Cargo Aircraft Only Handling Label (CAO)

CAO Handling Label

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Some dangerous goods are too dangerous to be carried on aircraft, others may be carried on cargo aircraft only- marked with CAO handling label-  and some are acceptable on both cargo and passenger aircraft. Many limitations are placed on dangerous goods which are permitted to be transported by air. These limitations are established by ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Doc 9284) and IATA Dangerous Goods regulations as well.

Note: This article promotes aviation safety culture. Please you should always refer to current ICAO TI and IATA DGR.

 What does the cargo aircraft only handling label mean?

Bright orange labels - The Cargo Aircraft Only handling label (CAO )- warn airline ground operation personnel NOT to load dangerous cargo on the passenger aircraft due to the danger which may pose to the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.

In this context, the passenger excludes a crew member, an aircraft operator’s employee, an authorized representative of an ِauthority, and a person with duties related to a particular shipment of dangerous goods or other cargo on board.

How to load CAO package to cargo aircraft?

Packages or overpacks containing dangerous goods substance, and bearing a Cargo Aircraft Only handling label must be loaded for carriage by a cargo aircraft under one of the following provisions:

1- In a class C aircraft compartment; or

2- In a unit load device equipped with a fire detection/ suppression system equivalent to the certification requirement of a class C aircraft cargo compartment as determined by the appropriate national authority.

3- In such a manner that in the event of an emergency involving such packages or overpacks, a crew member or other authorized person can access those packages or overpacks, and can handle and, where size and weight permit, separate such items from other cargo.

Note: This does not apply for carriage of cargo aircraft only packages on helicopters. For carriage of CAO packages by Helicopter refer to the ICAO TI and IATA DGR.

How is the cargo aircraft only handling label looks?

cao label

This label is required for all consignments containing dangerous goods shipped by cargo aircraft according to ICAO TI and IATA dangerous goods regulations.

Are there states variations on Cargo Aircraft Only handling label?

Yes, there are cases when a states variation may require a shipment to be labeled and carried on cargo aircraft only when this shipment is permitted on a passenger aircraft.

Are there other ways to recognize the cargo aircraft only shipments?

Yes, dangerous goods regulation required the shipper to mark this on the shipper declaration, and freight forwarders must write a group of words on the air waybill's handling information box. Furthermore, pilots are notified by a paper notification called NOTOC. And ULD tag must be marked.

Are there any examples of CAO shipments?

Yes, UN 0278 Cartridges Oil Well, which petroleum companies use. It is DG class 1, compatibility group C.

 Class 1 Explosives in Division 1.4, compatibility groups B, C, D, E, G and S are permitted on a cargo aircraft only.


Loading of dangerous goods package that has the Cargo Aircraft Only handling label on a passenger aircraft is forbidden.


Maged Saeed AL-Hadabi

Air Cargo / IATA Dangerous Goods | CGO, DGR, SMS Chief Instructor | Internal Auditor | DG Inspector linkedin

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