Air Transport Labels
by Daniel Kusrow

Air transport labels are more popularly known as airline baggage labels, stickers, or tags and can include airline freight labels and poster stamps.  These small graphic works of art have been used to advertise the services of the world's airlines since the beginning of commercial aviation in the immediate post World War I years.  Early airline baggage labels in the 1920's and 1930's provided spaces to write in passenger details, similar to labels issued by shipping lines and railroads, but more often the labels featured solely strong graphic poster images.  The issuance of these labels by the airlines reached its zenith during the inter-war era.

Following World War II, commercial air travel became more democratic, and the labels that had bedecked the luggage of wealthy travelers as badges of prestige, began a decline in popularity.  Baggage tags became more utilitarian devices to ensure the proper identification and routing of the mushrooming amount of airline passenger baggage.  In the last 30 years, baggage labels have continued to be issued by the airlines but primarily for special marketing purposes, such as the start of new routes or the addition of new aircraft types to airlines' fleets.

The collecting of air transport labels dates back to around 1930 when those interested in aerophilately acquired labels to add color to their flight cover collections.  Several catalogs were issued in the mid 1930's, and a specialized collecting society (Aeronautica & Air Label Collectors Club) was established in 1941.  In the mid-1970s, the club began issuing updated catalogs that it continues to do to the present. 

For some airlines the only piece of ephemera that survives for them are their baggage labels.  One can trace the history of many of the well-known, established airlines by making a survey of the labels they have issued over the years.

air transport label
Condor 1938

air transport label
Transadriatica 1926

air transport label
Delta 1929

air transport label
Royal Nepal Airlines 1980

air transport label
Eurasia-Aviation 1930

air transport label
Deta 1950

air transport label
Qantas 1930

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America