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Let us talk about air waybill or AWB in shipping today. In the world of air freight logistics and supply chain management, an AWB number is a crucial identifier for tracking a package especially for international air cargo transportation. An AWB number is a contract between the the airlines and shipper that legally binds the airlines to transport the package in a secure, safe and efficient manner. With the rise in eCommerce deliveries, air waybills or air consignment notes have become commonplace and is a non-negotiable document.

Logistics

Let us take a closer look at the AWB number meaning, its structure and format, how AWB number can be used for order tracking, examples of AWB and more. Also, understand why AWB number is important and how as a business owner you can use it.

What is AWB in shipping? Understanding its full form and meaning

We start with the basics – What is an AWB?

AWB stands for air waybill, also known as an air consignment note. It’s a non-negotiable, legally binding document that provides details about the goods being transported. The AWB number is usually provided by the airlines shipping the goods and comes with details such as the nature and quantity of goods being shipped, origin and destination, terms and conditions associated, optimal storage and movement conditions, seller and buyer information, value of the consignment, gross weight, and more.

Whether it is for eCommerce shipping, door-to-door delivery services, or any other, the AWB document enables ease of tracking, customs clearance, insurance claim and more (especially in the case of international air cargo).

AWB number meaning

An AWB number, or Air Waybill number is essential for air freight operations. It acts as a shipment tracker for both the sender and receiver, monitoring its shipping journey. It’s a unique number that ensures that every shipment can easily be identified and tracked.

When it comes to efficient management of cargo, AWB numbers also facilitate seamless customs clearances. The AWB contains vital shipping data that enables logistics companies to reduce shipping errors and improves security. There’s also reduced shipping delays with packages efficiently reaching its destination without loss.

What does AWB stand for?

AWB stands for Air Waybill. It is a unique identifying number given to shipments via air freight logistics. It acts as a receipt and contract between the shipper and carrier and enables all stakeholders to tracking the status of the shipment in real-time.

AWB number meaning and example:
Consider the AWB number for a package to be – 224-45678900

Here the first 3 digits identify the airlines – 224

The next 7 digits are the serial number of the shipment – 45678900

The last digit is a check digit used for error detection – 0

AWB numbers can therefore streamline processes across international borders, making global trade secure, reliable and accessible. It also simplifies complex logistics workflows and enables shipment tracking at every stage of transit.

What information does an AWB contain?

  • Contact details of the seller and buyer
  • Details of the items/goods being shipped e.g., product type, quantity, value of goods, description of the products, any special notes on storage and materials handling etc.
  • Air carrier details, shipment origin and destination

AWB number meaning

Air Waybill (AWB) number format: What does it look like?

Now that we understand AWB meaning in shipping let us look at what it looks like.

A typical AWB number has 11 digits and has three parts.

Logistics
  • The first 3 digits are the airlines prefix also known as the airlines code or abbreviation
  • The next 7 digits are the serial number, a set of unique numbers for every parcel that helps to differentiate them from each other
  • The last digit is a check digit

In some cases, there may be additional numbers or letters after the check digit (e.g., FedEx parcels).

AWB number example

Let us now look at an air waybill format (fictional).

11 digit unique code: xxx-xxxxxxxx or 158-87625635

3 digit airlines prefix: 158

7 digit serial number: 87625635

1 digit check digit: 5

The check digit is usually calculated in the following manner:

  • Divide the serial number by 7: 8762563/7
  • The remainder is the check digit: 5

Note: The airlines prefix is uniform as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

What is an e-AWB?

Air Waybills are no longer created on paper. Most air carriers and shipping providers generate AWB digitally, moving away from paper based AWBs. Some air cargo providers have completely switched to electronic air waybills to keep the process quick, transparent, and easy to track.

Since 1 January 2019, the e-air waybill became the default for all air shipments.

What are the different types of air waybills?

Air waybills are used both for international and domestic logistics shipping purposes. The format as established by the IATA is used uniformly across countries and locations.

In general, there are two forms of air waybills used in India:

  • Air waybill with airlines logo: It contains the airlines logo, the name, and the head office address
  • Neutral air waybill: No pre-printed/pre-populated information

The air waybill document is issued in eight sets of different colours:

  • Green (original): The issuing agent/logistics service provider/air carrier company’s copy
  • Pink (original): The consignee copy
  • Blue: The shipper’s copy
  • Brown: The copy for proof of delivery
  • White: The remaining four copies

How to track Air Waybill (AWB) number?

When you book a logistics service for your business, you will receive an email/SMS communication with details on your shipment booking. You can find the AWB number stated in this communication.

The AWB number will also be present in shipping label and any receipt or invoice that you receive from the logistics transportation provider.

Once you have the AWB number handy, it is easy to track the real-time status and location of your shipment. Some of the steps you can take to track your parcel using AWB number are:

  • Visit the air carrier or logistics company site
  • Login to your account
  • View the ‘Order’ section (or similar) to find details on the latest orders placed
  • Click to open the relevant order
  • Find the 11 digit AWB number mentioned

Many websites provide the option to search for the consignment status using the AWB numbers from the ‘Search’ option.

How can I find my AWB number?

You can find your AWB number online or offline. It’s a straightforward process that takes only seconds and enables you to track your shipment.

