Christmas Flight 12 November 1931

The company Air Travel organised a series of flights in 1931 and 1932 in which official airmails were carried. The most interesting were the Christmas flights on 12 November and 24 December 1931 to publicise the advantages of air mail.

The Route


The flight of November 12 was the first time that the new airmail stamps issued on 10 November were used on air mail. The route was from Invercargill to Auckland stopping at Dunedin, Christchurch, Blenheim, Wellington, Palmerston North and New Plymouth to pick up mail which could then be sent from Auckland or from Wellington to Sydney by sea to join the special Christmas flight to the UK from Australia organised by Australian National Airways.

Simmonds Spartan

The flight was also used for internal mails and covers exist flown between each of the stops. The total mail to all destinations was 3855. The postage was 5d made up of 2d ordinary postage and 3d air mail fee.

The flight left Invercargill at 3.51 and arrived in Auckland at 17.56. The pilot was Sq Ldr M.C. McGregor and the plane was a Simmonds Spartan biplane with registration number ZK-ABU. A photograph of this plane is shown.

A return flight to Wellington was made on the next day.

Internal flight and on to UK

Christmas UK

The cover is one of 362 flown from Invercargill to Wellington on November 12.

It was then one of 1,598 items sent from Wellington to Sydney by sea on the SS Marama on 13-17 November to connect with the All Australian Airmail to the UK.

The postage is 1/5 made up of 2d ordinary postage plus 3d internal airmail and 1/- Australia to UK airmail. It arrived in the UK on 16 December. The manuscript 17/12/31 is on the front which is presumably when it was received in Thurso in the north of Scotland.

Internal flight only

first day cover

This cover was one of the 362 flown on the Invercargill to Wellington leg on 12 November which left Invercargill at 3.51am. It was backstamped after arrival in Wellington at 3.45pm.

It is postmarked on 10 November, and so the 4d is postmarked on its first day of issue.

It is also franked by a 1931 1d Smiling Boy Health stamp which had been issued 10 days earlier on 31 October.

Nov 12

This cover is one of 145 flown from Invercargill to Christchurch.

Nov 12 back

The letter is postmarked 11 November and it arrived in Christchurch on 12 November in time to be backstamped at 9am.

The flight from Invercargill was the first time that the new airmail stamps issued on 10 November could be flown.

Nov 12

The next cover is one of 300 flown from Christchurch to Auckland and was my first ever New Zealand airmail cover! It has turned out to be a very expensive purchase!!

Nov 12 back Nov 12 back

The cover is postmarked 11 November, flown on the 12th and backstamped in Auckland that evening. It was then backstamped in Ellerslie on the 13th.

Nov 12

The next cover is also flown from Christchurch, this time one of the 66 flown to Blenheim. It is postmarked on the day of the flight at 1am.

Nov 12

It does not have an arrival backstamp, but on the back it has the special cachet produced by the Air Mail Society of New Zealand to commemorate the first use of New Zealand airmail stamps.

Cachet applied in error

first day cover

No special cachet was applied to the internal mail, but a special cachet was applied to the covers destined for the All-Australian airmail to London.

The overseas cachet was applied in error to this cover which was only flown from Wellington to Auckland.

2d cover 2d cover

It is backstamped on arrival in Auckland on 12 November and then on the next day on delivery in Ellersie, a suburb of Auckland.

The cover is autographed by the pilot M C McGregor and is franked with the 2d Smiling Boy Health stamp.

Error cachet

This cover from Wellington to Auckland also had the All-Australian airmail to London special cachet applied in error.


The cover was originally addressed Poste Restante which meant that it was to be collected at the post office. There was a special department in larger offices known as the Delivery Counter from where such items could be collected. As it could be some time before an item was collected, items were backstamped to show when they had arrived.

This cover was backstamped on arrival in Auckland on 12 November and then backstamped Delivery on 13 November when it was deposited at the Delivery Counter. It then received a third Auckland mark on 14 November when it was collected and redirected to Masterton.

Flown internal flight plus Adelaide - Perth and Karachi - London

nov 11

Although the internal flight was set up to be in conjunction with the special Christmas flight from Australia to UK, covers could also connect with other existing air mail services.

This cover has routing instructions for it to be flown on three different flights: Christchurch - Auckland on the internal flight of 12 November; Adelaide - Perth on 21-22 November and Karachi - London on 10 -17 December 1931.

It is correctly franked with the complete set of airmail stamps: the 3d pays for the internal New Zealand flight, the 4d for Adelaide - Perth and the 7d for Karachi - London. In addition, the 2d GV covers the surface rate. The total cost was therefore only 1d less than the combined cost of the internal flight plus the special Christmas flight from Australia. The mail arrived in London on 17 December.

Addressed to Tasmania

The next cover was flown from Christchurch to Auckland and is addressed to Launceston in Tasmania. The routing instructions are By New Zealand and Australian Air Mail Service.

To Tasmania

It is franked with 8d in stamps presumably intended to be 2d ordinary postage, 3d internal New Zealand flight and 3d internal Australian flight.

to Tasmania

However the ANA service from Sydney to Hobart via Launceston was terminated on 26 June 1931 and a replacement service to Tasmania did not start until 1933. Hence, although the intention of the sender was for the cover to be flown within Australia, no appropriate airmail service was in operation.

One question is why the cover has an Air Mail Sydney backstamp on 17 November along with the Launceston backstamp of 19 November. It is possible that it was only then that the lack of a suitable airmail service was noted and that the blue line through Australian in the routing instructions was applied.

However, there is one further twist in the tale. The ANA plane Southern Sun left Hobart on 19 November and flew to Sydney via Launceston and Melbourne on the first stage of the All Australian mail to the UK. It must therefore have flown from Sydney to Hobart on a positioning flight, likely on either 17 or 18 November. As ANA still had an air mail contract between Sydney and Hobart, could they have carried mail on the positioning flight? If so, then this cover would have been part of that mail.

Return on Nov 13, 1931

Nov 13

After flying from Invercargill to Auckland to connect with the Australia - UK Christmas airmail on November 12, M.C. MacGregor flew back from Auckland to Wellington via New Plymouth and Wanganui on November 13.

Nov 13 back

An official airmail was carried with mail being delivered and collected at each stop. This cover is postmarked at 1 am on 13 November and is one of only 74 flown from Auckland to New Plymouth where it was backstamped at 12.45.

Nov 13

The next cover is one of 368 flown from from Auckland to Wellington.

Nov 13 back

The letter is postmarked on the evening of 12 November and the plane left Auckland at 6.55am and arrived in Wellington at 12.16. The letter was backstamped at 12.30, i.e. earlier than the mail to New Plymouth!!

The postage rate was again 2d surface plus 3d airmail surcharge.

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All scans were made by the author. Information on this page is taken from:
Airmails of New Zealand, volume 1 (1955) compiled by Douglas A Walker, and the New Zealand Airmail Catalogue, (2nd Edition, 1994) by James Stapleton. Both are published by the Air Mail Society of New Zealand