Supporting Digitalization of Air Transport Documents Remains a Top ESC and Shippers’ Priority

IATA has maintained its target for the implementation of the electronic air waybill (eAWB). In 2016 the adoption target was missed by some 10% because large parts of the freight forwarding industry are sticking to hard copy paper.

In 2016 the eAWB implementation reached 46 percent, 10 percent off the original target of 56 percent. However, the implementation has been steadily growing between 1,5 – 2 percent each month in 2016. Because of this steady growth in implementation, the level of 62 percent will be maintained.

Full implementation has proved difficult because of the number of parties involved in the processing of an air way bill. Furthermore, there are technological limitations with numerous and often incompatible IT systems in use. Above all, there is still regulation in place which calls for hard copy paper to be produced for evidence of a contract between parties.

There are variations across the different parties and regions on E-AWB implementation. In October, the top performer was the Middle East with 68% implementation. Europe was lagging behind with 34%, Americas 40%, Asia Pacific 45%.

These three regions are lagging behind due to the old legacy systems and older IT infrastructure used by many air cargo operators, while the Middle East has adopted much newer infrastructure and processes.

Highest penetration of E-AWB:

Airport: Hong Kong – 70,6%

Airline: Cathay Pacific – 78%

Freight Forwarder: DHL Global Forwarding – 55,3%

Shippers should keep on pushing their freight forwarders to maximize the utilization of e-AWB even in situations where the shipment has to be split in order to ship part of it under the electronic document processing and the other part under paper processing. Eventually implementation of e-AWB leads to a further digitalization of the supply chain and more transparency in the air freight operations for shippers.

Freight forwarders should be reminded that the Single Process system developed by IATA allows them to send documentation fully electronically and the carrier supplies paper bills on necessary lanes.

For more information, please contact Rogier Spoel at