Steps to find AWB number:

  • Check your shipping receipt: Whether you have your shipping receipt in a digital or physical form, the AWB number will be mentioned in the receipt. When you ship via air freight you are provided a shipping receipt and the AWB number will be present in this document. This 11-digit number is usually at the top/top right (varies between carriers).
  • Contact the Carrier: If you can’t locate your AWB shipping number or have misplaced your receipt, contact the carrier. Basic details like phone number, destination, date or similar may need to be provided to fetch the AWB number.
  • Contact the Freight Forwarder: If you are using freight forwarding services, you can follow the same process mentioned earlier. Contact your freight forwarder, provide the necessary details and get your AWB number.
  • Check communication email/SMS: In most cases, you will receive a digital message of your shipment from the carrier/logistics company/freight forwarder, i.e., email, SMS, WhatApp message. You can check these messages to retrieve your Air Waybill number.
  • Use website or app: You can alternatively visit the carrier’s website or mobile application, log in to your account, and fetch your shipping details. You can get your AWB number and track the status of your package using it.

Also read: Difference between freight forwarder and third party logistics

AWB tracking

Is Tracking number and AWB number the same?

There are many terms used in transportation services industry to refer to different services. While order number and tracking number are usually different, in several cases tracking number and AWB number are the same and help to track the status of a parcel. In general, AWB numbers are generated when air transportation is involved. If, road transportation is involved, a carrier may use a tracking ID instead of a AWB number. However, it is unlikely that a AWB and tracking number will be generated for the same parcel.

Difference between Air Waybill number and Tracking number

The main difference between Airwaybill number and Tracking number is that while AWB numbers are specially used for air cargo, Tracking numbers are more versatile and used across all types of transport and delivery services.

AWB number vs Tracking number

Air Waybill number Tracking number
AWB numbers are used specifically for air freight and cargo Tracking numbers are used across all shipping modes
Exclusive to air freight For goods by road transport, air, sea and other ground shipping
Issued by the airlines (Note – First 3 digits of the AWB number is for identifying the airlines) Can be provided by any carrier, including courier and postal services
Format usually includes an airline code (3 digitals), a serial number (7 digits) and a check digit Format varies between service providers but uses a series of alphanumeric and special characters
Tracks package from airport to airport (origin to destination) Tracks package from point of origin to final destination

AWB shipping tracking example: AWB tracking delivery

Delhivery, Gati, FedEx, DTDC, Blue Dart – these are some of the most widely used courier and logistics companies in India for B2B and B2C sectors.

At Tata nexarc, we offer you quick, affordable logistics solutions. We can facilitate your shipping requirements across numerous locations in India at the best prices. We have a prompt customer support team to help you with all queries including tracking shipments and getting real-time updates. Ship now with Logistics on Tata nexarc.

So, if you book a shipment with any of our trusted logistics partners, we can help you with tracking the status and location of your consignment. Alternatively, you can visit their website and use the ‘Order ID’ or ‘Tracking ID’ (or AWB number whichever is applicable) and track your goods.

In general, it will provide a comprehensive detail on the movement of your parcel. For example:

  • 10 Jan: Order placed
  • 10 Jan: Order shipped at 20:22 hrs
  • 11 Jan: Arrived in Bangalore Urban 1 at 16:44 hrs
  • 11 Jan: Dispatched for next stop
  • 11 Jan: Arrived at Bangalore Rural 1 at 23:30 hrs
  • 12 Jan: Order ready for dispatch
  • 12 Jan: Order out for delivery at 08:55 hrs
  • 12 Jan: Order delivered at 11:22 hrs

Whether you login to your account (on the official website) or use the order tracking status link shared via email/SMS, this is a sample of how you can use your AWB number to track order status in detail.

What is AWB in delivery?

We’ve taken a look at AWB number meaning and its role in streamlining air freight transportation.

When it comes to delivery processes, AWB numbers are important as it enables businesses and customers to track the movement of packages from airport to airport. This is especially true for international shipments, where a single package might have multiple carriers moving it from one place to another. AWB numbers contain specific details that’s essential for tracking and for ensuring efficiency and accuracy in air shipments.

AWB in delivery therefore encompasses the shipments journey from the point of origin to its destination (airport to airport) and the efficiency with which it is carried out.

AWB in delivery processes:

  • Issuance and usage: When air transport is being used for goods shipping an AWB number is issued, as a contract between the shipper and carrier.
  • Benefits: It facilitates customs clearance, helps to manage cargo efficiently, brings accuracy and reduces errors in the shipping process.
  • Steps involved: Once the freight is booked, the airlines shares the AWB number, which can be used to track shipment throughout the air freight transportation journey.
  • Challenges: Relies on accuracy as any error can result in delays, lost/misplaced consignments, which impacts the overall customer experience.

AWB in delivery

Why AWB document is important?

As can be understood, the AWB document contains complete details of the consignment. As a business owner, whether you are procuring goods from a seller, or selling goods to a customer, this document will ensure that it provides ease in transportation. It’s a legally binding contract, and once drafted cannot be undone. It will also make it easy to track the shipment status and location and enable quick customs clearance.

The logistics sector in India has witnessed significant changes in the last decade. The growth of eCommerce businesses and use of digital technology has changed how buying and selling happens. With efficient delivery a key factor for competitive advantage, it’s natural for businesses to look for solutions for enhancing customer experiences. With AWB numbers facilitating the entire tracking process across the logistics chain, it adds value to businesses and drives efficiency.

Sohini Banerjee

Sohini is a seasoned content writer with 12 years’ experience in developing marketing and business content across multiple formats. At Tata nexarc, she leverages her skills in crafting curated content on the Indian MSME sector, steel procurement, and logistics. In her personal time, she enjoys reading fiction and being up-to-date on trends in digital marketing and the Indian business ecosystem.