News Article

New IATA Multilateral e-AWB Agreement

The multilateral e-AWB Agreement smooth’s the way to remove the paper air waybill and improve e-AWB take up

What is the purpose of a paper air waybill? Of course on the one hand it contains data and information that facilitates the movement of a given air cargo consignment from origin to destination airport. But on the other it (importantly) constitutes the legal contract of carriage between the airline and either the forwarder or shipper. Back in 1929 the Warsaw Convention established liability for international carriage of cargo as performed by airlines. It specifically required the issuance of a paper air waybill. It wasn’t until much later when Warsaw was effectively amended by the Montreal Protocol 4*, and more definitively replaced entirely by the Montreal Convention (1999)*, that the ability to submit data electronically, instead of being required to print it on the face of paper air waybill, became a legal reality.

So far so good, so during 2009/10 IATA and FIATA worked together to develop a model e-AWB agreement that the forwarder and the airline would sign on a bilateral basis before starting to submit e-AWB’s. Subsequently the reality though was that both parties soon realised that having sign numerous separate agreements was simply too onerous to undertake. Moreover, the primary objective, which of course was to promote greater adoption of the e-AWB, would be hampered. There was nothing for it but to draw up a standard multilateral agreement that could be signed once by airlines and forwarders with IATA administering the project.

The multilateral e-AWB Agreement provides the legal framework to conclude air cargo contracts by electronic means. It includes provisions for the consent to do an e-AWB, the right s and obligations of the parties and the confidentially and security of data. Nothing in the agreement changes the airlines Conditions of Contract nor mandates that either airlines or forwarders who participate in the multilateral agreement are obliged to do e-AWB with each other. It simply provides the platform to do so when the parties mutually agree to.

*MP4/MC99 trade lanes currently account for 80% of air cargo volumes.

More information is available on the IATA website:

Published: 02 April 2013 -