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Air Mail

Sustaining, growing & simplifying air mail

Almost 380 billion letters and 6'1 billion postal 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 online shopping.

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. Airlines are also keen to keep an activity that represents around 10% of their cargo business.

To hurdle the challenges that the air mail industry has to face, the IATA’s Airmail Panel (AMP) develops and maintains standards and procedures concerning the handling of mail.

Collaboration remains key

Cooperation and consultation are essential to overcome the challenges that accompany the growth in the parcel post and letter packet product lines. AMP is therefore working closely with international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Post Corporation (IPC).

These collaborative efforts have produced:

Changing rules

Complying with Dangerous Goods Regulations

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.

UPU has changed its regulations to accommodate such products in the mail and successfully lobbied the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel to amend its Technical Instructions as well as to allow limited quantities within air mail. However, to ensure regulatory compliance, DPO must have its dangerous goods training and acceptance procedures approved by the appropriate Civil Aviation Authority. 

Providing advance electronic information

The European Union has indicated that advance electronic information for the mail will be required, which is another new development for the Posts. The DPO will have to provide details in advance to destination authorities about mail items which are with commercial value subject to a Customs declaration, typically submitted on a UPU CN23 form. 

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 -  issue a “do not load” directive. Only the items that were reported and that have no outstanding action required can be placed in the mail receptacle.

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