What Is an Air Waybill Number and Where to Find It

What Is an Air Waybill Number and Where to Find It When completing a commercial invoice for an international shipment, you are required to specify the Air Waybill Number of your package, among other information. What exactly is an Air Waybill Number and where can you find it?

An air waybill (AWB), also known as simply waybill, dispatch note or consignment note, is a non-negotiable contract between the shipper and the international airline that transports their goods. It acknowledges receipt of the goods for shipment and covers their transport from airport to airport. An air waybill serves a number of functions: a contract of carriage between the carrier and shipper, proof of receipt by the carrier, customs declaration, and more.

Air waybills are traditionally issued in multiple sets of different colors distributed between all parties involved in the shipment. The first thee copies are regarded as the original (the issuing carrier’s copy is green or yellow, the recipient’s copy is pink, the shipper’s copy is blue). The fourth copy, functioning as the receipt and proof of delivery, is brown or yellow. The other four copies are white; they are for the airport, other airlines involved in the delivery, and the air broker. It should be noted, however, that most airlines today use electronic air waybills (e-AWBs) to reduce the need for paper.

Standard AWB form was designed by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) and contains information such as carrier details, consignor (shipper) and consignee (receiver) details, origin and destination airport codes, description of goods and their HS (harmonized system) codes, quantity and value of goods, and other relevant information.

Each air waybill issued by a carrier or its authorized agent has a unique 11-digit number that consists of three parts:

  • IATA-designed airline prefix: the first three digits
  • Serial number: the next seven digits
  • Check digit: the last digit; the remainder of the division of the 7-digit AWB serial number by 7

The AWB number identifies the shipment and can be used as its tracking number. It can be found on the upper right corner of the air waybill.

When you ship packages via the United States Postal Service (USPS), UPS, or another postal or courier service, the shipping label basically serves as your copy of the air waybill because it contains all the information that an AWB must contain and serves as proof that the transportation of goods was paid for.

However, it should be noted that a shipping label typically doesn’t look like a traditional airline-issued air waybill. This means that the AWB number you’re looking for may not necessarily consist of 11 digits and/or be located on the upper right corner of the shipping label. For example, when you’re shipping via the USPS Global Express Guaranteed international shipping service, you need to look for the 10-digit USPS tracking number that is located on the bottom right corner of the shipping label.

So, basically, when you’re shipping something via a postal and courier company, the tracking number on the package is the air waybill number you need to state in the commercial invoice. The number of characters in the AWB/tracking number may vary depending on the postal/courier company and delivery method.