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Introduction


February 1947 -- first airmail leaflet issued under new system,
generally issued monthly from then until 1972

On 17th January 1947, the complicated web of numerous different airmail rates for various destinations was replaced by a simplified arrangement, in which the countries of the world were grouped into zones. Although there have been changes in the number of zones, and in which destinations were placed in each zone, this approach is in essence still in use -- see this page for a full listing from 1947 to date.

The major revisions that took place were as follows.

1947

There were three zones for countries outside Europe designated A, B, and C (although not named as such until 1949). The groupings were basically as follows:

  • Zone A: North Africa and the Middle East
  • Zone B: The Americas, most of Africa, the Indian subcontinent
  • Zone C: East/Southeast Asia and Australasia/Oceania
    (also included much of Latin America and the West Indies up to 30th April 1948)

Mail to Europe was not part of this system, and with a minor exception (see below), from mid-1948 to early 1991 it was sent "all-up". This meant that it was sent by air if this was quicker (as it normally was) at surface mail rates, carriage by air being the preferred method of despatch.

1966

An air newspaper rate to Europe was introduced on 3rd October 1966 -- it was referred to as "all-up", although the surface printed papers rate was still cheaper.

1991

On 7th January 1991(*) the three-zone division of world destinations outside Europe was reduced to two. Zones A and B were combined to form a new Zone 1 (the rates had been equalised a few months before), and Zone C was renamed Zone 2.

Also in 1991, the surface/airmail distinction was reintroduced for European letters, with airmail postage to Europe becoming (slightly) more expensive than the equivalent worldwide surface rates, and the special newspaper rate replaced by general airmail printed papers and small packet rates.

(*) This date is taken from the leaflet issued to the public. The relevant Post Office Scheme gave a start date of 21st January, but this marked the start of a period of a few months where whoever was responsible for placing the Overseas Letter Post Schemes in the London Gazette made a series of errors that had to be corrected!

2008

The two zones outside Europe were themselves combined into a single "Rest of World" zone. The lower rates (or for some classes of mail, all rates) had been similar for the two zones for some years.

2012

The single "Rest of World" zone was split up again into a World Zone 1 and a World Zone 2 (similar but not identical to the former Zones 1 and 2). World Zone 1 covered "all countries not defined as being in Europe or World Zone 2 ... North America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and South East Asia". World Zone 2 is a short list of territories, mostly in Australasia.

From this point, the rates for the various classes of airmail became identical above 100g, starting a process of combining the services into one as for inland mail.

2014

The combined airmail services were rebranded "International Standard".