A guide to air mail - what happens when your parcel takes to the skies?

guide to air mail

Air mail parcels have been winging their way across the skies since the early 1900s, and the number of flights containing letters and parcels climbed quickly after the Second World War. A much quicker alternative to sea or land shipping, sending parcels by air has revolutionised international mail over the last century. Hundreds of tons of mail are now carried by air freight through UK airports every year.

So what happens to my parcel?

Parcels being sent overseas go on quite an adventure. Once your parcel leaves your home or workplace in the safe hands of ipostparcels, it has a big journey ahead of it.

After being collected from you, the parcel will be taken to the local depot. Here it will be sorted and then routed to a hub. All parcels then get sorted again, before journeying to the airport.

Clearing customs safely

On arrival at the airport parcels will go through customs, being scanned and X-rayed. Items which are restricted or banned for export will not be allowed through. It's important to fill out customs forms correctly, to ensure it's made clear exactly what is in your parcel and prevent it being held up. In certain situations, if the agent has cause for concern, parcels may be scanned again, or even opened and checked. Another security screening method is to use Remote Air Sampling Using Canine Olfaction (RASCO).

Certified mail agents will be responsible for scanning each package and securely delivering it to the correct aircraft. Usually the packages will be collated into mail bags or containers for ease.

Next it's time for your parcel to board the aircraft. It's likely your parcel will travel in the cargo hold of a regular passenger airplane. However, mail will sometimes travel in designated cargo planes on routes where there is a high volume of cargo. It can get pretty chilly in the hold but the belly of most aircraft will have an average temperature of around seven degrees Celsius.

Arriving in foreign climes

On arrival in the country of destination, the parcel will be unloaded once all the passengers' luggage has been removed and packed onto the baggage cart by ground handling agents on the runway. It will then be checked before making its way to customs for screening again.

Once released from the airport your parcel will be sorted locally before travelling to a delivery depot. Then it will be off to its destination, usually by van, where it will arrive safely with the receiver having made quite the journey.

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* £2.49 from price based on a next day XS parcel size with a UK depot drop off and UK depot collection service. Delivery to British Isles, The Highlands, Ireland, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland operate on a 1-3 day delivery service and can incur further costs. £8.74 price based on a parcel weight of up to 25kg (50cm x 50cm x 50cm) on a UK depot drop off and economy delivery service to Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg or Austria. All prices quoted on content pages (outside of the quick quote and booking form) will be based on the depot drop off discounted price for UK deliveries and on a 0.5kg parcel with dimensions of 10cm x 10cm x 10cm for all international air countries. The size and weight of your parcel affects the price you’ll pay so it’s important to weigh and measure your parcel correctly to ensure your parcel arrives on time without any delays. Use our quick quote for all pricing options.
The £1 saving on every additional consignment sent in a UK order is exclusive to home collection orders only - this discount will not be added in addition to the depot drop off discount or depot collection discount. If you do not select the "signature required" delivery option, UKMail will not be liable should your items be subsequently lost or damaged after the delivery (see clause 5.2.2 of the Terms & Conditions). We define a "Parcel" as a package with dimensions up to 80cm x 80cm x 80cm or up to 120cm x 50cm x 50cm or up to 140cm x 35cm x 35cm. **’Was’ pricing based on the previous fixed collection and signature price for XS and collection price for small. ‘Now from’ pricing based on the new prices for XS and Small with the depot drop off discount applied.

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