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What is Airway Bill: Definition & Features Explained

What Is An Airway Bill (AWB) ?

What Are the Functions of an Airway Bill?

What Are the Features and Format of the Airway Bill?

What Are the Requirements for Getting an Airway Bill?

What Are the Differences Between Airway Bill and Bill of Lading?

Bills of lading are transport documents that contain useful port-to-port shipping details approved and signed by the carrier. It also contains the terms and conditions of shipping and thus establishes the contact between the port of loading and discharge. 

The difference between a bill of lading and an airway bill are as follows:


Airway Bill

Airway Bill Bills of Lading


Normally applicable for air shipments.

Applicable for port-to-port shipping.

Title documents

AWBs are not documents of title.

Bills of Lading in their negotiable form are title documents. Therefore, the receiver must submit at least one of these to receive the goods easily.


Follows several international conventions like Warsaw Convention, Hague Convention, Montreal Convention, etc.

Bills of lading are issued subject to Hague Rules, Hague-Visby Rules and US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1936, etc.


Airway Bills are incompatible with maritime shipment incoterms like Free alongside Ship, Free on board, Cost and freight, etc.

Bills of lading are compatible with all incoterms.


Airway Bills consist of 8 copies with three original and 5 duplicate copies.

Bills of lading consist of 6 copies with 3 original and 3 duplicate copies.

The primary purpose of an Airway Bill is to allow tracking of the shipments. The document serves as a receipt of goods by an airline, as well as a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier. Companies should always make sure to fill out the document carefully because it is a legally binding transport document.