Streamlining global airmail: airlines and postal services strengthen collaboration through the IATA–UPU partnership

As the representatives of the Co-Chairs of the IATA–UPU Contact Committee (American Airlines and Sweden), we are excited to share recent strides forward in cooperation between the aviation and postal industries to enhance global mail delivery. These joint efforts reflect these sectors’ shared commitment to addressing logistical challenges and improving service quality for customers worldwide.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade association representing approximately 320 airlines, accounting for 83% of global air traffic. Its mission is to lead and serve the airline industry, which transports more than 65.6 million tonnes of cargo and mail annually. This represents a significant proportion of global trade by value, at 35%, but constitutes less than 1% of world trade by volume.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU), founded in 1874, is a specialized agency of the United Nations, connecting 192 member countries and functioning as the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. It ensures the free circulation of postal items across a single and interconnected postal territory, streamlining postal operations to facilitate efficient and reliable delivery of mail to every corner of the world.

In recent years, the task of transporting postal items by air has become significantly more complex. The issues range from regulatory compliance to optimizing the logistics of international mail transport. Recognizing these challenges, our committee has intensified efforts to take our collaboration to the next level to reshape the international postal and aviation landscapes. This joint committee, which is the fundamental platform for vital cooperation between these sectors, supports and significantly enhances global airmail transport. It brings together two industries that, while distinct, share the common goal of delivering airmail both efficiently and affordably, driven by a commitment to meet customer expectations.

Advancing implementation of electronic advance data and the Global Postal Model

A key aspect of our ongoing work involves implementing electronic advance data (EAD) across the sectors for the development of the Global Postal Model, a framework that facilitates the exchange of EAD between origin and destination Posts, customs authorities and carriers. This standing initiative is crucial, as it facilitates compliance with strict regulatory requirements while simplifying processes for both airlines and postal operators so as to manage and reduce possible errors. Working within a unified model is essential for our industries, as this serves to streamline our operations and avoid undue delays and costs for all parties in the supply chain.

Another critical area of our collective endeavour is managing the safe transport of dangerous goods, including lithium batteries. Our alliance in this area adheres to the requirements and guidelines set forth by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), ensuring engagement in continuous dialogue and trust-building measures to manage potential risks effectively. These stringent handling procedures are crucial to maintaining absolute safety during air transport.

To ensure the highest safety standards, both airlines and postal operators are required to comply with specific security certification processes mandated by national civil aviation authorities. Additionally, postal operators are encouraged to pursue further certification in line with UPU standards (S58 and S59), thus strengthening the security infrastructure across the entire mail transport pipeline and demonstrating a serious commitment to security to other stakeholders. At the same time, our interaction centres on building compatible processes to leverage EAD, enabling advanced risk assessments to improve the security and speed of mail processing and transportation.

Our commitment to a collaborative culture

At the heart of the IATA–UPU Contact Committee’s work is the cultivation of a respectful and productive workplace culture. Our postal and carrier members bring an extensive wealth of knowledge and experience from the industry. We value the diverse insights that our members contribute to committee discussions. By fostering an environment where each member can freely express their ideas, we ensure that innovative and effective solutions are brought to the forefront.

To further our goals, we regularly host joint webinars to present and discuss mutual requirements and recent developments affecting our industries. Topics include the IATA–UPU framework for a service agreement, embracing the Import Customs System 2 (ICS2) and paper-free transport. The outcomes have been instrumental in assisting various Posts and carriers with implementing EAD, identifying suitable partners for testing and ensuring the continuous movement of mail. Additionally, insights gained from these webinars are shared at UPU Transport Group meetings and regional transport workshops held around the world, with findings incorporated into updated versions of the UPU Transport Guide and EAD prerequisites/checklist for international mail transit. Surveys from the webinars indicate that over 90% of participants are satisfied with the information and discussions presented to date.

Looking ahead, our next webinar on 15 May 2024 will focus on updates concerning ICS2 for transit and transshipment and the safe transport of batteries in airmail. We invite interested individuals to join us as we continue to develop new standards for mail and cargo, ensuring efficient compliance and risk minimization in every transport. For more information or to participate in our upcoming webinar, interested persons may visit the dedicated webpage here.

As we move forward, the IATA–UPU Contact Committee remains dedicated to nurturing this dynamic partnership. We are committed to surmounting the shared challenges posed by increasing e-commerce volumes and to improving the overall customer experience. Through our collaborative efforts, we aim not only to meet but to exceed the expectations of our global customers.

Mette Boisen, International Process Manager, PostNord and representative of Sweden as Co-Chair of the IATA–UPU Contact Committee for the 2022–2025 Abidjan cycle.

Billy Roach, General Manager for Global Postal Operations American Airlines Cargo, and representative of American Airlines as Co-Chair of the IATA–UPU Contact Committee for the 2022–2025 Abidjan cycle.

To learn more about IATA–UPU transport-related cooperation, click here to visit the dedicated website.