The air waybill (AWB) is one of the most important air cargo documents for importers and exporters. It is a contract of carriage between the shipper or freight forwarder and the airline or carrier. While the air cargo industry still depends heavily on paper air waybills and documentation, there is an urgency to move towards electronic AWB (e-AWB) to streamline and accelerate the air freight supply chain process.
The adoption of e-AWB has many benefits for the industry and its stakeholders:
- The e-AWB is the first step towards paperless air cargo; it eliminates the need to print, handle and archive paper documents. The move towards paperless processing also improves business sustainability.
- The Cost associated with paper air waybills—printing, storage, transport, office equipment, infrastructure, office space, etc. — are eliminated or reduced.
- The accuracy of information is improved, reducing the risk of processing delays due to errors, duplication, missing data or illegible paper AWB. e-AWB data comes directly from the forwarder or air cargo agent, and changes can be made to the information until the cargo reaches the station.
- e-AWB speeds up processing and can reduce total cycle time by up to 24 hours. There is no need to file paper e-AWBs, and waiting times are eliminated because parties can move cargo as scheduled.
- For carriers, e-AWB streamlines the processing of high-volume air freight shipment.
- e-AWB data can be accessed in real time from anywhere by all parties.
e-Air WayBill Single Process
The benefits of e-AWB are clear for airlines, but the business value has to be clearly demonstrated for freight forwarders. One of the biggest challenges to e-AWB adoption for forwarders is the different requirements for each trade lane. e-AWBs cannot be used on certain routes due to regulatory, operational or other reasons. For these routes, only paper air waybills are accepted. Freight forwarders need to determine ahead of time whether a paper AWB is required while maintaining parallel processes for electronic and paper AWBs.
To help freight forwarders, the IATA recommends the use of a “Single Process” for AWB. The Single Process is one of the three pillars of the eAWB360 initiative. The second is the adoption of common standard operating procedure (SOP) at each e-Airport for ground handling agents (GSAs). The third pillar is joint and coordinated communication among industry participants that e-AWB is the preferred method at e-Airports.
Under the Single Process, forwarders always send electronic information to the airline and never a paper AWB. It is the airline that determines whether a paper AWB is required. When needed, the airline prints the paper AWB on behalf of the forwarder using the information that was provided electronically. The Single Process is important because it eliminates the complexity for freight forwarders. The airline is responsible for making the decision to use a paper or electronic AWB, which minimizes liability risks.
Before using the Single Process, the airline and freight forwarder must sign the IATA multilateral or bilateral e-AWB agreement. In addition, all parties involved must also ensure that their systems are ready for e-AWB. After creating an SOP for Single Process, carriers must coordinate with the GSAs, train their staff (including sales agents) on the SOP, and communicate the advantages to freight forwarders.
eAWB360 in North America
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) aims to achieve 56 percent global penetration of the e-AWB initiative by December 2016. As of April 2016, e-AWB penetration is at 38.3 percent. To accelerate the process and overcome challenges to e-AWB adoption, the IATA, and the air cargo industry has launched the eAWB360 program, a "call to action" campaign that aims to achieve 100 percent e-AWB and improve stakeholder readiness. The eAWB360 campaign is consists of a series activities and events at selected airports around the world.
Following the first phase of the campaign in Europe, the second phase of eAWB360 is now happening in North America. Selected e-Airports in North America include Vancouver (YVR), Toronto (YVZ), Montreal (YUL), New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Dallas (DFW), and Atlanta (ATL).
There are currently 16 participating airlines in phase 2 of the eAWB360 campaign:
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport will be one of the two airports in the U.S. to go live with e-AWB in July.
10 out of the 16 participating airlines currently operate at DFW:
As of April 2016, e-AWB penetration at DFW was at 46 percent, the second highest among participating airports in the United States. Mark Thorpe, assistant VP for Air Service Development at DFW, said that airports are best positioned to contribute more to accelerate e-AWB adoption and maximize the benefits of e-AWB. DFW and other airports can create an operational environment that fosters e-AWB success by assisting airlines and freight forwarders in streamlining federal regulatory processes and leveraging e-AWB to improve customer service for shippers and recipients.
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport – e-Air Waybill Launch Session
The “Go Live” date for DFW airport is July 1, 2016, and the eAWB360 Launch Session was held on June 2, 2016. During the event, keynote speakers from the air cargo industry shared information and discussed issues related to e-AWB. Below was the agenda for DFW eAWB360 Launch Session:
Sponsors and collaborators for this event were American Airlines Cargo, CrimsonLogic Global eTrade Services, Magaya, Airforwarders Association, Airlines for America, CNS, among others.
e-AWB Solutions Providers
Information Technology (IT) and e-AWB service providers play important roles in achieving 100 percent e-AWB adoption. CrimsonLogic Global eTrade Services (GeTS) include best-in-class e-AWB solutions for carriers, forwarders, and stakeholders at DFW and other airports. For airlines, e-AWB solutions can help address challenges associated with information management under the e-AWB Single Process. The GeTS e-AWB service reduces complexity, improves data accuracy and security, minimizes workloads, and enhances the customer experience.
For freight forwarders, the smart and sustainable e-AWB solution from GeTS makes the transmission of e-AWB data simple, quick and seamless. Eliminate and reduce costs associated with paper AWBs, minimize waiting time at the airline or agent desk, eliminate delays due to missing or illegible paper AWBs, save the environment, and improve the sustainability of your business. The e-AWB service from GeTS connects you immediately to over 90 airlines and provides various methods of transmission of your e-AWB data. All pricing plans include a free 30-day trial.