What Is an Airbill? Function, Feature, Benefit, 10 Facts

An airbill is a legally binding transport document issued by a carrier or agent that provides details about the goods being shipped. Continue reading to learn all you need to know in the most specific way.

What Is an Airbill?

An airbill is a document that accompanies things sent by an international air courier and provides delivery details and tracking information. There are many copies of the bill of lading so that all parties involved in the shipment may document it.

What Is an Airbill?

An airbill is a type of bill of lading that is also known as an air consignment note. Although airbills serve the same purpose as ocean bills of lading, they provide less protection due to their non-negotiable nature.

Understanding an Airbill 

The airbill serves as both a receipt of goods by the carrier and a contract of transport between the shipper and the carrier. This is a legally valid contract. The airbill becomes a legally binding contract when both the shipper (or shipper’s agent) and carrier (or carrier’s agent) sign it.

In addition to the origin airport code, destination airport code, declared customs value, number of packages, gross weight, description of goods, and any further instructions, the shipper’s and consignee’s names and addresses will be included on the airway bill (e.g., “perishable”).

In addition, an airbill contains the contract terms that outline the carrier’s terms and conditions, such as liability restrictions and claims procedures, as well as a description of the products and any applicable costs.

The International Air Transport Association provides standard airway bills (IATA).


A airbill is a contract, which under commercial law is a legally enforceable arrangement. Both the shipper or his authorized representative and the carrier’s authorized agent must sign a valid contract.

Even if the same individual or entity represents both the carrier and the shipper, the airbill must be signed twice, once in each of the carrier and shipper boxes.

If they so want, the same individual may sign both documents. Therefore, the airbill must be issued without delay once the shipper has provided the items and letter of instructions.

As long as the airbill is not double-dated nor double-signed, the items do not fall under the terms of the contract, and the carrier is not responsible for the products.

When the shipment is delivered to the consignee, both the air waybill and the contract of carriage become null and void (or his authorized agent).

Responsibility for completion

The airway bill is a legally enforceable agreement between the shipper and carrier. The agent solely acts as a contact between the shipper and the carrier. In addition, the airbill is a good faith contract.

What Is an Airbill?

Except in circumstances where the shipper (as vendor) has transferred goods to a buyer (consignee) on an Ex Works basis, the shipper is accountable for the haul and liable for all harm caused by the airline or any person as a result of irregular, erroneous, or incomplete insertions on the airbill.

And the agent is responsible for supervising the regularity, correctness, or completeness of the airbill in accordance with the freight terms and conditions agreed upon by the consignee and the agent (as contracting carrier), including, without limitation, whether the freight is NVD (Non Value Declared) or VD (Value Declared).

Any irregularity, inaccuracy, or omission on the airbill shall make the agent liable for the shipment and any harm sustained by the consignee (when the shipper includes freight on the purchased item, in any other Incoterms sale, the shipper is the sole responsible, since there will be no agent acting on behalf of the consignee for the relevant freight).

When the shipper signs the airbill or submits the letter of instructions, he concurrently accepts the conditions of the contract.


Waybills are non-negotiable documents, as opposed to the often negotiable bills of lading. The word “non-negotiable” is placed clearly at the top of the airbill.

This shows that the airbill is only a receipt for goods and a transportation contract, and that it does not transfer ownership of the products specified in the “type and quantity of goods” section.

If the goods are committed “to order of” the consignee and the bill of lading is negotiated, the goods can be transferred to the consignee and the bill of lading must be signed by the consignee. The airbill may be accepted as payment despite the fact that it is not a negotiable instrument.

When the payment method is a letter of credit, this can be achieved with the aid of a bank.

If the goods are committed “to order of” the consignee and the bill of lading is negotiated, the goods can be transferred to the consignee and the bill of lading must be signed by the consignee. The airbill may be accepted as payment despite the fact that it is not a negotiable instrument.

The customer of the bank who ordered the goods and arranged for the letter of credit to be issued will be billed the amount paid by the bank to the shipper.

The goods in the air shipment are delivered directly to the consignee specified in the letter of credit (L/C).

Unless the goods are committed to a third party, such as the issuing bank, the importer may collect the goods from the carrier at the destination without paying the issuing bank or the consignor.

Therefore, it is risky to send products directly to the importer unless the shipper has received a cash payment or the buyer’s integrity is beyond question. If a letter of credit is employed, the bank functions as a middleman for this risk.

For air shipments to certain places, it is feasible to arrange payment on a COD (cash on delivery) basis and send items directly to the importer. The items are not given to the importer until payment is received and the airway bill’s conditions are met.

Typically, an exporter (the shipper) will employ a freight forwarder or consolidator to handle the air freight shipment of their items.

The forwarding agency may sign documents (such as the airbill) on behalf of the shipper if the shipper provides a Shipper’s Letter of Instructions.

What Is an Airbill?

