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When (And When Not) to Use the Cargo Aircraft Only Label

Posted on July 08, 2021 by Roseanne Bottone

One of the more unique package labels is the Cargo Aircraft Only or CAO label. Knowing when this label is required and when it is prohibited will help shippers prevent delays and ensure their packages are accepted for air transportation.

Here's the short version: The CAO label must be used when a package is prohibited from transport on a passenger aircraft. Conversely, it is illegal to use the CAO label on a package that is allowed on a passenger aircraft.

It seems simple enough, but to know when (and when not) to use the CAO label, shippers need to know their way around the List of Dangerous Goods in the IATA DGR, Section 4.2. The 4.2 List provides critical information about how to prepare hazmat air shipments, including which Packing Instruction (PI) to use and quantity limits for both passenger and cargo air shipments.  
 

The four most important columns in this context are:

  • Column I: Packing Instruction for passenger and cargo air shipments
  • Column J: Quantity limit per package for passenger and cargo air shipments
  • Column K: Packing Instruction for Cargo Aircraft Only shipments  
  • Column L: Quantity limit per package for Cargo Aircraft Only
IATA dangerous goods regulations 4.2 table
 

4 Times the Cargo Aircraft Only Label is Required

1. Different Packing Instructions and Quantity Limits

The packing instructions and quantity limits for Passenger and Cargo Aircraft are in columns I and J respectively for fully regulated packages on the IATA DGR 4.2 List of Dangerous Goods.

If the quantity within your package exceeds the limit in column J, you must use the packaging instructions in column K for CAO (and remain below the quantity limit in column L).

In this case, you must use the CAO label.


2. Same Packing Instruction, Different Quantity Limits

In some cases, the Packing Instructions (PI) in columns I and K are the same, and only the quantity limits in columns J and L differ.

Example:
UN 3299 Ethylene oxide and tetrafluoroethane mixture
  • Columns I and K of the List of Dangerous Goods instruct shippers to use PI 200 for both passenger and cargo aircraft only shipments,  
  • Column J gives us a quantity limit of 75 kg for passenger aircraft, and
  • Column L gives us a quantity limit of 150 kg for cargo aircraft only.
If a package of UN 3299 exceeds the 75 kg limit in column J, it cannot be shipped by passenger aircraft.

As long as the package does not exceed the 150 kg indicated in column L, it can be shipped by cargo aircraft only and the package must display the CAO label.


3. Forbidden

The CAO label must be used if the word “Forbidden” is indicated over columns I and J, but the dangerous goods can be shipped CAO per columns K and L.


4. State Variations

A State Variation (IATA DGR 2.8.2) may require a shipment to be labeled and carried on Cargo Aircraft Only when normally permitted on a passenger aircraft.

If the package will be carried on a passenger aircraft, the CAO label must be removed.

Note: The statement, “This shipment may be carried on passenger aircraft outside [the State] jurisdiction” must be shown in the “Additional Handling Information” box of the Shipper’s Declaration.

4 Times the Cargo Aircraft Only Label is Prohibited

There are four situations in which the Cargo Aircraft Only label is prohibited on a dangerous goods package.

The CAO label may not be used under the following circumstances:

1. Mixed Shipment of Passenger and Cargo Air Packages

If a package is prepared so that it may be transported on a passenger aircraft according to the:

  • limited quantity packing instructions and quantity limits in columns G and H, or
  • fully regulated packing instructions and quantity limits in columns I and J,
and is included on a “Cargo Aircraft Only” shipping paper because of other packages in the shipment, the CAO label must NOT be used on the packages prepared for passenger air transport.


2. Same Packing Instruction and Quantity Limits

The CAO must not be used for packages containing dangerous goods that have the same packing instruction and quantity limit indicated in columns I and J vs. K and L. The following are two examples demonstrating this situation.

Example 1: UN1841 “Acetaldehyde ammonia” shows the same packing instruction (PI 956) in columns I and J and a quantity limit of 200 kg in both columns K and L.

Example 2: UN 3334 “Aviation regulated liquid, n.o.s.” shows the same packing instruction (PI 964) in columns I and J and a quantity limit of 450 L in both columns K and L.


3. Same Packing Instruction, No Quantity Limits

If the packing instructions in columns I and K are the same and “no limit” is indicated in column J and L, it is illegal to use the CAO label. UN3508 “Capacitor, asymmetric” is an example of this.


4. Package is Allowed on Passenger Aircraft  

Finally, if the package is allowed to be transported on a passenger aircraft, the shipper must not use the CAO label as a “company directive.”

The Cargo Aircraft Only Label exists to enhance the safety of hazardous materials in air transportation by keeping unauthorized materials off of passenger aircraft. The CAO Label may not be used to indicate a preference. Just because you want the shipment to travel by cargo aircraft does not mean you may use the label to ensure that it does.

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