MAWB is the abbreviation of Master Air Waybill is the most important document issued by a carrier either directly or through its authorized agent. It is a non-negotiable transport document. It covers transport of cargo from airport to airport. By accepting a shipment an IATA cargo agent is acting on behalf of the carrier whose air waybill is issued. Therefore, the contract of carriage between the forwarder and carrier is called a Master Air Waybill (MAWB).

MAWBs have eleven digit numbers which can be used to make bookings, check the status of delivery, and current position of the shipment. The number consists of:

  • The first three digits are the airline prefix. Each airline has been assigned a 3-digit number by IATA, so from the prefix we know which airline has issued the document.


  • The next seven digits are the running number/s – one number for each consignment.
  • The last digit is what is called the check digit. It is arrived at in the following manner:
  • The seven digits running numbers are divided by 7, by using a long division calculation. The remainder becomes the check digit. Example: Serial Number 8114074 divided by 7 is 1159153, remainder 3. Therefore the serial number plus check digit is 81140743.That is why no MAWB number ends with a figure greater than 6. Air Waybills are issued in sets of different colors. The first three copies are classified as originals. The first original, blue in color, is the shipper’s copy. The second, colored blue is retained by the issuing carrier. The third, colored orange, is the consignee’s copy. A yellow copy acts as the delivery receipt or proof of delivery. The other copies are all white. Below is the standard MAWB form.

    Mawb form