When time is an issue with your imports, air transportation services become a valuable alternative for importers.  If you’re getting started with air importing there are several key terms you should know to use this service effectively. Here’s our list of the top Air cargo importing terminology you should know.

Air cargo importing terminology you should know.

Air cargo importing terminology you should know.

Air Waybill

An Air Waybill is a Bill of Lading which equally covers both domestic and international flights transporting commodities to a specific destination. Officially, it is an invaluable tool of air cargo importing and serves as an indication of receipt for the transporter, signifying that the airline has received the commodities listed and commits itself to transport of the shipment to the airport of destination and to the specific conditions.

As a rule AWB refers to the Air Waybill issued by transporting airlines. Also known as a Master Air Waybill (MAWB), it is associated with the three digit numeric airline ID codes authorized by the IATA to non-U.S. based airlines, along with the authorization from the Air Transport Association of America to American based airlines.


International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade organization helping governments, shippers, passengers, airlines and travel agents.  The IATA was established in 1945. The association promotes consistency in forms of baggage checks, tickets, weigh bills, safety, and helps in establishing global airfares.

IATA checks luggage at airports.

The IATA association promotes consistency in forms of baggage checks.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

Bills of Lading are contracts involving the proprietor of the commodities and the transporter. There are two types of B/L.  A straight bill of lading is set. A fixed or shipper’s order Bill of Lading can be traded, sold or bought while commodities are in transit and is used for multiple styles of financial dealings. The buyer usually requires the original or a copy as proof of title to take ownership of the commodities.

Bond System

The Bond System is a part of the Customs’ Automated Commercial System.  The Bond System provides information about bond coverage. The Customs bond is an agreement involving the principal, typically importers, and a surety who is obtained to assure performance of a requirement imposed by regulations or the law. The bond takes into account different transactions and potential loss of duties, taxes, and penalties for specific types of transactions.

Bonded Warehouse

Licensed customs brokers.

The customs import value is the U.S. Customs Service assessment price of commodities.

Customs bonded warehouses fall under the control of U.S. Customs.  The U.S. Customs Service grants permissions to bonded warehouses for storage space or manufactured commodities on which recompense of duties is postponed until the commodities come into the Customs Territory. The commodities are not subject to duties if reshipped overseas.

Customs Import Value

The customs import value is the U.S. Customs Service assessment price of commodities.   Systematically, the Customs value is comparable to FAS (free alongside ship) given that it is based on the value of the manufactured goods in an overseas country of origin, and excludes charges incurred in bringing the merchandise into the United States (insurance, ocean freight and import duties); however, in contrast the U.S. Customs Service, not the importer or exporter has the ultimate ability to establish the price of the commodities.

Import Certificate

Cargo plane interior.

Incoterms is the classifications of terms used in overseas trade contracts.

An import certificate is a process by the authorization of the country of last destination and exercises official authority over the interior passageways of the commodities protected under the import certificate.


Incoterms is a set of rules and regulations used in international commerce transactions and procurement processes and are regulated by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).  This classifications of terms is used in overseas trade contracts to identify which parties are subject to the costs and at what exact point the expenses are incurred.

Customs Broker

A customs broker is any person or corporation certified by the government to enter and clear commodities through customs. The United States Customs Service defines a Customs Broker, as “any person who is licensed in accordance with Part III of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations to transact customs business on behalf of others.”  A customs brokerage is limited to procedures concerning transactions with customs concerning the access and permissible allowance of commodities; its categorization and appraisal; the payment of taxes, charges assessed and any duties claimed by customs.

AFC International has customs brokers who can assist with any of the terminology that can be confusing when importing into the United States. Visit us at AFC International for your importing needs.





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AFC International has experienced Licensed Customs Brokers that can file your Import Security Filing (ISF) and other import-entry-related information with U.S. Customs officials, monitoring your imports throughout the imports clearance process. Our value-added customs brokerage services are provided to ensure import clearance success. Call us at 800-274-2329 or get a quote today to get started. AFC Request a Quote box

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AFC International: Custom Brokerage Support