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Fact Sheet: e-freight and e-Air Waybill (e-AWB)


e-freight is an industry-wide program that aims to build a paperless, end-to-end transportation process for air cargo. It involves the entire air cargo supply chain.
The e-freight project includes the following three pillars:

  • Building a network of locations and airports where it is possible to remove paper from the transportation of air cargo from a legal environment and e-Customs procedure standpoint
  • Digitizing and removing the key air cargo transportation documents used today, starting with the digitization of the Air Waybill (AWB), the most important transportation document in air cargo. The electronic Air Waybill (e-AWB) replaces the paper AWB with an electronic contract of carriage between the freight forwarder and the carrier
  • Digitizing the key accompanying documents typically transported with air cargo shipments (i.e. removal of the air cargo ‘document pouches’)


The objective is to move towards 100% e-freight, starting with adoption of the e-AWB  

  • 2014 target is for 22% e-AWB penetration on valid trade lanes
  • Targets for 2015 and 2016 are 45% and 80% e-AWB uptake
  • The e-freight vision is supported by the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), whose members are IATA, The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF)

Key focus for 2014

  • Expansion of e-AWB network: Enable e-AWB at key airports in China and India
  • Modernization of  Cargo Messaging Capabilities:  Implementation by airlines of latest message standards (latest Cargo-IMP version or Cargo-XML)
  • Adoption of Single Process: Modernization of business process through implementation of paperless cargo acceptance procedures by airlines.
  • Industry collaboration at airport level: Overall industry collaboration is required to harmonize e-AWB processes making it more attractive to freight forwarders


  • Implementation of e-freight can bring operational efficiency of between 19% and 48% for export/import/transit processes for an airline, and between 8% and 44% for forwarders, according to case studies. In addition, increase in trade and growth of air cargo is expected to be generated from the improved service and visibility delivered to shippers.
  • Speed: reduction in overall end-to-end transfer time by 24 hours 
  • Accuracy: electronic documents eliminate manual entry errors 
  • Regulatory compliance: meets all international and local regulations required by customs, civil aviation and other regulatory authorities
  • Sustainability: e-freight will eliminate more than 7,800 tonnes of paper documents annually, the equivalent of 80 Boeing 747 freighters filled with paper


  • e-AWB penetration on feasible lanes: 13.4% in March 2014
  • The current e-AWB network covers over 85% of worldwide trade (the e-AWB network corresponds to locations where the legal framework has been created to allow an electronic contract of carriage)
  • The Multilateral e-AWB Agreement (MeA) has been signed by 68 airlines and 838 forwarders as of April 2014. This represents 52% of forwarder and 80% of airline market.
  • Local e-AWB working groups have been established to accelerate e-AWB adoptions at key airports around the world


Updated: May 2014


Additional information

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