Air Waybill (AW)


Constitutes a contract of carriage between the shipper and airline, outlining their responsibilities. It also functions as a cargo receipt, provides essential customs information, enables tracking, and streamlines billing and accounting processes.


Usually, a forwarder acting as a representative of the shipper, or a shipper directly.


The carrier (airline)

Legal framework

Established primarily through the Montreal Convention of 1999 (MC99), which defines the Air Waybill (AWB) as a legal contract between the airline and the shipper, with its Conditions of Contract governed by Resolution 600b of the Cargo Services Conference managed by IATA. Furthermore, IATA Resolution 672 enables the use of electronic Air Waybills (e-AWB), supported by the Multilateral E-Air Waybill Agreement, with IATA member airlines automatically cosigning these agreements. Additionally, the Conditions of Contract are subject to international conventions and ICAO regulations regarding liabilities and damages in air transport, providing a comprehensive legal framework for AWBs.


The IATA reports that there are 1.2 million Air Waybills issued for international transport, with over 80% being electronic Air Waybills.

Key standards

The new generation Air Waybills are part of the IATA ONE Record initiative. The ONE Record standard comprises a data model, API specification, and security measures for streamlined data exchange in the air cargo industry, available on GitHub.

The older version uses IATA Cargo-XML messaging, which reuses the components from the UN/CEFACT Core Components Library (UN/CCL).

Major differences between standards

IATA Air Waybills are used for international freight transport by carriers, but domestic air transport follows a similar format. Postal freight, like air mail, follows international postal conventions under the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Some integrators, such as FedEx and DHL, may not be subject to these regulations when the shipper, forwarder, and carrier are the same company.


Electronic Air Waybills (e-AWBs) are often processed through Cargo Community Systems (CCS), which enable various parties in the air cargo industry to exchange electronic documents.

Since 2018, IATA has been introducing the ONE Record standard, which replaces messaging platforms with a data-centric approach that leaves data “at source” and creates transport records by linking data needed for documents to these distributed data sources, making air transport data platform-independent.

UN/CEFACT has also incorporated e-AWBs in its Multi-Modal Transport Reference Data Model (MMT-RDM) to enhance interoperability in transport information sharing through collaboration with IATA and ICAO.


e-AWB adoption exceeded 80% in 2022 after a 15-year campaign, during which Cargo XML and older format Cargo-IMP were still accepted but not PDFs. ONE Record adoption has just begun, with airlines aiming to be capable of using it for air transport data, including AWB, by 1 January 2026, although actual usage may continue with Cargo IMP and Cargo XML for a few years following the transition.


The vision for ONE Record is an end-to-end digital logistics and transport supply chain where data is easily and transparently exchanged in a digital ecosystem of air cargo stakeholders, communities and data platforms.

ONE Record is an openly accessible standard and IATA has made available a list of documentation and resources ( The IATA Multilateral Data Agreement (MDA) offers a standardised non-disclosure agreement, allowing stakeholders to sign with IATA once and subsequently exchange data through the ONE Record API with all other signatory parties at no cost.