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Air Mails

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 17 March 1943

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asked the Postmaster-General whether he will cease describing as air mail and charging for at the high air-mail rate, the mail such as that to and from India, which is sea-borne for the greater part of its journey?

Conveyance partly by surface means and partly by air is, and always has been, a feature of many air-mail services, and the term "air mail" is applied by international agreement to correspondence sent by such services, which should bear a special label and requires the same special treatment as correspondence conveyed by air over the whole journey. This form of service is of course normally resorted to only where air transport is not available over some part of the route but where the use of an air service for the remainder of the route offers as in this case a substantial acceleration over an all-surface route. The Post Office has been at pains to give the fullest possible publicity to the fact that the ordinary air mails for India and the Middle East are not sent all the way by air, but are conveyed by ship between this country and an African port. The shortage of aircraft capacity precludes conveyance by air throughout. Reduction of the air postage rate would increase the load to be carried and is impracticable so long as the present position as regards aircraft capacity persists; and I regret therefore that I cannot adopt the hon. Member's suggestion.

Is it not a fact that there is not a substantial acceleration at present of this so-called air mail? Is it not rather absurd that it often takes longer than the sea mail sent at ordinary rates?

No, Sir. On the average the gain by this route as compared with the all-surface route is between two weeks and five weeks.

Is it not recognised that the airgraph service provides a cheaper and satisfactory alternative to the air mail?

It is for that reason that our publicity is directed to getting the public to use that service.