Electronic AWBs top 50 percent, but can goal be reached?

Fifty is a great round number to celebrate, but it also tends to be a milestone that leads to some soul-searching and sometimes a mid-life crisis.

After years of encouragement and industry incentives by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the penetration rate for IATA members adopting electronic air waybills (e-AWBs) has finally topped the 50 percent mark, meaning that, for the first time, a (slight) majority of stakeholders in the airfreight community are using digital records to track cargo movements.

In its latest monthly report, using April 2017 data, IATA said e-AWB penetration officially reached 50.7 percent on “feasible trade lanes,” representing a 1.3 percentage-point change over the previous month. In April, more than 730,000 digital documents were processed, the organization said.

This is undoubtedly good news for the industry, but the slow pace of growth calls into question the ability of carriers and forwarders to reach IATA’s annual goal of 62 percent penetration by the end of this year.

Other highlights include Kenya Airways and Flydubai both reporting that each carriers processed 100 percent of AWBs electronically. Also, Cathay Pacific reached 80.5 percent penetration, while Delta Air Lines hit 74.7 percent.

On the freight forwarding side, Expeditors was the leader, with 69.4 percent penetration level, followed by Hellmann Worldwide at 67.9 percent and DB Schenker at 62.5 percent.

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