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Sustaining, growing & simplifying airmail

Almost 320.4 billion letters and post items 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.

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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.

Airmail Experience of EU ICS2 R2

Watch the 6th IATA–UPU Webinar

Watch the 5th IATA–UPU Webinar

Airmail compliance under PLACI regimes

Watch the 4th IATA–UPU Webinar

Mail transport challenges and solutions

3rd IATA-UPU Webinar

Airmail: for an efficient, safe, secure and seamless delivery

Watch this webinar to understand the latest in airmail


  • Safety is our number one priority: How can we ensure that our passengers and employees are not put at risk, what are the tools at hand and our responsibilities?
  • Electronic Advance Data: What are the implications for airlines and postal operators, how can we ensure compliance and what are the last hurdles to be overcome?
  • The E-Commerce challenge: E-Commerce is increasingly shipped as general cargo and mail, how can we all capitalize on it?

The Air Mail Board (AMB) is responsible for all matters dealing with the movement of mail by air, exception for issues related to airmail rates and charges. AMB works closely with international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Post Corporation (IPC). Members of the AMB also integrate the joint working group IATA-UPU Contact Committee, which works under the umbrella of the IATA-UPU Memorandum of Understanding (pdf).


The AMB develops and maintains standards, guidelines and procedures related to the carriage of airmail for the following benefits:

  • Promoting the use of EDI in the airmail business
  • Providing guidelines for the use of the Postal Air Waybill (PAWB) number (pdf)
  • Developing requirements for the parties involved to ensure that no dangerous goods and prohibited items are inserted in the mail
  • Publishing safety guidelines, mainly referring to lithium batteries in airmail
  • Clarifying security and customs requirements, such as the provision of EAD/ACI, and help carriers implement the electronic Consignment Security Declaration (e-CSD).
  • Cooperating in the development of training programs and awareness
  • Ensuring collaboration with the UPU for responding efficiently to the demand for eCommerce solutions (track & trace, capacity, booking)
  • Assessing the legality of various logistics scenarios to ensure compliance with respective conventions.

The standards and procedures developed by the AMB are included as recommendations in the IATA’s Airport Handling Manual and the IATA Cargo Handling Manual (ICHM).

Meeting schedule

The AMB normally meets twice a year: in March at the IATA World Cargo Symposium (WCS), in June in Geneva and in October at the UPU Conference in Bern.


The AMB consists of up to 12 Members appointed by the Cargo Services Conference (CSC), each being an expert in the airmail field.