This is the FAQ and general information page.
I’ll try to answer as many questions as we can – and the site will have some more detailed information as it becomes necessary. However, this is a great place to start.
Q: Is there anything I need to know right away?
Check out the terms and conditions of the site – there are a couple of things in there that I address below as well. Generally speaking there aren’t too many differences, but be mindful about where you mail something from.
Q: What’s different about mailing items from an airport?
The general process is the same. You still need to conform to all postal regulations, have the proper postage affixed to your item to get it to your destination, and drop it off in a drop box, mail slot, or at a post office. The main difference lies in where in the airport you can drop off mail. Places are labeled as “pre-security” or “post-security”.
Pre-security locations do not require passing security checks. These are technically publicly accessible locations on airport grounds, and they act like any drop box, pillar box, or post office. Almost all of these locations are serviced by postal staff.
Post-security locations are behind security checkpoints, and require that you are either authorized staff, flight crew, or have a ticket to fly as a passenger on aircraft. All persons that are in secure zones of an airport have been screened for security purposes. Postal staff most likely do not have access to drop boxes in secure zones – which means airport staff or airport volunteers are tasked with “delivering” mail to a pre-security postal drop-off point. Thus, you are reliant on someone outside of authority of the postal system to hand off your mail to the postal service.
Q: Why should I be concerned about using a drop box or mail slot within an airport’s secure zone?
While it is generally illegal for someone except for the intended recipient to open mail addressed to them, and airport staff and volunteers are vetted for security purposes – secrecy of correspondence typically only extends to the mail system, and there exists the very small but non-zero chance that mail handled by airport staff or volunteers from a secure zone dropbox to an official mail pickup point may be lost, stolen, tampered with, destroyed, or forgotten about (e.g. someone retired or went on vacation, and everyone forgot).
This isn’t here to scare you or dissuade you from using post-security mail facilities – and airport staff are some of the most helpful and trustworthy people I’ve met. However, please be mindful of what you post where and who you give your mail to. It’s one thing if a postcard doesn’t make it to a friend; it’s entirely different if your credit card payment sits in a secure zone airport dropbox for two weeks because nobody checked it.
Q: What can I mail from the airport?
If a location has a full-service post office, or something like a or business that handles mail on behalf of an official postal authority as an approved drop-off point (example: UPS Store) – treat it as any other post office. A business that can act on behalf of the postal authority may have less capability and stamp availability than a regular post office.
Drop boxes, pillar boxes, and mail slots are different. You are responsible for conforming to postal guidelines with regards to drop boxes. Every country is different, but generally speaking you should only mail letters and postcards into any drop box.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to have a parcel mailed from an airport that does not have a post office. This site exists to identify those airports that do have a post office, so you can plan accordingly!
Q: What constitutes a letter and a postcard?
The postal service in the country you are posting from issues regulations on what constitutes a letter and a postcard. A search for “(country) postal service” should provide the postal provider’s Web site, where they maintain this information. This is the official guideline.
However, there are some general guidelines we can offer. This information is provided as the most reasonable expectation that something will conform to a country’s guidelines for delivery.
Q: How much postage do I need to mail something from the airport?
The country in which you are mailing from will state the necessary postage requirements. There are no additional fees in most countries to mail from an airport. This site doesn’t have any information on how much something will cost to mail; google “(country) post office” for an official site.
Most official postal service Web sites will have a postage calculator that is usable from a computer or most Internet-enabled mobile devices.
Note well: International travelers need to be especially mindful of where they are posting from, and use the proper country’s postage. For instance – if you’re taking a flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Frankfurt, with a connection in Toronto:
- If you mail from Dallas-Ft. Worth, you’ll need United States postage.
- If you mail from your connection in Toronto, you’ll need Canadian postage.
- If you mail from your destination in Frankfurt, you’ll need German postage.
Also be mindful that mail will be considered “domestic” or “international” relative to where you are mailing from. In the above example, if your mail is going to New York – you’ll pay the domestic rates if it’s mailed in Dallas, special rates for USA-bound mail if it’s mailed in Toronto, and international rates if it’s mailed from Frankfurt.
Q: What about FedEx or UPS?
Postal services do not accept FedEx or UPS packages, or handle any other courier and/or package for services such as DHL. There may be opportunities and drop boxes specific to those companies at airports; please check with your courier or delivery service for further details.
This Web site is intended to locate official postal services and drop-off points for letters and postcards.
Q: Are there any cool postmarks available because I mailed from the airport?
You may laugh, but there are philatelists who specialize and collect postmarks. I’m not one of them, but after reading about railcar post offices and how much their cancellations can fetch – I can see where there’s some interest. Also, the recipient may think it’s cool that you sent something from an airport!
There are two factors when it comes to postmarks:
- How the country you mail from handles postmarks; and
- What postal facilities are at the airport.
In the United States, where I live – the USPS has a postmark policy:
A “local” postmark shows the full name of the Post Office, a two-letter state abbreviation, ZIP Code™, and date of mailing. Because the Postal Service is sensitive to the importance some customers place upon these postmarks, each Post Office is required to make a local postmark available. Lobby drops should be designated for this purpose with clear signage signifying its use.
Here’s an overly broad, unofficial interpretation:
- If you’re mailing from an airport that has a post office physically in the terminal (like Denver), you will most likely have a postmark from the airport. (I say “most likely” because of how postal services can define post offices, and what “nearest post office” means to them.)
- If you’re using a mail drop or a drop box at an airport because that’s all they have (like San Jose), it will go to the “nearest post office” for postmarking and cancellation.
The “nearest post office” can be within walking distance (like Honolulu), or really close to the airport (like San Francisco) – but in most cases your mail is going to be hauled back into town well away from any airport facility. So in short, don’t expect an airport postmark unless your mail is sent from an on-site airport post office.
Note that while your mail may have a postmark from the airport, the cancellation and postmark itself may be rather boring. It will depend on how much thought is put into the postmark and any other postal regulations and campaigns are in effect.