I discovered with excitement a post describing ISAL M-bags to ship a large amount of books abroad from the US. However when looking at the USPS documentation indicated in the same post, ISAL M-bags figure in the "Commercial prices" rather than the "retail prices". So could someone confirm that ISAL M-bags are available for individuals?

The USPS offices I phoned in NYC did not know about these ISAL M-bags, or suggested it was for businesses and not available for individuals, and others said only airmail M-bag were available and ISAL M-bags were discontinued. If ISAL M-bags are indeed available for individuals, does anyone know of a USPS office in NYC which actually knows about this?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  • In general USPS officers have no clues what ISAL M-bags are exactly, and will give different answers in each different branches (even branch managers)
  • From what I could gather from the multiple different explanations, this service exists in theory, but is not available because of the latest update of the USPS software used in branches
  • 1
    I have tried today to get clarity on this and I get contradictory statements from each different postal employee I speak to. I've been told M-Bag doesn't even exist by one, which is clearly false. Postal employees simply have no knowledge of the product or how to do it so they make their best guesses.
    – user13570
    Sep 13, 2017 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


In my response below, seems I was wrong. USPS M-bags are for everyone (and available at a local USPS office). ISAL M-bags are for commercial use: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc2_039.htm

293 International Surface Air Lift (ISAL) Service

293.1 Description

293.11 General

International Surface Air Lift (ISAL) service, including ISAL M-bags, is a commercial service designed for volume mailings of all First-Class Mail International postcards, letters, and large envelopes (flats), and for volume mailings of First-Class Package International Service packages (small packets).

Why is it that you specifically want ISAL M-bags rather than USPS?

My old reply is below the line.

Yes, they are available for retail customers. I'll find a source and edit my response.

But anecdotally, I used an M-bag to mail my books to myself when I moved from Oregon to the UK 5 years ago. I have also found a few websites stating that M-bags are fine, you just need to verify that the bags are available at your local PO.

  • ISAL M-bags are from USPS, ISAL is just a mode of transportation. Compared to standard M-bags, ISAL M-bags are much cheaper. Also ISAL M-bags are actually available for everyone (not only for commercial use) in theory but in practice they are not available at all (cf my updated post)
    – michael
    Sep 14, 2017 at 10:38

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