The cost of sending parcels to the US by Royal mail rose dramatically over the summer. The combination of COVID-19 international flight restrictions and changes in US policies on postal rates for incoming mail combined to create a worrying precedent for international mail.
Royal Mail in the UK, who we use for our international tracked and standard postal services, is one of a number of international mail providers affected by the circumstances, with the price of sending International standard parcels to the US increasing by 49% on average, and the price of International signed and tracked parcels sent to the US increasing by an average of 38%.
The impact of flight restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic is one cause of the price rise, with Royal Mail explaining that “Most of Royal Mail’s international mail is carried on commercial passenger flights. There has been a 95% reduction in air passenger flights globally following the outbreak of Covid-19. We are having to use air freight to keep the mail moving instead.” According to Royal Mail, this has led to a “five-fold increase in our air freight costs to the US”.
A more notable trend in international mail, though, comes from a change in US policy towards incoming mail from outside of the USA, which will contribute a long term cost increase in sending mail to America. Royal Mail explain that “The increase in the rates we pay for last mile delivery in the US are a result of decisions taken at the UN’s Universal Postal Union (UPU). This met the US administration’s stated objective – to increase how much they charge other countries for delivery. We expect other countries to follow suit. We are likely to see price increases to elsewhere in the world in due course.”
The complex relationship between the US and the UPU was first raised in 2018, when the Trump Administration announced plans to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union, citing unfair trading conditions which they alleged favored China. The US opted against withdrawl from the UPU when a deal was struck to allow the US Postal Service to set its own postal rates, which, according to Royal Mail, will see “A significant increase of more than 100% in the rates we pay for last mile delivery in the US from 1st July”.
These substantial increases brings the price of Royal Mail’s postal services up to the same range as express courier services from the likes of DHL and as a result we have seen a huge swing in customers choosing express courier over international postal services for parcel deliveries to the USA. And why not if you can get a faster and more assured service for a similar price!