The airbill must indicate that the products have been approved for carriage and must be signed or verified by the carrier or its designated agent.

When a carrier signs or authenticates anything, they should identify themselves as a carrier, and when an agent signs or authenticates something on behalf of a carrier, they should identify themselves as an agent of that carrier.

Master airbills are multinational airwaybills for consolidating freight (Mairbill). House airbills are supplemental documentation included with Mairbills (Hairbill). Each Hairbill has shipment-specific information (consignee, cargo, etc.) for each shipment inside the aggregation.

When there is only one cargo shown on an international airbill, the document is termed basic. Any freight forwarder can also provide you with a home airbill.

Once the shipment has been booked, the carrier will submit a Mairbill to the forwarder, who will then issue a house airbill on behalf of the carrier to the customer.

How is an Airbill Used?

The eleven-digit number or code assigned to the airway bill consists of the identification number of the air carrier (three digits) and the shipping code (six digits) (8 digits).

The shipper can use this code to track the shipment’s status and make further bookings. In addition, the airway bill must contain the following information:

  • Details on the sending party, the recipient, and the airline
  • The name(s) of the airline(s), the departure time from the airport, and the whole route taken
  • The IATA number as well as the name and contact information of the IATA agent resonsible for the journey
  • Details about shipping costs, freight, delivery dates, and other fees. Transportation insurance-related information.

There are six color options and nine pages on the airway bill.

  • Green – The original, carrier’s copy, is on top.
  • Pink – The second document in the stack, the recipient’s original copy.
  • Blue – Original document belonging to the shipper, located third on the stack.
  • Brown – The fourth brown piece of paper in the stack serves as the Delivery Receipt or Proof of Delivery.
  • White — Four copies used for various purposes are positioned at the very bottom of the stack.
  • Yellow – Goods received by the recipient, together with a signed receipt.

The core of the airbill is encapsulated in the following bullet points, and the airbill performs the following functions:

  • It validates the bill of lading by establishing a legal contract for the shipment of commodities.
  • It confirms receipt of the cargo.
  • It specifies the price of the service.
  • It demonstrates that “insurance on demand” exists.
  • The transport and management of commodities are broken down in depth.
  • The conditions of the agreement between the parties are detailed below.
  • This paper details the specifics of transportation.
  • Use this form as a customs declaration.

What Is an Airbill?

Requirements for an Airbill

Airbills are produced and distributed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Airline-specific and neutral airbills are available.

Each airline must include its name, corporate address, logo, and airbill number on its airbill. The main distinction between airline and neutral airbills is that neutral airbills are not prepopulated.

There are eight distinct color variations of an airbill and eleven distinct numerals. Since Resolution 672 of the Multilateral Electronic Airbill Convention abolished the necessity for them, paper airbills are no longer required.

Since 2010, the electronic airway bill, or e-airbill, has served as the de facto standard contract for all air freight shipments on enabled trade lines.

Functions of the Airbill

The airbill serves several functions, including:

  • Proof of shipment receipt by a carrier
  • Information sharing amongst all parties
  • agreement between shipper and carrier about transport
  • Freight bill
  • Customs statement
  • A description of the product
  • Handling and shipping instructions
  • Observation of shipments

Features and Format of the Airbill

Typically, an airbill is a one-page document including important details. IATA generates and disseminates the bill, which is used for local and international shipping. The document is published in eight different color combinations, with the first three copies being the original.

  • The first original (green) is the issuing carrier’s copy.
  • The second (pink) is the consignee’s copy.
  • The third (blue) is the shipper’s copy.

The brown fourth copy acts as a receipt and delivery confirmation. White copies are remaining.

There may or may not be an airline logo in the upper right corner of the airbill. Except for the airline emblem and pre-populated airline information, the two are identical.

Along with the carrier’s name, office location, logo, and contact information, the 11-digit airbill number is necessary for booking and tracking reasons and must appear on every airway bill.

The shipper, consignee, agent, airport of departure, and airport of destination are included in the upper-left quadrant of an airbill document.

The top right quadrant will contain the airline’s details (either printed and prepopulated text and logos or manually given details). In the top right box, both the declared amount for carriage and the declared value for customs will be shown.

The page’s center will provide information on the shipment’s contents, including the number of goods, gross weight, chargeable weight, total cost, and the kind and quantity of things.

At the bottom of the document are additional fees and taxes, a slot for the shipper or agent’s signature, and a section for noting the date, time, and location of airbill execution.

Electronic Airbill

Electronic airbills (e-airbills or e-airbills) were introduced in 2010, and from January 1, 2019, they became the default contract of carriage for all air cargo shipments.

What Is an Airbill?

IATA still accepts paper airbills, although electronic airbills are becoming the standard. The electronic version communicates and requires the same information as the paper version.

The cargo transportation process generates a substantial volume of paper that must be tracked and dispersed. The elimination of paper and the greater security and organization offered by electronic document storage are two significant advantages.

