US Stamps

Could United States domestic airmail make a comeback?

Oct 25, 2021, 10 AM
The United States 1976 25¢ Plane and Globes airmail stamp. Does the slowing down of first-class mail to surface-rate speeds pave the way for an airmail rate return?

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s Delivering for America Strategic Plan includes new service standards for first-class letters that began Oct. 1.

Bill McAllister, in the Washington Postal Scene column in the Nov. 1 issue of Linn’s, reported that the “plan would lengthen delivery times for approximately 31.2 percent of first-class mail by one to two days.”

One key way to implement these standards is shifting first-class mail to surface transportation instead of air. The United States Postal Service has indicated that surface transportation is “more reliable and affordable compared to air transportation.”

An email that I recently received from a collector got me thinking. The collector suggested that this might have just paved the way for airmail to take off again.

And why not? For items that weigh less than a pound, there is potential to create a new airmail rate. Priority Mail is the next option, and for slightly more than $8 to send something that weighs less than a pound, few would choose that option.

But let’s say the rate is $1.30 for a 1-ounce airmail letter (basically matching the global airmail rate). Would that be more palatable? I would have to think so.

I recognize there are some logistical challenges of sorting between surface and air, but it was somehow done before so I can’t see why it couldn’t happen again.

And on the collector side of things, I’m certain a number of us who collect airmail stamps would enjoy having something new to hunt down for our album pages that might even include interesting usages.

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