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Air Mail

Sustaining, growing & simplifying air mail

Almost 328 billion letters and 7.4 billion parcels are sent every year and air mail plays an essential role in their delivery. While the emergence of electronic communications caused a dramatic decrease in the number of letters sent, more and more parcels are delivered daily thanks to e-commerce. Postal operators and airlines need to re-define their models and cope with a new set of operational and regulatory rules.

Collaboration is key

Since 1911, the Designated Post Operators (DPO) of the world have counted on the airlines to provide fast and reliable services for their mail products. To hurdle the challenges that the air mail industry has to face, the IATA’s Airmail Board (AMB) develops and maintains standards and procedures concerning the handling of mail. 

AMB works closely with international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Post Corporation (IPC) and their collaboration not only helped to produce a MoU (renewed in 2015) but also to the Mail Framework for a Service Agreement (pdf) defining the roles and responsibilities of each party. 


The eCommerce trend is booming; double-digit growth and volumes are on the rise.

The Air Mail Board (AMB) is analyzing the current airmail business model against the requirements for the uprising eCommerce business to accommodate the large volumes of eCommerce mail to be transported by air.
The goal is to highlight operational procedures and processes requirements to satisfy the customers’ needs. 

Prohibited items & dangerous goods

Today, many of the commercial products transported by mail operators, such as mobile phones, smartphones and tablets, contain lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are dangerous goods, which require specific packaging and handling in order to be transported safely by air. To ensure regulatory compliance, DPOs must have their  dangerous goods training  and acceptance procedures approved by the appropriate Civil Aviation Authority.



Together with UPU, IATAdeveloped an Alarm Resolution to report prohibited items inserted in the mail. It will be incorporated into the Airport Handling Manual, 37th Edition in 2017.


Advance Cargo Information​

The European Union has indicated that Advance Cargo Information (ACI) for the mail will be required in the coming years. IATA and the UPU collaborate to comply with this requirement.

  • Pre-departure ACI: the DPO will send details about the mail consignment to destination authorities prior to departure to be analyzed.​
  • Pre-arrival ACI: the filing of pre-arrival ACI is subject to a bilateral agreement between the carrier and the postal operator - IATA developed multiple models, allowing flexibility for the stakeholders.​

Destination authorities may advise the Posts of any additional action required, such as providing more complete data, performing enhanced screening or, in the worst case scenario, issuing a “do not load” directive. Only the items that were reported and that have no outstanding action required can be placed in mail receptacles.

Consignment Security Declaration (CSD) for mail

​​The CSD and e-CSD​ provide regulators with an audit trail of how, when and by whom the mail has been secured along the supply chain. IATA and postal operators from the UPU collaborate actively to meet ICAO requirements.​​​

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