Alphabet Soup unscrambled…

A layman’s guide to ULD Industry Acronyms, ULD Codes, and other Industry Terminology

Alphabet Soup“Next September ULDP will meet in HKG to discuss amongst other matters the inclusion of ULDR into IOSA, ISAGO and IGOM.”  Confused?  Quite probably you are, as for most people trying to figure out the meaning of the “alphabet soup” of acronyms that have such widespread use in the aviation industry, this is a bewildering challenge with nowhere to turn for advice.  Let’s see if we can be of assistance here, using this article to list and unscramble some of the more commonly used acronyms, codes and definitions.

Additionally, an extensive list of definitions may be found in the Glossary of the IATA ULD Regulations Manual on pages 459-462 of Edition 1.

Please note that the explanation against each item is not to be taken as a legal definition, rather they are presented in hopefully layman’s terms and understandable in a ULD context.

The glossary below has been divided in 3 sections:

  • Trade Bodies, Associations and Related Documents
  • Regulators / Regulations
  • Operations and General Terms – Aircraft and ULD




A4A Airlines for America The USA national equivalent of IATA
AHM IATA Airport Handling Manual IATA publication containing latest industry approved standards covering all aspects of safe and efficient airport operations.
ASA Airport Services Association An association that brings together all relevant (and the world’s major) ground handling service providers
ATA Air Transport Association of America Predecessor of A4A
CATA China Air Transport Association The Chinese national equivalent of IATA
CSC IATA Cargo Services Conference An IATA body made up of airline representatives to whom the ULDP reports
DGR IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations IATA publication for carriage of Dangerous Goods by air.
FIATA International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations FIATA is a non-governmental organisation, representing today an industry covering approximately 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms
GACAG Global Air Cargo Advisory Group A body bringing together IATA, FIATA, TIACA and GSF to work on industry issues.
GSF Global Shippers Forum The Global Shippers’ Forum is the world wide body that represents shippers and transport users internationally
IATA International Air Travel Association The trade association of the world’s airlines
IGHC IATA Ground Handling Council IATA body representing the ground handling sector of the industry
IGOM IATA Ground Operations Manual IATA publication covering aspects of ground operations.
IOSA IATA Operational Safety Audit IATA evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.
ISAGO IATA Standard Audit Ground Operations IATA safety audit to improve safety cut airline costs by cutting ground accidents and injuries
ISO International Organization for Standardization Creates international standards at a national level, with some coordination with SAE AGE-2A. Committee TC20- SC9 is the group that works on ULD related standards. Generally meets once a year.
ITDI IATA Training and Development Institute The IATA body that develops and manages IATA training products.
IULDUG Interline ULD User Group Body established in the 70’s to facilitate the interlining of ULDs between member airlines.  Now called ULD CARE
IULDUG System Interline ULD User Group System Multilateral neutral ULD asset tracking and demurrage system hosted by ULD CARE ( formerly IULDUG)
LAR IATA Live Animal Regulations IATA publication for the transportation of live animals/perishables
SAE (Now known as SAE International) Society of Automotive Engineers U.S. based but globally active standards organization. Committee AGE-2A is responsible for the development and maintenance of ULD related standards. Meets twice yearly.
TIACA The International Air Cargo Association TIACA is a global not-for-profit trade association representing all the major segments of the air cargo and air logistics industry
UCAG ULD CARE Advisory Group Task specific work groups established within ULD CARE to focus on ULD industry initiatives
ULD CARE The successor to IULDUG:   CARE stands for Compliance, Airworthiness, Regulations and Education
ULDOAG IATA ULD Operational Advisory Group A subsidiary to ULDP, this group’s members are from all sectors of the air cargo industry. Meets  as required by webinar to discuss issues relating to the operations of ULD and makes recommendations to ULDP
ULDP IATA ULD Panel The primary IATA decision making body for ULD related matters. Comprises of voting representatives from 12 airlines plus (non- voting) suppliers (who are registered IATA partners). Meets 2 times a year face to face and additionally by webinar.
ULDR IATA ULD Regulations IATA publication covering all aspects of ULD activity.
ULDTAG IATA ULD Technical Advisory Group A subsidiary to ULDP, this groups members are from manufacturers, air-framers and other technical persons who carry out review of ULDP decisions for technical correctness.
WCS World Cargo Symposium IATA event, being the annual meeting for the air cargo industry




