How to move goods by air

Airfreight documentation


For customs clearance and delivery at destination - and to fulfil HM Revenue & Customs tax requirements before export - freight forwarders should have a commercial invoice detailing the description, quantity and value of the goods being sold. This is attached to the air waybill and forwarded to the destination airport.

Air waybills

Blank air waybills are issued by individual airlines to freight forwarders appointed as agents by the airline. The completed air waybill acts as a document of carriage. It provides evidence of a contract for carriage between exporter and airline, and proof of receipt by the airline of goods for shipment. It also acts as a freight bill. When suitably endorsed, the air waybill can provide acceptable documentary proof that the goods have been exported.

Unlike the ocean Bill of Lading, the air waybill isn't, when in your possession, a document of title to the goods. Nevertheless, it can be significant when used alongside, for example, an international Letter of Credit (LoC). Often the original copy is used as proof that goods covered by the LoC have been transported under its terms. The air waybill sets out the contract between you, your agent and the airline.

Other airfreight paperwork

You need to be aware of the following:

Selling terms

When goods are sold, the seller and buyer should agree on who will cover airfreight transportation and other costs incurred in the overall movement.

Incoterms (internationally recognised terms) are a set of rules for interpreting the most commonly used international trade terms - see International Commercial Contracts - Incoterms.

It's important to be aware of the paperwork needed for airfreight shipments so you comply with all relevant formalities. Consult your freight forwarder for specific advice.