AskDefine | Define airmail

Dictionary Definition



1 letters and packages that are transported by aircraft
2 a system of conveying mail by aircraft [syn: airpost] v : send or transport by airmail; "Letters to Europe from the U.S. are best airmailed"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • RP:
    • /ˈɛəmeɪl/


  1. The system of conveying mail using aircraft.
  2. The items of mail so carried.


The system of conveying mail using aircraft
The items of mail so carried


  1. Of, or relating to such a system.


Of, or relating to such a system


  1. To send mail by air.


To send mail by air

Extensive Definition

Airmail (or air mail) is mail that is transported by aircraft. It typically arrives more quickly than surface mail, and usually costs more to send. Airmail may be the only option for sending mail to some destinations, such as overseas, if the mail cannot wait the time it would take to arrive by ship, sometimes weeks.
In June 2006 the United States Postal Service formally trademarked Air Mail (two words with capital first letters) along with Pony Express.


A postal service may sometimes opt to transport some regular mail by air, perhaps because other transportation is unavailable, but it is usually impossible to know this by examining an envelope, and such items are not considered "airmail". Generally, airmail would take a guaranteed and scheduled flight and arrive first, while air-speeded mail would wait for a non-guaranteed and merely available flight and would arrive later than normal airmail.


A letter sent via airmail may be called an aerogramme, aerogram, air letter or simply airmail letter. However, aerogramme and aerogram may also refer to a specific kind of airmail letter which is its own envelope; see aerogram.
The choice to send a letter by air is indicated either by a handwritten note on the envelope, by the use of special labels called airmail etiquettes, or by the use of specially-marked envelopes. Special postage stamps may also be available, or required; the rules vary in different countries.
The study of airmail is known as aerophilately.


Specific instances of a letter being delivered by air long predate the introduction of Airmail as a regularly scheduled service available to the general public.
Although homing pigeons had long been used to send messages (an activity known as pigeon mail), the first mail to be carried by an air vehicle was on January 7, 1785, on a balloon flight from Dover to France near Calais.
During the first balloon flight in North America in 1793, from Philadelphia to Deptford, New Jersey, Jean-Pierre Blanchard carried a personal letter from George Washington to be delivered to the owner of whatever property Blanchard happened to land on, making the flight the first delivery of air mail in the United States.
The first official air mail delivery in the United States took place on August 17 1859, when John Wise piloted a balloon starting in Lafayette, Indiana with a destination of New York. Weather issues forced him to land in Crawfordsville, Indiana and the mail reached its final destination via train. In 1959 the U.S. Postal Service issued a 7 cent stamp commemorating the event.
Balloons also carried mail out of Paris and Metz during the Franco-Prussian War (1870), drifting over the heads of the Germans besieging those cities. Balloon mail was also carried on an 1877 flight in Nashville, Tennessee.
The introduction of the airplane in 1903 generated immediate interest in using them for mail transport, and the first official flight took place on 18 February 1911 in Allahabad, India to Naini, India, when Henri Pequet carried 6,500 letters a distance of 13 km.
In Australia, the first air mail contract was won by the fledgling Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS), commencing in November 1922. Many other flights, such as that of the Vin Fiz Flyer suffered crashes and some ended in complete disaster, but many countries had operating services by the 1920s.

Contract Air Mail (CAM)

In 1925, the Congress passed HR 7064 entitled "An Act to encourage commercial aviation and to authorize the Postmaster General to contract for Air Mail Service" (aka "The Kelly Act") which directed the U.S. Post Office to contract with private airlines to carry the mail over designated routes many of which connected with the Government operated Transcontinental route.


  • Richard McP. Cabeen, Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting (Collectors Club, 1979), pp. 207-221

External links

airmail in German: Luftpost
airmail in Spanish: Correo aéreo
airmail in Esperanto: Aerpoŝto
airmail in French: Poste aérienne
airmail in Italian: Posta Aerea
airmail in Japanese: 航空扱い
airmail in Polish: Poczta lotnicza
airmail in Slovenian: Zračna pošta
airmail in Serbian: Ваздушна пошта
airmail in Swedish: Flygpost

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

PP, RD, RFD, air-express, airfreight, book post, consign, correspondence, direct mail, direct-mail selling, dispatch, drop a letter, embark, expedite, export, express, forward, fourth-class mail, frank, freight, halfpenny post, junk mail, letter post, letters, mail, mail-order selling, mailing list, newspaper post, parcel post, post, post day, registered mail, remit, rural delivery, rural free delivery, sea mail, seapost, send, send away, send forth, send off, ship, special delivery, special handling, surface mail, transmit
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