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Sustaining, growing & simplifying airmail

Almost 328 billion letters and 7.4 billion parcels are sent every year and airmail 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 airmail 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 e-commerce trend is booming; double-digit growth and volumes are on the rise. Find out more about the opportunities and challenges from e-commerce for our industry in the IATA e-commerce white paper (pdf)

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 the dangerous goods training and acceptance procedures approved by the appropriate Civil Aviation Authority.

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



Postal Account Settlement System (PASS)

IATA, together with airlines and global post offices are pursuing a new initiative for a Postal Accounts Settlement System (PASS)

The objective is to provide an automated industry platform to process the large volume of airlines-postal billings and settlements that today are processed bilaterally and largely manually. The new solution will capitalize on IATA’s strong financial services knowledge and expertise, as well as existing solutions for simplified billing and settlement of the supply chain’s stakeholders. 

Successful implementation of the PASS system will facilitate the invoicing and payment for mail and other related services. It will simplify current processes, standardize both invoicing and the exchange of data. Other benefits include a reduction in time-consuming manual processes, easier identification of duplicate transactions and easier facilitation of online dispute resolution. 

PASS will enable Airlines to work more efficiently with Postal companies and generate new business opportunities for the industry.

Advance Cargo Information (ACI) for airmail

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 airmail

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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