Airlines Use Wireless Tracking to Comply With USPS Contracts

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At least two airlines are working with AT&T Wireless, Redmond, WA, to track mail as it moves through their systems as part of their contracts with the U.S. Postal Service.

America West Airlines and United Airlines use the GSM/GPRS network from AT&T Wireless. The data is used by the postal service to verify whether an airline is adhering to on-time performance standards. Depending on the results, a carrier could lose, maintain or gain postal business.

As part of contracts awarded last year, carriers are required by the USPS to scan mail at the time it is received, when the carrier loads the mail onto a flight, during transfers to connecting flights and upon delivery to the postal service. The change to the contract process came about in part from Federal Aviation Administration security restrictions put in place after 9/11.

"The transporting of mail is a highly competitive business in which delays in the transmission of tracking data to the [USPS] could impact our relationship with them," Joseph Beery, senior vice president and chief information officer at America West Airlines, said in a statement. "The AT&T Wireless network allows us to quickly and reliably transmit critical mail departure and arrival information to the USPS from any of the nearly 50 airports America West serves throughout the United States."

Air Transport Association statistics indicate that carriers last year flew 1.3 billion mail revenue ton miles -- 1 ton of mail payload transported one mile.

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