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Nail polish won’t fly in air mail. Read our facts about postal deliveries by plane

Published
22.11.2018 at 09:00
Plane departing
All air mail to or from Finland goes through Helsinki Airport. Air mail is growing in volume especially because of e-commerce from China.

Around 40 planes carrying air mail arrive at Helsinki Airport daily. The amount of mail onboard varies: at best it can be over a ton of letters or packages.  

 – All postal deliveries that arrive to or depart from Finland by mail, are handled at the Finnish postal company Posti’s unit at Helsinki Airport. We also handle all mail from outside the EU, which goes through customs procedures here, says Sanna Hännikkälä, Production Manager for Posti’s Foreign Deliveries.   

Here are a few facts about air mail you may not have known:

1. You may travel on the same plane with air mail

Unlike specialised cargo companies, postal services do not use their own planes to deliver mail. Instead mail is carried in the cargo hold of regular passenger planes.  

”Many people do not realize that on a normal flight, for instance from Frankfurt to Helsinki, there may be also mail onboard,” Hännikkälä says. “Posti and other international postal organisations make deals with airlines to deliver air mail on their passenger flights.”

2. Safety measures for air mail are similar to those for passenger luggage

As air mail travels on passenger planes, the security restrictions for it are rather tight.  

”The dispatching country is responsible for checking the mail and ensuring aviation safety. We X-ray all departing mail and make sure no dangerous goods or substances get onboard, such as explosive or flammable liquids,” Hännikkälä says.  

”For incoming mail, we read the barcodes for tracking purposes and do a pre-sorting. Deliveries that are shipped to an address within Finland, are sent to Posti’s main sorting centre in Ilmala or to our logistics centre in Vantaa.”  

“Should the delivery need to go through customs, we will send it to a temporary customs storage until the recipient has taken care of customs clearance. We also handle a lot of transfer mail, especially from Asia to Europe.”

3. The most typical contraband object is nail polish

Hännikkälä says the most typical forbidden object in air mail is nail polish.   

”Nail polish is considered a flammable liquid. Passengers can take it onboard in their luggage, but in air mail, aerosols and nail polish are forbidden, because it is impossible to ensure that the total amount of flammable liquids stays within the allowed safety limit on each flight. ” 

“Another type of object we sometimes have to confiscate are war mementos like defunct hand grenades and ammunition, which could contain traces of gun powder.”

4. E-commerce from China shows in growing volumes of air mail

The amount of air mail has been growing in recent years, especially due to e-commerce from Chinese web shops. For instance, in 2017, a million letters were mailed from China to Finland via air mail each month.  

“E-commerce from Asia to Europe is a welcome addition to Posti’s work. We are happy to serve both foreign and domestic web shops,” says Hännikkälä.

5. Air mail from Finland to Central Europe can be delivered the next day 

Air deliveries are the fastest way to transport mail across longer distances. That’s why a lot of international e-commerce deliveries are carried on planes.  

“A postal delivery from Finland can arrive at a European destination the very next day, and even at Australian destinations in 5 to 6 days, says Hännikkälä.

People & Aviation