Airbill vs. Bill of Lading

Although the airbill and bill of lading are equivalent, there are significant differences between them. Both cannot be substituted for one another.

Both are necessary for international trade. The two documents are legal documents between the shipper and the carrier, and they include information about the commodities, their handling, and their destination.

When the airbill and bill of lading diverge, ownership of the commodities passes to the airbill. A bill of lading transfers goods from the shipper to the buyer.

The shipping company confirms receipt of the goods and promises to deliver them at the final destination to the party listed on the bill of lading.

In contrast, an airbill is a receipt issued by a carrier or agency that indicates the location of delivery. The remaining differences are displayed in the following table.

airbill Bill of Lading
Title to Goods No Yes
Negotiable? No Yes
Shipment Type Air shipments Sea shipments
When Document is Issued After a completed shipment is received After consignment is shipped on a vessel

How To Fill In An Airbill

When transferring products internationally, you must provide an airway bill. This document serves as a contract between the shipper and the carrier; consequently, the content must be precise and accurate. Determine what information is necessary and how to properly complete the form.

Should I Type Or Handwrite The Information?

The greatest way to deliver information that is easily readable is in writing. If you must hand-write the airbill, ensure that each copy is legible and has the right information. This will assist your shipping firm in completing its tasks promptly and effectively.

What Is an Airbill?

What Details Do I Need To Provide?

Step 1: Fill In Your Details

  • Date
  • Account number
  • Company name
  • Phone number
  • Complete address
  • VAT or tax ID

Include a different address for collection if one exists.

Step 2: Fill In Your Receiver’s Details

  • Their name
  • Phone number
  • Tax ID number

If required, please send an alternate mailing address with your contact information. Several countries may accept post office boxes as acceptable postal addresses.

Step 3: Fill In The Shipment Details

  • The number of packages
  • The type of package
  • Weight and dimensions

If it’s an international shipment, include:

  • A goods description
  • Value
  • HS code

And if you’re shipping dangerous goods, you must declare this.

Step 4: Select A Shipping Service

Typical delivery options include delivery the following day, delivery before 10 a.m., and Saturday service.

Step 5: Fill In The Billing Section

This section identifies the person responsible for paying the carrier’s freight charges. You should give your account number if you are processing the payment. Obtain the payee’s permission before including their account number if they are footing the bill.

Step 6: Sign

As the final stage, you or a company representative must sign the airbill.

Is There Anything Else I Should Include?

In addition to a thorough product description, a packing list is also useful. Fill the box with the list.

House Waybill (Hairbill) vs Master airbill (Mairbill)

House Airbill (Hairbill)

Freight forwarders employ a document referred to as a home airbill (Hairbill) to prove the terms and conditions of the carriage of goods as required by the freight forwarder. This document is often created and signed in a natural airbill style.

Home airbills can be issued using neutral airbills that do not feature the logo or name of the issuing airline.

What Is an Airbill?

House airbill (Hairbill) Specifications:

  • Frequently, house airbills are printed in a natural airbill format.
  • House airbill issued and signed by the forwarder without carrier or agency signature authorisation displayed.
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations and one of the international air agreements may or may not control domestic airway bills (Hairbills) (Warsaw Convention, Hague amendment, Montreal Convention, etc.)
  • The forwarder signs a house airbill that outlines the terms and conditions of transportation from the forwarding company’s perspective. Since the house airbill does not include the actual carrier’s carriage contract, the shipper identified on the master airbill is not a party to the carriage agreement referenced by the house airbill.

Master Airbill (Mairbill)

The carrier’s master airbill (Mairbill), which is issued and signed by the air cargo carrier or its agent and used in air shipments, demonstrates the terms and conditions of moving goods over the company’s routes (s).

A master waybill may be identified as an airbill since the airline’s information is printed on the paper before it is issued.

Master airbill (Mairbill) identifying features:

  • The majority of master airbills will be printed on the normal airbill form of the issuing airline.
  • Master air waybill issued and signed by the transport business.
  • To be legitimate, a Mairbill must conform with IATA norms and an international aviation convention (Warsaw Convention, Hague amendment, Montreal Convention, etc.)
  • If the genuine carrier signs the master airbill and includes the terms and conditions of carriage, the consignee may be protected if the items are lost or damaged during delivery if the terms and conditions are included.


When sending goods overseas through courier, you will need a document known as an airway bill or airbill in order to keep track of it.

It serves as both a contract of transport between the shipper and the carrier and the airline’s receipt of cargo. This agreement is legally binding and cannot be violated.

In addition to the shipper’s and recipient’s details, the contents’ value, and the name and location of the airport to which the item is being delivered, an airbill must contain certain non-negotiable information.

The formal receipt of your shipment by the air carrier and the commencement of your legal responsibility to transport such things.

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