on time and in good condition. Understanding the role of the AWB number and its importance in air transportation can help you to ensure that your cargo arrives safely and efficiently.

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