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  June 6th, 2016 | Written by

Air Cargo Industry Rises to New Electronic Heights

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  • With launch of eAWB360, there is now tighter alignment among air cargo stakeholders.
  • Trepidation surrounding the move from paper to electronic airway bills has been one of the biggest obstacles to date.
  • With eAWB360, IATA is clarifying the lines of responsibility between forwarders and airlines.

Developed by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) in collaboration with industry stakeholders and endorsed as a priority by the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), the e-air waybill (eAWB) is a digital version of the paper air waybill that removes the requirement for paper documentation.

To help airlines, freight forwarders, ground handling agents (GHA) and technology partners implement the initiative; IATA launched the eAWB360 program. Destined for the top 50 e-airports worldwide, it began in early 2016 in Europe and took off in May for Montreal (YUL), Toronto (YYZ), and Vancouver (YVR) in Canada, enroute to New York (JFK), Dallas (DFW), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and Atlanta (ATL) in the United States over the summer.

The results?

Greater alignment between airports, carriers, forwarders, GHAs and partners. Two years ago, when IATA held similar sessions, they were more informational. The key difference this year is that there is now a concerted call to action with a concrete program encompassing special operating processes that specific airports and air cargo industry partners are undertaking together—around the world. If attendance at Canadian events is any indication, there’s now much tighter alignment among top carriers, GHAs and forwarders who are at the center of trade moving freight and information between carriers, agents, consignees and more.

Education-oriented launch sessions are confidence-building exercises. What exactly happens after you hit send? The trepidation surrounding the move from paper to electronic has been one of the biggest obstacles to date. With eAWB360, IATA is clarifying the lines of responsibility between forwarders and airlines: Here are the rules of engagement, here’s what the carriers are going to do for you, here are some of the tools and solutions available to you, here are the costs, and here’s how we are going to collectively make it work.

Signups are increasing in the wake of North American launch events. New airlines are onboarding, more and more freight forwarders and GHAs are signing up, and technology providers have seen upticks in their customer bases. It’s been the case with events in Europe, in Canada where, on average, double the number of people participated compared to 2014, and the same is expected in the U.S. It’s definitely encouraging as the industry tracks toward the year-end target of 56 percent eAWB penetration on feasible trade lanes.

In an industry characterized by tight margins, streamlining air cargo processes is the name of the game, and taking the paper out of air cargo with the eAWB is one of the most significant ways to achieve this goal.


eAWB at eAirports:


FIATA/AFI Circular on e-AWB (pdf)

TIACA e-AWB Endorsement Letter (pdf)

Descartes eAWB Resource Center

Jim Alemany, as director of logistics execution solutions at Descartes, guides the development of forwarder back office systems, shipper collaboration portals, air messaging applications, and ocean rate management systems.