Sustaining, growing & simplifying airmail

Almost 287billion letters and 21 billion parcels are sent every year and airmail plays an essential role in their delivery. While electronic communications caused a decrease in the number of letters sent, more and more parcels are delivered daily thanks to e-commerce.

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 facilitate mail transportation, the IATA’s Airmail Board (AMB) develops and maintains standards and procedures. AMB works closely with international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Post Corporation (IPC), representing the DPOs.

Framework for a Postal Service Agreement

IATA and UPU developed a CSC Recommended Practice (RP1677) stating that, wherever practicable, airline members shall use the framework when entering into a service agreement with a DPO. This Framework helps to formalize the contract between a DPO and an airline. It indicates their obligations, their liabilities, and how to respond to irregularities and issues.

e-Commerce and logistics

The e-commerce trend is booming; with double-digit growth and volumes on the rise. This not only has an impact on cargo, but also on mail. IATA and UPU are working towards aligning best practices and sharing volumetric data to plan for the tsunami of parcels. Find out more about the e-commerce opportunities and challenges for our industry in the e-Commerce & Logistics area. 

Standard Operating and Messaging Procedure (SOMP)

IPC and IATA lead the Engage initiative to respond to changes in the mail and airline industry and support growing e-commerce market and regulatory demands. The SOMP is a comprehensive description of the best practice processing to be applied in Airmail transportation by posts and carriers. IATA and IPC ensured that all the mail processes were aligned to the Industry Master Operating Plan (MOP). As a result, the SOMP has been incorporated into the IATA Cargo Handling Manual (ICHM).

Mail safety guidelines

Many commercial products transported by mail operators, such as mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets, contain lithium batteries. To ensure regulatory compliance, DPOs must have a robust safety program including dangerous goods training and acceptance procedures approved by the appropriate Civil Aviation Authority.

Hybrid scenarios

Mail is covered under the UPU convention and cargo under the ICAO convention. However, some postal operators and airlines are changing the consignments' nature along the supply chain to take advantage of both conventions. This practice creates new safety and security risks, as such scenarios often present challenges in terms of visibility, tracking, handover registrations and invoicing. IATA and UPU are working towards providing transparency in airmail transportation to ensure compliance, as stated in both conventions.

Mail security

The European Union has indicated that Electronic Advanced Data for mail shipments will be required from 1 March 2023 to risk-assess the mail transported by air. This guidance material (pdf) provides an overview of incoming requirements. It also analyzes its impact on air carriers, identifying the new operating procedures that will need to be in place between air carriers and postal operators and emphasizing what still needs to be done by IATA and the UPU.

The Electronic Consignment Security Declaration (e-CSD) provides 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.

Cargo & Mail Message Exchange

The UPU, IATA and IPC developed an EDI Guide promoting electronic data interchange (EDI) in the airmail business. The three organizations strongly advocate the necessity and the benefits of integrating postal and cargo systems. They developed the Postal Air Waybill Number (PAWB#) Functional Specifications to bridge the gap between postal operators' and carriers' systems. The PAWB# enables automated track & trace, booking and allocations and facilitates regulatory compliance.

Postal Account Settlement System (PASS)

The Postal Accounts Settlement System (PASS) facilitates the invoicing and payment for mail and other related services. It simplifies current processes, standardizing both invoices and the exchange of data. Among other benefits, PASS will reduce time-consuming manual processes, ease identification of duplicate transactions and facilitate online dispute resolution.