Mail by air freight in the UK

Mail by Air Freight in the UK

Mail makes up a considerable percentage of air freight in Britain, and it often
travels at night.

The CAA figures on tonnage of mail sent by air freight in the UK show that the
airports dealing with the most freight are:


2007 CAA mail  statistics   (compared to 2006 in brackets):

Heathrow       82,256   tonnes         (79,517)

Nottingham East Midlands       27,951         (25,980)

Edinburgh     26,608         (14,550)

Stansted       21,568             (17,018)

Belfast International     11,457         (11,982)

Bournemouth     10,328       (5,496)

Newcastle     8,483       (7,885)

Gatwick     5,588         (8,019)

Exeter   4,991         (5,546)

Bristol     2,904       (2,788)

Isle of Man     2,279         (2,296)

Coventry 1,703           (1,947)


Mail air freight tonnage for Total All Reporting UK Airports 1997 – 2007

Tonnage of mail in:

1997         203 431

1998         202 761

1999         207 726

2000         225 095

2001         216 080

2002         190 485

2003         179 513

2004         220 904

2005         212 920

2006         189 925

2007         207 783     (a 9% rise on 2006)


The total air freight in the UK in 2007 and 2006 was (approx) 2,325,000 and 2,315,000
respectively  tonnes – so mail makes up something of the order of 8% by weight.


The DfT website states, in its 1998 “UK Air Freight Study”  that:

2.8.3 Buying air freight capacity

The Post Office both wet leases complete aircraft and purchases space on scheduled
and non-scheduled flights using different airlines, including integrators. Scheduled
flights normally involve the belly hold of passenger aircraft and this is likely
to be a continuing practice rather than greater use of freighters.

When using integrators flights, the Post Office tends to purchase space on a
per kilo basis to the airport hub or spoke, at which point, the mail will be fed
into the recipient post offices network.

Mail and parcels are generally despatched in loose bags but there is a growing
tendency to consolidate bags into ULDs (Unit Load Devices) wherever practical.

Airlines are invited to quote for the Post Offices freight space requirements
through invitations to tender appearing in the European Journal. Competitive tenders
are sought on a single leg basis or for a round trip; airlines are sometimes invited
to include ground handling services as a part of their tender. They have reciprocal
arrangements with some foreign post offices, such as the Irish Republics Post
Office, for the return loading of chartered aircraft.

The Post Office commit themselves to moving fixed quantities on different routes
and any excess capacity is not normally sold to third parties.

2.8.4 Airports used

Heathrow Airport is the principal airport used, serviced by the Post Offices
hub at Langley.   Coventry is a key regional airport for Parcelforce.   Other airports
are used on a regional basis, include Gatwick for the Channel Islands and Liverpool
for Ireland.

Scheduled airlines can place substantial restriction on the air cargo carried
per aircraft, due to their preference for passenger revenue and in consequence
baggage carriage.

There are a number of key issues which are of concern to the Post Office:-

  • The fair allocation of airport slots, preferably with a system not always favouring
    passenger aircraft through the related revenue for airports in the form of higher
    landing fees and other commercial income.
  • An improved policy on deregulation opening up the airline and therefore the cargo
    markets to increased competition.
  • Scheduled carriers and air freight forwarders are judged as not wishing to encourage
    deregulation, which would expose both to increased competition.