IAG Cargo and eAWB: Arriving at Destination Digital

In an industry that relies on efficiency, innovation and communication, digitalisation is the key to propelling us into a transformative future. One of the first steps we are taking as part of our Destination Digital strategy is the transition to the electronic air waybill (eAWB). We spoke with IAG Cargo’s Head of Operations and People Transformation, Josh Lane, as well as our Customer Experience leads, Elaine Maciver and Sam Laking, about the crucial change. 

What are your roles at IAG Cargo?

Josh: I work in the Transformation team for Operations and People. I’ve been involved with Destination Digital since last February, which is about defining and driving the digitalisation journey for IAG Cargo with a current focus on eAWB. 

Elaine: Sam and I work in the Customer Experience team at Heathrow and were brought onto this project in November to inject focus and energy into eAWB and to help drive customer adoption. We look at the end-to-end customer journey. Sam also leads the technical team, who are developing tech solutions for our customers to offer an even better proposition in the future. 

Tell us about Destination Digital.

Josh: It’s our long-running programme to deliver digitalisation for IAG Cargo, working with our customers and partners to adopt digital processes to support sustainability whilst also offering a better customer proposition. The first thing we’re focusing on is eAWB, which is part of our foundational work for data availability. Once the adoption rate is at 100 per cent on applicable routes, which is our ambition by the end of 2023, then it’ll open doors for working towards other initiatives. Our ambition is to introduce things like self-service kiosks, automatic archiving and other ways to become more sustainable whilst improving services to our customers

What is the eAWB?

Sam: An eAWB is the contract of carriage between the Freight Forwarder and the Airline, the equivalent to a boarding pass on the passenger side. It’s an electronic version of the traditional paper air waybill (AWB), with information on how many pieces you’re shipping, the name of the customer, the name of the shipper, and the weight and dimensions of the cargo.

Why is eAWB beneficial to customers?

Elaine: With eAWB, our operations can become more efficient and cost-effective, and you’ll never have to worry about the paper going missing. We’ll be able to deliver better products and services, plus it enables future innovation.

Why is it better for the environment to use eAWB rather than paper AWB?

Elaine: Sheets of paper won’t need to be flown around the world anymore, which would otherwise come with fuel burn costs.

Josh: One piece of paper might not seem like a lot when you look at it individually it, but it adds up when you look at how frequently shipments are made. It’s a lot of wasted space and unnecessary CO2 emissions from making the paper, printing it and transporting it.

Why is now the best time to sign up for eAWB?

Josh: We want to be able to offer every customer the use of eAWB. In a year’s time, we’re aiming to remove all paper AWBs on our services, and we’ll offer a solution to every customer to achieve that goal. For any customers who don’t have the ability to send an eAWB, we plan on developing a solution to make it possible for them. Also, in April this year, we’re going to introduce a paper charge to support our vision of becoming paperless and to encourage customers to choose digital.

How is it more efficient for customers to use the eAWB?

Josh: The eAWB allows optimum operation efficiency, end-to-end. The eAWB will change the paper trail throughout the whole process. By reducing printing, paperwork and manual entry, as well as improving data quality, there’s less room for human errors to occur. Beyond that, data can be analysed to deliver better service and improve our delivery to our customers

How do you sign up for eAWB?

Sam: Firstly, customers need to sign up for the IATA Multilateral Agreement, which many freight forwarders will have already done. After that, they just need to fill out an activation form and send it to IAG Cargo. Once we’ve received that, we’ll perform a data quality check and then send an activation notice to the customer. From that point, you’re ready to use eAWB. If there are any complexities that may prolong the process, we’ve got a dedicated Customer Support Team. 

Elaine: Freight forwarders can find all of the information they need on our website – including an FAQ section, an explanation of the five-step process and the contact details for our dedicated Support Team. For a lot of our customers who have already adopted eAWB with other carriers, they can skip the first step, which makes it even faster to sign up. If not, ask your account manager about eAWB or find out more on our website. 

What other digital initiatives are you working on?

Josh: Within IAG cargo, there’s been a lot of other initiatives within the digital space. There’s been a large amount of focus on distribution channels, application programming interface (API) and improving our presence online. We’ve got some exciting initiatives and last year, David Walker joined the company as the new Chief Digital and Information Officer to bring in a digital focus at an executive level. 

Why is digitalisation such an important trend in the air cargo industry?

Josh: We live in a digital world and the air cargo industry isn’t any different. Digitalisation brings opportunities to offer the best products and services. One of the key work streams for us is digitalisation and it’s a key part of our business. We want to be a data-led decision-making business.

Sign for eAWB here