Moving goods by air
For customs clearance and delivery at destination - and to fulfil HM Revenue & Customs 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.
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. See the page within this guide on airfreight insurance. The air waybill sets out the contract between you, your agent and the airline.
You also need to be aware of the following:
Standard Shipping Note (SSN) - find out how to complete the SSN on the SITPRO website - Opens in a new window
Single Administrative Document (SAD) or form C88
Export Cargo Shipping Instruction (ECSI) - applicable if you're using a freight forwarder or carrier
Certificate of Origin - may be required for certain types of imports
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 our guide on 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.
Subjects covered in this guide
BIFA Enquiry Line
020 8844 2266
Freight Transport Association Enquiry Line
08717 11 22 22
HMRC National Advice Service Enquiry Line
0845 010 9000
020 7215 8150