WestJet embargoes lithium battery shipments

Caryn Livingston

Following this week’s news that Calgary-based WestJet Cargo will move its domestic cargo sales operations in-house, the carrier also said that effective immediately, it has embargoed all shipments containing lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries until further notice.

A WestJet spokesperson said the transition to in-house sales has allowed the carrier “greater visibility and control over [its] operations” and prompted the airline to conduct “a thorough review of [its] processes and products to ensure the continued safe operation of [its] aircraft.” While there was no indication as to the duration of the embargo, the spokesperson referred to it as “temporary,” until WestJet can “finalize and implement any necessary updates to [its] processes or procedures.”

WestJet Cargo continues to ship other classes of dangerous goods from several of its stations in Canada, Honolulu (HNL), London (LGW and LHR) and Dublin (DUB).

Lithium batteries are a significant driver of freighter traffic, particularly following a 2016 International Civil Aviation Organization provision declaring that lithium-ion batteries not contained or packed in equipment were banned as cargo on passenger aircraft. Earlier this month, Germany-based Lufthansa Cargo blacklisted several companies after an “incident” at Hong Kong Airport (HKG). Although Lufthansa did not elaborate on the incident, the first company embargoed was a Chinese vape manufacturer that uses lithium-ion batteries to power its vapes.

Some airlines are now finding creative solutions for making the shipment of this volatile cargo safer. Recently, Cathay Pacific Cargo developed and introduced a fire-containment bag for the shipment of batteries, as reported by our sister publication, Cargo Facts.

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