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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
    • In March 2013 the industry agreed to the multilateral e-AWB agreement, which simplifies the legal side of e-AWB and is now being signed by the parties.
  • 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 2013

  • IATA’s target is to implement successful pilot projects in two BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), identifying the benefits for the country and all industry stakeholders
  • The e-AWB as the initial step towards 100% e-freight   
  • Identification of an overall roadmap for the other key documents, supported by the industry and endorsed by GACAG


  • 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, the equivalent of 80 Boeing 747 freighters filled with paper


  • e-AWB penetration on feasible lanes: 10.2% in October 2013
  • A vendor community has been established to support the e-freight vision, pilots, and e-messaging quality measurement 
  • The current e-freight network covers over 33% of worldwide trade (the e-freight network corresponds to locations where all electronic documents in scope of e-freight are supported)
  • 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)
  • Local programs have been set in two of the BRIC locations (Russia and China)
  • The Multilateral e-AWB Agreement (MeA) has been signed by 53 airlines and 411 forwarders as of November 2013. This represents 41% of forwarder and 79% of airline market.

Updated: December 2013 


Additional information

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