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Let us talk about air waybill or AWB in shipping today. In the world of logistics and supply chain management, there are several prominent terms, important documents and reference numbers required, that facilitates goods transportation. An AWB is one such document that is crucial especially for domestic and international air cargo transportation.

Logistics

With the rise in eCommerce deliveries, air waybills or air consignment notes have become commonplace terms. It is usually issued by the logistics/courier company managing transportation to the customer and is a non-negotiable document.

On that note, let us take a closer look at the meaning of AWB, the structure of an AWB number, 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 logistics provider 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).

#1 FAQ – 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

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.

  • 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).

#2 FAQ – 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.

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:

Logistics
  • 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 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.

#3 FAQ – 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.

AWB shipping tracking example: AWB tracking delivery

Delhivery, Gati, Rivigo, 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 PTL shipping requirements across 19000+ pincodes 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.

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.

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.