Date: 05 November 2007

No: 39

Paper-free air freight era begins

IATA launches six e-freight pilots

GENEVA - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) working with seven key cargo airlines (Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Martinair, SAS and Singapore Airlines), freight forwarders (DHL Global Forwarding, Panalpina, Kuehne+Nagel, Schenker, TMI Group-Roadair, Jetspeed) and ground handling agents kick-started the move to a paper-free air cargo environment with the launch of six e-freight pilot projects. Starting today, cargo on key trade routes connecting Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden and the U.K will be processed electronically.

"The paper-free era for air freight begins today,” said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General & CEO of IATA. “This first wave of pilots will pave the way for a global rollout of e-freight that will eliminate the paper that costs this industry US$1.2 billion every year. Combined, these documents could fill 39 Boeing 747 cargo freighters each year making e-freight a win for the business and for the environment."

"E-freight is a revolution for an industry that is absolutely critical to modern life. For airlines it is a US$55 billion business that generates 12% of their revenues. More broadly, air cargo transports 35% of the total value of goods traded across borders. The potential impact of greater efficiency in air cargo has very broad implications across the global economy," said Bisignani.

E-freight pilots will systematically test for the first time common standards, processes, procedures and systems designed to replace paper documents that typically accompany air freight with electronic information. During the initial phase, selected shipments will travel without a number of key documents that make up the majority of the paperwork, including the house and master airwaybills. Results from the pilots will be used to expand e-freight to other territories.

IATA e-freight requires that business, technical and legal frameworks are in place to allow airlines, freight forwarders, customs administrations and governments seamlessly to exchange electronic information and e-documents. The six pilot locations were selected on their ability to meet these criteria along with their network connectivity and sufficient cargo volumes.

At each location cargo experts from participating airlines, freight forwarders, ground handling agents, local customs administrations and airport authorities worked together closely over the past 10 months to prepare the pilots.

"High oil prices and cumbersome processing requirements are handicapping air transport’s competitiveness with sea shipping,” said Bisignani. “Sea shipping is expected to grow 6% annually over the next five years, compared to 4.8% for air cargo. E-freight makes a four-decade leap, bringing strengthened competitiveness by cutting costs and improving transparency and consistency throughout the supply chain. This is good news for the customer and will help shore-up air transport’s competitiveness with sea shipping and other modes of transport."

E-freight is one of five Simplifying the Business projects led by IATA to improve service and cut costs. The industry has set a deadline of the end of 2010 for the implementation of e-freight wherever feasible.

For more information on IATA e-freight and Simplifying the Business projects see

IATA contact:

Anthony Concil

Director, IATA Corporate Communications

Tel +41 22 770 2967


Editors Notes:

  • IATA is a global trade association representing some 240 airlines that comprise 94% of scheduled international traffic.
  • Other Simplifying the Business projects include 100% electronic ticketing by end 2007, the use of bar coded boarding passes, common use self service check-in and RFID for baggage management.
  • One of the key pillars of the IATA e-freight programme is Cargo 2000 – the air cargo industry’s quality champion.


Pilot participants include:


Freight Forwarders

Ground Handling Agents

Air Canada

British Airways

Cathay Pacific



Singapore Airlines

Scandinavian Airlines SAS

DHL Global Forwarding (DGF)




TMI Group-Roadair




 Aero Groundservices/ Aviapartner

Air General



Menzies World Cargo

Plane Handling




Organisations actively involved in supporting and steering the pilots locally include:

Customs and other government administrations

Industry Associations

Canadian Customs (CBSA-ASFC)

Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS)

Dutch Customs

HM Revenue & Customs, U.K.

Hong-Kong Customs

 Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Singapore

Swedish Customs

Swedish Enterprise Ministry

Swedish Transportindustri Forbundet (Flyg)

Transport Canada

Singapore Customs

Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN)

British International Freight Association (BIFA)

Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA)

Canadian Society of Customs Brokers

Hong-Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics (HAFFA)

Singapore Aircargo Agents Association (SAAA)



Trade lanes on which selected e-freight shipments will be flown include:


  • From Canada to Hong-Kong, the Netherlands, the U.K.
  • From Hong-Kong to Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden and the U.K.
  • From the Netherlands to Canada, Hong-Kong and Singapore
  • From Singapore to Hong-Kong, the Netherlands, and the U.K.
  • From Sweden to Hong-Kong
  • From the U.K. to Canada, Hong-Kong, and Singapore