AC Advisory Circular Document provided by NAA/CAA to owners and operators of certified aircraft proving specific guidance for compliance with national aviation regulations. Is generally one but not the only means to comply with NAA/CAA regulations.
AD Airworthiness  Directive An airworthiness directive is a notification to owners and operators of certified aircraft that a known safety deficiency with a particular model of aircraft, engine, avionics or other system exists and must be corrected. Issued by NAA/CAA
AOC Air Operators Certificate An air operator’s certificate is the approval granted by an NAA/CAA to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial purposes.
AS36100 Standard, issued by SAE in 2005 that replaces NAS3610 for most sizes of ULD and also adds some new ULD sizes not covered in NAS3610. Referenced as the minimum performance standards for ULD restraint performance required in FAA TSO C90d and EASA ETSO C90d.
CAAC Civil Aviation Authority of China


CAAC is the aviation authority under the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China . It oversees civil aviation and investigates aviation accidents and incidents. As the aviation authority responsible for China, it concluded civil aviation agreements with other aviation authorities
EASA European Aviation Safety Agency


The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is a European Union (EU) agency with regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civilian aviation safety.

(1)     Switzerland and Norway, while not EU members, also fall under EASA oversight

(2)     EASA members still retain their own NAA/CAA’s who carry out certain functions on a national basis.

FAA Federal Aviation Authority


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the national aviation authority of the United States of America. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S.
FAR Federal Aviation Regulations Rules prescribed by the FAA governing all aviation activities in the USA.
ICAO International Civil Aviation Authority A specialized agency of the United Nations, ICAO codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth
NAA/CAA National Aviation Authority/Civil Aviation Authority Typically a government body responsible for oversight of all civil aviation activities in any particular country. Most NAA/CAA’s are members of ICAO.
NAS 3610 National Aerospace Standard # 3610 Standard, issued by Aerospace Industries Association of America in the early 70’s establishing the minimum performance standards for ULD.
NSTB National Transportation Safety Bureau The NTSB is an independent  U.S. federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation-railroad, highway, marine and pipeline
SAFO Safety Alert for Operators Process used by the FAA to communicate in a fast and effective manner with US Carriers regarding important safety information
STC Supplemental Type Certificate A supplemental type certificate (STC) is a type certificate (TC) issued when an applicant has received NAA/CAA approval to modify an aircraft from its original design.
TC Type Certificate Certificate, awarded by aviation regulating bodies to aerospace manufacturers, having  established that the particular design of a civil aircraft, engine, or propeller has fulfilled the regulating bodies’ current prevailing airworthiness requirements for the safe conduct of flights under all normally conceivable conditions
TSO Technical Standard Order Document issued by the FAA that establishes the minimum performance standard for a particular item of equipment that may be suitable for use on various aircraft.

(ETSO = European Technical Standard Order, CTSO = China Technical Standard order, JTSO = Japan Technical Standard Order etc.)




3PL 3rd Party Logistics A third-party logistics provider (also abbreviated TPL) is a firm that provides service to its customers of outsourced logistics services for part or all of their supply chain management functions.

(also  CoG, C of G)

Centre of Gravity The point at which the entire weight of a body may be considered as concentrated so that if supported at this point the body would remain in equilibrium in any position. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  A critical part of the physics of flight. (See applicable WBM)
CLS Cargo Loading System System of rollers, locks, stoppers and guides ( which may be manual or powered operation) fitted to the floor of any cargo compartment using ULD.
CMM Component Maintenance Manual Document provided by the designer/manufacturer of a ULD containing all information necessary for the operation and maintenance of that ULD – issued by OEM
CTO Cargo Terminal Operator Organization operating a terminal for handling air cargo either on or off an airport.
Demurrage Charge for use of other party’s ULD Charges levied by a ULD owner for the use of its ULD by another party.

Applicable charges per ULD type can be referenced on the ULD CARE website ( in the ULD Asset Tracking section.

