Origins and Evolution

The Office of Cargo Agency Commissioner was set up in 1992.  At the time there were 5.700 or so IATA registered Cargo Agents outside the USA and 18 active CASS operations which processed just under USD 5 billion in airfreight sales that year.  The IATA Cargo Agency Conference determined that among the checks and balances necessary, in support of the fiduciary discipline essential to the success of the IATA sales intermediary accreditation system and, particularly of CASS, there should be a neutral, accessible and cost-effective machinery to adjudicate expeditiously on the inevitable aberrations exposed during the operation of such a large-scale enterprise. 

The Office has now served the industry continuously for almost thirty years during which time it has dealt with over a thousand reviews.  Its work has expanded with the growth and evolving sophistication of the airfreight sector.  Today, it serves  16,800 IATA registered Cargo Intermediaries who, in 2020, reported and remitted USD 32.7 billion through CASS.  CASS operations now embrace the globe, with the exception of the USA where the CNS Corporation, an IATA subsidiary, manages a separate and parallel system.  The on-time settlement rate through CASS in 2020 was 99.996%.

Geographical Scope of the Office

In most countries the office holder is called the Cargo Agency Commissioner;  however, in EU/ECAA member countries and in Latin American and the Caribbean countries where tailored IATA/FIATA Air Cargo Programmes are in place, the title used for the office holder is Ombudsman.  The task, however, is essentially the same.

Scope of the Services

The Office's dispute resolution services are available upon request to IATA registered Cargo Intermediaries and to would-be Cargo Intermediaries, as well as to IATA and its Member Airlines.  Those services are designed to address differences arising from the operation of the IATA Cargo Intermediary programmes, including the Cargo Accounts Settlement System (CASS).

The office holder reviews each request for review brought to his notice and determines whether it is admissible.  If it is, he gathers evidence from the parties with a view to arriving at objective conclusions and suggesting appropriate outcomes to the issues raised.  The success of the programme depends on the preparedness of all parties to cooperate in the knowledge whatever outcomes are suggested must be in conformity with the resolutions of the Cargo Agency Conference.

Funding of the Office

The Office of the Cargo Agency Commissioner/Ombudsman is jointly funded by contributions from all registered Cargo Intermediaries, matched by IATA.  The service is therefore usually without charge.

Appointment of Cargo Agency Commissioner/Ombudsman

As representative of the world's national association of airfreight forwarders, FIATA is the joint stakeholder with IATA in the Cargo Agency Commissioner/Ombudsman programme.  In that capacity the FIATA Air Freight Institute, AFI, acts with IATA to appoint the office holder and exercises shared oversight of his activity.

Regulatory Framework

Resolutions 811d and 811e are the platform on which the Office stands.  They lay out the remit and manner of appointment of the office holder.  The remit is explained in more detail in the Commissioner's Rules of Practice and Procedure

IATA publishes annually the electronic version of the Cargo Agent's Handbook in which are included all the Cargo Agency Conference resolutions applicable to Cargo Intermediaries, as well as conference-approved locally applicable rules and procedures which amplify resolution texts to reflect particular conditions.

Operations Handbooks are also published by IATA and serve the same purpose for Cargo Intermediaries operating in the IATA/FIATA Air Cargo Programmes.

CASS Associates' access to the Office

The 2021 annual meeting of the Cargo Agency Conference adopted  Resolution 811f whereby, henceforth,  CASS Associates who, previously did not have access to the services of the Office, will be able to avail themselves of its dispute resolution services through a simple arbitration proceeding.  IATA, too, has access to this service which is provided against payment of a fee per case handled.


The Commissioner/Ombudsman enjoys a degree of discretion and flexibility in carrying out the mandate but he is nevertheless bound to observe and respect the terms of Cargo Agency Conference resolutions which constitute the contractual instruments applicable between the parties.

The Office can and does provide inquirers with guidance on the procedures to be followed in pursuing a request for review.  For self-evident reasons, however, it does not enter into correspondence on inquiries on issues outside the bounds of an officially undertaken review. 

The office holder reports formally to the joint stakeholders, IATA and to FIATA annually.  However, in the course of the year, where an urgent issue arises which could be of concern to either or both stakeholders it is communicated to them immediately.

An ad hoc independent check of the office holder's conduct is available to a party to a review who feels aggrieved by an outcome.  That party can challenge the decision issued by the Commissioner/Ombudsman by seeking arbitration as provided for in the resolutions.

Applicable IATA Resolutions

The Resolutions that must be applied in the work of the Commissioner/ Ombudsman are set out in the Cargo Agent's Handbook.  For intermediaries working under one of the regional Air Cargo Programmes, the equivalent publication is the Operations Handbook for the region.  Those publications are accessible electronically to Intermediaries.

Chief among applicable resolutions are those setting out the Cargo Agency Agreement, the Cargo Intermediary Agreement and the governing Cargo Agency Rules.