GHA Ground Handling



3PL Agent for outsourced airline ground handling services



GSP Ground Service Provider Provider of various services to airlines during the course of airport ground operations
LUC Loaned ULD Exchange Control Message Standard message format for transfer of ULD between carriers or between carriers and 3rd parties such as forwarders based on UCR
MGW Maximum Gross Weight The maximum weight, including the weight of the ULD, its contents and any accessories, to which the ULD may be operated  (see applicable WBM)
MOU Memorandum of Understanding A memorandum of understanding is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between two or more parties.  It expressed a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action.
MRO Maintenance and Repair Organization Organization providing maintenance and repair services for aircraft and associated equipment – including ULD
MUC Multilateral ULD Control Message Standard message format used to advise ULD CARE of any ULD asset exchanges between airline and non-airline parties
ODLN Operational Damage Limits Notice Airworthiness criteria notice attached to any ULD stating the maximum allowable damage on that ULD before it must not be used for flight operations.
OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer Manufacturer of products such as Containers, Pallets, Nets, straps etc.
SCM Stock Control Message Standard Inventory Control message format sent periodically to a carrier’s ULD control centre listing all ULD held at that location.
SLA Service Level Agreement Agreement between airline and ground handler for the provision of services at a particular location.
SOP Standard Operating Procedures Written instructions documenting a routine or repetitive activity followed by an organization.
TCAC Temperature Controlled Aircraft Container ULD (normally a container) designed to provide a transport environment at controlled temperature.
TW Tare Weight The empty weight of any ULD ( weight of accessories, nets etc. should be included)
UCM ULD Control Message Standard format messages used to keep airline’s ULD tracking control system fully up to date of all movements of ULD in or out of any stations ULD inventory  ( See IATA AHM 424 for more details)
UCR ULD Control Receipt Form used to record the transfer of any ULD between any 2 parties, such as airline to airline, airline to forwarder etc.
ULD Unit Load Device Device for grouping, transferring and restraining cargo in transit. It may consist of a pallet with a net or a container.
WBM Weight and Balance Manual Manual issued by the aircraft manufacturer and approved by airworthiness authorities, for each aircraft model, that provides the data, limitations and guidance necessary to load an airplane so that it is safe to operate.

In addition to these acronyms the codes used to refer to ULD can be very confusing at times, for instance what is the difference between an LD3 and an AKE?

The short answer is:  no physical difference, just a different naming convention.  The codes such as LD2, LD3, LD9, MI etc. were developed under ATA many years back, while the codes such as DPE, AKE, AAP, AMA, are part of the IATA ULD identification system.

However one needs to go a little deeper here, as there are aspects of both systems that need a little care:

The ATA system does not appear to still be supported by A4A (the successor of ATA), at least a search of their web site does not reveal any references to ULD codes. This is not a problem as the industry is generally settled on using the IATA identification system for all operational activities, and references to the ATA codes are infrequent. One area that can lead to confusion is that sometimes the term LD7 is used for both an 88 by 125” pallet (IATA = PAG/PAJ) and also to designate an igloo on an 88 by 125” base (IATA = AAK), but apart from that the existence of the ATA codes does no harm and no doubt will continue on for many years to come as a parallel but not commonly used system. Appendix D Par 2 (pages 475-477) of the ULDR first edition provides some cross reference between IATA and ATA codes for ULD. In general the use of IATA Identification system codes is preferable.

The IATA Identification system is explained in considerable detail in Section 4- ULD Identification of the IATA ULD Regulations and does not require additional explanation here. However it is important to note that over the years the IATA system has evolved, the biggest change being that from 1 Oct 1984, there was a major change to the code system both for containers and pallets.  The IATA ULD Regulations contains a full cross reference between the codes used before and after that date (Appendix C of SS 40/1, Page 163/164 of edition 1).  By now most units carrying the old codes have gone, but in case you see an AQ6, P6P or similarly marked ULD with a mix of letters and numbers in the first 3 digits, then you are probably looking at a ULD marked with a pre-1984 IATA ID code.

And finally, as there always seems to be difficulty with the definitions of the fire containment and suppression standards applicable to any particular class of aircraft compartment, here is a very short and simple description of the main types of compartments as a general guide.

Class A. Compartment is easily accessible by crew member in flight and fire would be easily discovered

Class B. Compartment is fitted with a smoke or fire detector and maybe accessed in flight by a crew member.

Class C. Compartment is fitted with smoke/fire detector and equipped with built in fire extinguishing/suppression systems that may be activated from the flight deck (most lower deck holds are Class C).

Class E. Allowed only on cargo only aircraft these compartments have smoke or fire detection and the means to cut off ventilating airflow to the compartment.

Alphabet SoupWe trust you will find this document to be of use to you in understanding the many acronyms, codes and definitions found around ULD.

No doubt there are some not included in this article, it is not our ambition to try to cover every single situation found in every single document, nor to be a definitive set of definitions, which can be found in various other publications, rather we hope this document will provide a quick reference guide for those struggling to understand the alphabet soup out there.

If you do have any suggestions of terms for inclusion please let us know at  as it is the intention to update this list from time to time.

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